Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Few More Updates and More Than a Few Photos

Hello Wonderful People,

Thank you all for continually supporting me. Every drop of encouragement goes a long way here. I love you all and hold you in my thoughts and prayers.

As mentioned in the post before last, a lot has happened in the past few weeks and I'm hoping to keep you informed regarding those experiences.

Before all that, please allow me to share a bit about my internship and upcoming happenings. Things are really coming together here at CKS. Almost all of the masonry, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry works are complete. If I didn't mention before, this NGO is just getting off the ground. A week into Loren's and my time in India, the house now serving as headquarters was purchased. For almost a month, people were coming in and out of the house daily, often requiring our brief attention. Without these small distractions, Loren and I have a lot more space and time to focus on our assignments. It has been absolutely refreshing to be more attentive to my assignments.

We only have a little over one solid week left to work on projects before the end of our official internship with Seattle University. Next Monday, my cousin-brother (as they would say here, referring to a male cousin) Mike will arrive in Kolkata. He will be traveling with Loren, another volunteer named Andrew, and I in Darjeeling and possibly Sikkim. We've been planning this trip for a while now, and I'm so excited to see it all come to fruition. It seems that Mike and I are on our own spiritual journeys these days, and this will be a chance to bring it all together. Along with my older brother Tom and Mike's younger brother Kevin, we were the typical (well, maybe not so typical) roaming band of stinky young people for many years. The band broke up : ) after Mike and Tom got into high school and realized they were hanging out with a ten year old (me), not to say we weren't still great friends - things just happen. What a blessing to have all this come full circle!? So, we will travel until March 22nd, during which Loren and I will visit an NGO. When we return to Bolpur, the last few days will be dedicated to writing up a report about our experience and the role of the NGO in its community, then Loren will pack his things and fly far far away on March 27th. From there on out I will be on my own; not affiliated with Seattle University and all done with the BA in public affairs. Therefore, I will take advantage of this opportunity and stay until May 20th. From then until May 27th I will be visiting my dear friend Abbie in South Korea, where she is currently teaching English. By May 28th I will have reached Seattle safe and sound, and a day before my Ma's B-day.

So, those are the big plans. Of course, there is a lot between now and then. For now, I'm doing my very best to play catch up on organizing a group of international students. The manual for international students is teetering on the brink of completion, and I'm enjoying the final tinkering process.

And now, a bit about assignments -

I'm not clear on how it happened, but last week was a major wake up call. From the start, Puthumai suggested I take a very direct approach to meeting people in hopes of recruiting them for the student group. Now it seems I didn't take the time to fully understand the goal of the group, thus I was less inclined to articulate my intentions when in conversation with potential members. So, before I knew it we had a plethora of friends in Bolpur, and only a fraction of them were international students. I got a bit caught up with maintaining relationships with these folks, just like I would do at home. It wasn't until Puthumai expressed his concerns for the project that I realized how flawed and unfocused my approach was. At home, I don't have much of a filtering mechanism for choosing who to or not to spend time with. Only recently have I felt comfortable snuffing out relationships that are not in line with my goals here - how bad does that sound? Well, it's a reality here. This place is teeming with people and almost everyone wants to brush up on their English, so a significant portion of the population automatically wants to be friends.

After some serious soul searching and brainstorming, it seemed time to return to the basics, just like at Seattle U. With the helpful advice of the other volunteers, Christine and Loren, I threw together some flyers one evening and haunted the local university campus the following few days. So far, the approach has been a success. The most successful sessions of roaming campus were incursions into the men's international student hostel (dormatory). As a result, I was able to meet some good people from Bangldesh and gather a group for our first meeting, which took place last night. It's a step in the right direction, and better late than never. Although our conversations drifted somewhat from the important topics I hoped to address, it seems with a little more nourishment and care the sapling has potential to flourish. Our meeting time and place for next week has been booked, there's time to rally a few more people. I hope to add balance to the gender ratio - it was only males last night.

There's another project I've been working on, but won't talk much about it. I started teaching two spoken English classes this week. It is a really a nice opportunity for me becuase I'm still seriously considering the Peace Corps, and the last time I was in touch with a recuiter she suggested I gain experience in teaching ESL. Because a BA in public affairs is so broad, it offered minimal to no technical skills that could be put to use as a Peace Corps volunteer. Oh, the price we pay for a B.A. (rhyme not intended).

Below is a bit more about experiences Loren and I have had, if you care to keep reading.

From February 21-24th, we traveled to a town called Narayanpur to visit an NGO known as KNDS. The acronym stands for the villages it supports - Kharia Naba Dignanta Samity. It is a rural development organization which works especially to empower disabled women, men, and children in the area. In addition, it took on multiple projects during the aftermath of Cyclone Aila, which hit last May and ravaged most of West Bengal. Puthumai sent us to assess the organization, further establish a connection between it and KNDS, and to expand our understaning of the role of humanitarian organzations in India - especially in regards to disaster management. It is situated a few km away from the Sundarbans - a large wildlife refuge split between India and Bangladesh and one of the last homes of wild tigers. Don't worry we didn't even enter into the refuge, so no tigers.

KNDS - A Rural Development NGO

It's still not clear to me as to why I posted so many photos. It's overkill, but this just kind of happened and I hope you enjoy them. For now, they'll be left without captions. Those will be added later.


  1. Thanks for the comprehensive update Jeffie! It is great to be able to track your activities.
    Continue to be safe and have a great journey.
    Hope you will have time for postings from Korea.
    Love, Dad

  2. Pictures say so much. Keep updating. I love it. AND I cannot wait to see you in my neck of the woods.

  3. That stingray is HUGE!!!! Your stories are incredible. I will write soon. - Jess