I’m living in India.
I still have to remind myself of that every day when I wake up. Who the hell let me do this?
But, in all seriousness, I am amazed at how wonderful my experience has been so far. I still cannot believe that I was presented with such an incredible opportunity. Although I live in my own apartment, the family that runs the school where I volunteer is incredibly supportive and have acted as my "unofficial host family" (and I’ll probably mention them a lot in my posts). They have been so warm and welcoming to me, and it is one of the main reasons that I feel so at home here in India. And I really do.
The school where I volunteer is incredible. The children they manage to help with the resources they have is as impressive as it is heartwarming. I fell in love with the kids instantly. As a country, India has begun to make huge strides to improve upon special education, but there is still a long way to go. Many families, especially poor families, do not have to money to send their children to a school that provides education for children with special needs. Because of this, many children with special needs go without any schooling at all. The school I am working with has specifically set out with the mission of providing education to children with special needs that would otherwise not be able to afford it.
I'll be volunteering at two school locations while I am here. The first is a school where the children are higher functioning. This means that a child may have a disability such as autism or down syndrome, but they are still able to feed themselves, communicate verbally, go to the bathroom, etc. In a few weeks’ time, I will also start working at another location. This is where we work with children who have more severe diagnoses. Many of these children cannot walk and/or talk. All of these children, of course, have very unique personalities and cases. It’s safe to say that I feel very much out of my league. Thinking of the idea that, eventually, they want to train me to take over my own caseload here is a daunting one at that. I repeat- who let me do this again?!
When I first got here, I didn’t know what I was going to be assigned to do. As a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and speech therapy (still in need of my master’s degree in speech therapy), I felt like it was going to be as if I just went to medical school and then someone let me start performing surgeries. But somehow, some way, it’s actually worked out.
Since arriving here, I contacted the person who connected me to this opportunity to thank her and tell her how wonderful it has been thus far. She has volunteered at the school here in Mysore numerous times over the last 10 years and she gave me some great advice. She told me, “I always find that I have more knowledge than I thought when I’m up to my eyeballs in kids- you pull out everything you’ve ever been taught.” I know that she is exactly right. I might not feel properly prepared but many of us don't. So many of the kids that we are working with have had little-to-no speech therapy. A lot of them had not even been properly assessed until coming to the school. Some of these kids have been in the school for years now and have shown immense improvement, while others have just started out. Some of this is just flying by the seat of our pants and figuring the rest out later. Which, I suppose is how every aspect of my life is going to be for the foreseeable future…wish me luck?
Here goes nothing…