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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: KIRAN Society

“KIRAN began in a small building in a big city and it became a big city in a small village.” On my first day of work at KIRAN, I was given a bright orange booklet containing this quote and a collection of other equally inspiring phrases. Where do I find myself in KIRAN Village? I’ve been working at KIRAN for just eight days. Two were spent editing a report on the vocational and training units. Another two, I spent as a substitute English teacher for six different classes. For the past four days, I’ve been stretching, sweating, and screaming along students, as the substitute sports teacher. KIRAN has been empowering differently-able and marginalized children since 1996. The organization runs so many programs, departments, and units that, as a newcomer, it can all be a bit dizzying. At times, I am genuinely lost because I have yet to settle into a specific role, and I am unaware of what to do or what’s expected of me. However, I’ve also found that this “big city” truly has the feeling of a small village. A contagious sense of unity is displayed in the welcoming smiles and namastes I receive from the students and staff every day. Recently, I’ve even come to enjoy the school bus rides home, which can occasionally turn chaotic. Some of the children have timidly confessed to seeing me out and about Varanasi. Last night, in Assi Ghat, I actually stumbled across one of my students. Even when I leave the greenery of KIRAN Village for the traffic of Varanasi, I haven’t left the reaches of KIRAN Society, and that makes me unexpectedly happy.