So far 2020 has not turned out to be a year most of us envisioned. However, while some decided to rant and rave about lost opportunities, others decided to look at the positive side and take advantage of it.
I recently shifted to a new school and found out about the IAYP (International Award for Young People) award. The requirement for this award is for each participant to choose four key skills area, set goals and work towards achieving those goals. One of the mandatory category of this programme is voluntary service towards the community.
This criterion put me in a bit of dilemma since under the COVID situation, stepping out of home was heavily restricted. That’s when I came across a website called ivolunteer.in and saw an opportunity to volunteer through online medium. Aarti ma’am was extremely helpful and checked to see if there was anything suitable for me. There were, in fact, several opportunities, like lending my voice to record stories for underprivileged children, content writing, poster making etc. One of the suggestions was also to tutor Spoken English. She coordinated with Virgil Ma’am from Arunodhaya Centre and found three participants who were keen on learning Spoken English: Savetha, Vedha and Sruthi.
13 June was the first time I connected with them. I learnt that they were all from Chennai and since English was not a language they used for day-to-day conversation, they lacked the necessary fluency. In our first class, we spent time getting to know each other, strictly sticking to English as our language of communication. In those 30 minutes that I spent with each of them, I learned about their lives: their hobbies, favourite books, music preferences, their special talents, their work roles, places they dream of visiting, their family members, etc.
We decided to schedule 30 minutes every Saturday evening to interact with each other. The next four sessions I chose topic like food, hobbies, family, hometown etc., and asked them simple questions about them. I also started giving them assignments related to the topic we would be covering a week in advance, which they eagerly awaited. Gradually, I moved to more challenging tasks like “spot the error in the sentence” and reading comprehensions. I still continued to give them assignments because I realized that all of them were enjoying it.
My aim was to familiarize Savetha, Vedha and Sruthi with grammar, pronunciation, reading, spelling, speaking, etc. But along the way, I also got to learn so much from them. I learned about places that I have never visited, names of food that I hope to try one day and cultural practices that I have only read in books. But most of all, I was inspired by their nature of selfless work at Arunodhaya Centre. All three of them are eager and motivated to contribute to the community and are so passionate about their work. They are aware of negative social and economic issues in the society and constantly work to improve its conditions. It’s now been 9 weeks since I first interacted with them and I only hope that they are able to learn as much from me as I have from them.