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A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur, India. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist).

The Start of Our Service Sites: Asha Deep

Early morning yoga session on the banks of the Ganga, Varanasi, India

As I’ve settled into Varanasi and my service site, I’ve begun a routine. I wake up at 6:00 am, leave my house in Assi by 6:30 and walk to the Program House in Lanka. After breakfast and morning check-in, I leave at around 8:00 and walk to my service site, Asha Deep. It sits along the banks of the Ganga Ji and is only a fifteen-minute walk from the Program House. Along the way, I must dodge cows, monkeys, dogs, motorcycles, cars, rickshaws, and many other people until I turn off the main road.

Once I arrive at Asha Deep, I often watch the end of their morning meeting. Now that it is cooling off, they’ve begun to exercise in mornings. By 8:20, the bell rings and the kids rush inside to their classes. My schedule shifts slightly every day, but on Wednesdays, I start first period teaching the fourth grade class typing. Right now the students use one index finger to type, but are picking up touch-typing incredibly quickly. After computer class, I shift to teaching math to a section of 6th grade students. We are finishing up decimals and moving on to algebraic expressions. At 10 o’clock, math class finishes and there is a twenty-minute break for tiffin, which means snack. After that, I work with eighth grade students on math word problems, which would be difficult even for eighth grade students who are native English speakers. Nevertheless, the kids persist, asking questions such as “increased means sum, yes?” After math with the eighth grade students, I work with some of the fourth grade students on their times tables. Then, at 12:00, it’s time for lunch. I eat with Connie Ma’am and Siddharth Sir, the principal and vice principal respectively. After, I begin work on the school database. I’m working on improving its capabilities and organizing the information. Normally at 1:30 I teach 8th grade English, but on Wednesdays I help with crafts. Last Wednesday we made shaving cream paintings. They looked really cool but made quite a mess! I think the kids had fun though. After that, I go back to work on the database and then plan my lessons. I usually leave around 4:45, stop by a café to do my homework, and then head to my own Hindi class.

Though I’ve only worked at Asha Deep for two weeks, I’m already becoming comfortable there. I love that Asha Deep’s goal is to allow underprivileged children to break free from the cycle of poverty through education. Even though I know how difficult home life is for these children, they are such amazing kids. Yes, sometimes (often) they are rowdy, loud or mischievous, but they are also incredibly sweet, smart, energetic kids. While I am constantly amazed what they can do given the circumstances, teaching at Asha Deep has also made me so much more aware and grateful for the gifts I have been given in my own life. More than anything, the kids have made me so excited to be able to work at a place like Asha Deep.