My India Trip

For those celebrating the end of the fasting month, I wish you a fruitful Eid Mubarak!

I’ve been overseas these past few weeks, on a community involvement program.  My organisation has partnered with SCAD, an organisation which oversees several projects helping a range of people from various backgrounds. As it was my organisation’s first OCIP trip, we decided to work on a simple project with a special needs school in Cheranmahadevi, India.

Based on a prior visit by the recce team, we split our project into a few parts. The main portion was the refurbishment of the school’s relaxation corner – a room where these underprivileged kids could play games and toys. We painted the room, and filled the shelves with toys which we collected in Singapore.

Another portion of the project involved adding games catered to the needs of these kids – most of whom had learning disabilities – such as texture cubes and a race track corner. The aim here was to engage the sensory and motor skills of these kids, to complement the academic portion for which they were already in school for

Then there was an interaction session with these kids – a simple art session where we made paper-plate jellyfish and a simple origami dog. These kids don’t really get to do artwork and it was heartening to see them expressing themselves. They may have been aged from 12-20 but the 3 teens I worked with were really kids at heart. The simple joy of writing your own name on your own artwork is something that most of us take for granted, but for these kids, it made their day. I’m glad that I was able to help them achieve that.

After the CIP portion, we had a small heritage tour of the region, stopping by cities such as Tirunelveli, Madurai, Tanjore and Tiruchi. My friends fell sick one by one, but I was the last to fall sick. They had all recovered by the last city Tiruchi, so they left me in the hotel while they went shopping and watching movies. I kept running to the toilet every half an hour, inflicted with a terrible bout of stomach flu which made even the plain water I drank to come out of the back door. That was the only time during the entire trip which I (terribly) missed my Tenas.

There was one toilet-training incident which I observed, and it shook me a little. I was in a toilet cubicle and there was this conversation between father and son transpiring in the next cubicle. The dad had brought the boy to the toilet and he asked him, “do you want to poop”. He didn’t answer. “Have you already pooped”. No answer again.

SLAP. “No, I don’t know”, he replied sullenly. The dad started to take off the boy’s diaper, grumbling loudly that he didn’t know how to tell when he needed to go and how his mother was going to be furious etc. So he sees that the diaper is clean and he gets frustrated. “Why don’t you just answer me properly?” SLAP. “Do you need to go poop now?”, he asks and the boy mush have shook his head or something because the dad roars “I want you to sit on the toilet and poop now“.

As I stood up and left, the kid was sobbing and pooping. They were an urban middle class family, but what struck me was the amount of intimidation that was used in potty training. That’s their way of life there, slaps as punishment. I was slipping in and out because of my stomach flu but that incident stuck to my consciousness. The kid moved from diapers because he was scared that his dad would hit him, not because he wanted to be like his peers.

Overall I feel that this trip did open my eyes to this part of the world. It was a memorable trip, and I feel that I gained valuable skills and insights through this trip.

– Selv

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