Neal Smith

There have been three groups of kids that we have been working with since we arrived in India – the temple girls, the private school students, and the mountain girls. While all of them are great and special in their own ways, the students from the private school specifically touched my heart. We were only given three days to teach them so we all put in our best work to ensure that they learned as much as possible. We tailored our lessons to their age as most of the students were between the ages of five to ten. Never have I been more impressed by a group of young kids – their ability to understand and grasp new English words was incredible but more importantly was the attention that they gave to each and every lesson. You could tell by the look on their faces that this truly was a special experience for them. The day was spent speaking English, playing games and laughing. The time flew by and all of YMAD soon realized that we would be saying our goodbyes to the kids.

As I was gathering my stuff that I had brought up to the school, a little boy named Kartik tugged on my shirt and asked if he could have my nametag. We weren’t allowed to give those out so I smiled and told him to follow me. I took him by the hand, picked up my skateboard and walked outside onto a cement pad that faced the vibrant green Himalaya mountainside. Seeing my skateboard in hand, a few other students began to follow me. I sat down, pulled out a silver Sharpie and asked them if they would sign my skateboard. Their faces gleamed and they eagerly snatched the Sharpie from my hand and began signing away.

Before I knew it, the entire student body had encircled me. Hands were reaching over me to touch the skateboard and spin its wheels. As the signatures began to litter the once barren wood, I noticed that some would underline their names for emphasis on who I should specifically remember. Some even left their phone numbers and asked me to call them when I returned to America. After every kid had signed my skateboard, we said our final goodbyes and got in the jeeps that would take us back to where we were staying.

The day’s constant drizzle couldn’t wash away my smile. I had just left somewhere that I knew I had made a difference. Within three short days I had made some very special friends, all of whom had given their all to learn the material that we had prepared for them. They studied, they practiced, they laughed and they learned. Their glimmering brown eyes and smiles continue to flash through my mind as I reflect upon my entire experience in India. While I am sad that I will most likely never see them again, their faces will forever be in my mind.