For the second time already Reality Tours and Travel and World Leadership School organised a one week Dharavi village social service week for students of the Berkeley Caroll School in New York. Thirteen students between 15 and 17 joined the trip to learn about social issues and opportunities and intercultural exchange in India.
On the first day the students and three teachers went for sightseeing, shopping and a Bollywood movie. On Monday Krishna brought them to Dharavi where they did a tour through the residential and industrial area before attending learning sessions of the Youth Empowerment Program. The American students helped the local kids learning excel and did some English conversation with them. Afterwards all had a traditional Indian Thali lunch together.
On Day 3 they travelled by boat, bus and rickshaw to the village Chinchoti close to Alibaugh, 70km south of Mumbai. After meeting their home stay families and first attempts to communicate and overcome the language barrier the work on the construction site began.
The aim is to build steps to the water and a concrete wall so that the village women can safely wash their clothes. As soon as this is done they will paint the library room which was build by the highschool students last year.
Day 4 was almost entirely spent on the work site. In the evening the students went to the close Adivasi (tribal) village to spend some time with the kids. The living conditions in this village are worse than in usual Indian village due to lack of clean water, sanitation, education and livelihood options. The students played some games and draw pictures with the kids. Afterwards they distributed paint-in books, bananas and chocolate. It was a very exciting and fun experience.
On Day 5 the students had to get up at 5.30am for a six kilometres hike up the hill behind the village. On top the students got some solo time to enjoy the fantastic view and reflect their experiences. After breakfast the students went to the work site again.
A lot of activities follow in the next 36 hrs before the NY students have to go home again: a bull car race, the closing ceremony with the village dwellers, a day at the beach and a visit to the fort. On Sunday they get some free time in Mumbai again before they depart home in the evening.
For the students it is a week full of firsts: first time working on a construction, first time being so far away from home, first time washing their own clothes, first time playing cricket or first time visiting a slum. “We all especially enjoy to interact with the village families. They are all so friendly and hospitable”, says Emily from the senior grade of the high school.
Krishna and the rest of the team have a lot of fun with the students and we are happy to see the positive impact of the program. We hope to host more student groups like this in the future!