Stories from Asia

Saraswati Nandini Majumdar

Saraswati Nandini Majumdar '10 - Betawar, India

Saraswati spent her summer conducting an ethnographic study of the Dalits, or the untouchable, children in Betawar, India. Her approach was very consistent to ethnographic method as she approached the Dalits as an outsider so that she could instigate important conversations with them to which they felt comfortable being honest and open. Her "naive" appearance and questions allowed her to gain significant information about their lives and how their decisions are made. She learned a great deal about their culture as well as the reasons that the Dalits children do not attend school. Her hope was to use what she learned as inspiration for literature that might overlap with activism on behalf of these children. She has already written one story about her experiences, and more are certainly to come.

Kyle Block

Kyle Block '10 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kyle spent the summer of 2008 interning with the Garden of Hope in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Garden of Hope seeks to help the women working in, or striving to leave, the prostitution industry. It has two important components. The first component is their work with women attempting to leave their occupation as prostitutes. The Garden gives them healthcare, education in a craft for new work, and a place to live. The second component is their efforts to help the children of prostitutes while their mothers are working. This is the sector in which Kyle's participated. While the children are at the Garden of Hope, they are given a good meal, English lessons, and a safe place to wait. Kyle was able to work with these children, helping to provide them with these needs, directly contributing to their wellbeing.

Amanda Lam

Amanda Lam '11 - Cebu, Philippines

During the summer of 2008, I volunteered with Christ for Asia - an organization that serves the street children of Cebu, Philippines. The organization has two homes. Nehemiah Boys Home and Nehemiah Girls Home take in street children and provide them with accommodation, food, and educational opportunities. The organization also serves those who are still living in poverty through a program that serves different sites every week.

One of our assignments was to help prepare and distribute food. The optimism and happiness of the children at the feeding sites were absolutely incredible considering their living circumstances. For many of the children, the meal we provided would be their only hot meal for the week.

We also helped out with classroom activities at the Nehemiah School of Opportunities, the school for the children at the boys and girls homes. The teachers at the school were truly patient as they were responsible for dealing with children that were not accustomed to the classroom setting.

One of the most moving moments was being able to witness how the children have grown up and matured over the last four years when I had first visited the boys and girls homes and school. I remember one particular instance when a friend who had gone with me to Cebu on the earlier trip and I recognized a child whom we had last seen at the Carbon feeding site back in 2004. Then she was a naked three year-old whose hair was highlighted brown due to a lack of nutrition in her diet, living in the urban slums of Cebu. Now she was dressed in a school uniform learning mathematics at school.

A recent earthquake took the lives of 300 out of 800 students. Its continuing effects were evident not only in damage to the building (we worked in temporary plastic sheeted rooms) but also in the physical scars that many of the children had on their legs, for example, that were crushed under their old school building. One of our greatest challenges during the summer workshops was to instill discipline in the children, and it was a constant struggle between helping them learn and just making them happy. I remember that the principal of the local school was more concerned with making them happy and allowing them to forget about the tragedy that hit their community than he was with what they learned.