Greetings friends and family! - Alli Sessum
Holy cow, I can’t believe that we’ve been in Chamba for almost a week now! It has truly been amazing! We’ve now now taught three different groups of girls and got to visit and paint one other orphanage in Kalsui.
First were the temple girls who immediately won me over with their excited smiles and sweet ways. I went with a few of the team members to visit them at their home a couple of days ago and it was very humbling to see the small space they share (as are most the homes here in India). I can’t wait to see them again for our cultural exchange on Thursday.
Then while they had to return to school for testing, we were able to work with children at the IRA private school, which was so much fun! The school overlooked the most amazing green mountains with a river running through it and our last day there it was raining, so a spectacular mist hung above us. The children at the private school were so adorable. They ranged from preschool age to about 5th grade and couldn’t be happier to have us there. Each day, they would line up and clap as we arrived, which was one of the cutest things. We got the opportunity to really put our skills to the test as we tried to control and teach about fifteen four-year-olds… it was pretty entertaining considering they only spoke Hindi to us and pretty much had no idea what we were saying unless it involved us having them repeat a word yelling. I still can’t get over how darling the small ones looked in their uniforms with their little packed lunches. I was very impressed and surprised by the fairly high English level the older kids were at and how much they wanted to learn from us. A few of the girls there took a liking to me (one of which wouldn’t let me put her down for two hours, little Akshu). On the first day, little Mehak grabbed my hand at the end of the day and said, “friends?” I was so touched and happy to be connecting with at least some of these sweet souls. When we returned the next day, they kept asking one of our team members, “where’s Alli?” That totally melted me and made me even more excited to be there with them, hopefully improving their English and giving them that extra attention they might not always get. When we left for our last time that day, all the teachers lined up to shake our hands and each said things like, “Thank you so much. Please, come again,” and I was a little surprised to find tears forming in my eyes. That was one of this first instances I realized how grateful both the children and many of their leaders are for our help, but also made me realize I may not see any of these people again, which pains me a little. Thank goodness YMAD keeps bringing amazing people each year to fill my spot though and keep this wonderful service going.
Now here’s a really exciting part…Last night, a group of over twenty girls arrived, who we have coined the Mountain Girls. We gave them this name because they have come from very rural areas accepting and desiring this opportunity to learn English. Many of them had to walk over 4 hours just to get to the bus stop, where they then rode the bus down to us for another 4 hours (many of them experiencing car-sickness). I almost couldn’t believe it! They were quite shy and timid when we met them last night, but working with them all day today has been one of the best experiences yet! They were so smart and eager to be with us and are coming out of their shells much faster than I expected. The potential in all of them is seriously unnumbered. We discovered today that they had no pajamas to change into at night, so we all donated some money so part of the team could go purchase some for them. We got to deliver those to them about an hour ago, which was super cool. They were all sitting in a room together chatting and wanting us to join. They really are so sweet. The craziest part about it is that most of them are older than me! I’m stoked to be able to work with them these next four days and really improve their English skills, I know they are going to do amazing.
As far as the team goes, we have been having so much fun together. Everyone is getting along so well and I feel that we are all really growing together. I now can consider every single person on this expedition a friend, and that is a neat feeling. From the gratitude of each girl and child, to the support of every team member, I’ve barely had time to stress over wedding planning (you’ve got that taken care of, right Mom and Mike??) which is a month away!
Well I’ve officially written a novel now, but hopefully that gives you all a better idea of what’s going on down here. It’s going to be very bittersweet to leave and our time here is slipping away faster than I expected. Miss you all!!!
Hope all is well in America!