TM Deepti Venkatesh

By TM Deepti Venkatesh

About 9 months back, I took a small step towards my forever wish of helping the society. I joined an NGO called U&I and was going to be volunteering in the center called Refugee – this was a home to 15 orphaned girls. When I joined this center, I was under the impression that I would help children build a better future, little did I know that I was going to be the one learning in the process.
The first day I entered Refugee Homes. I was little apprehensive; I hadn’t dealt with kids before. I hadn’t taught a fellow human being, but here I was donning the new role of a tutor. My apprehension was very evident and soon as I entered, a couple of overzealous 12-13-year-old girls came
running and said “Hi Akka! Welcome to refugee”. I was surprised to see how well- mannered these girls were and also was very surprised to hear them speak in English flawlessly. (I actually hoped to teach these kids English, but, oh well, clearly it wasn’t necessary.). These girls welcomed all the volunteers with the same excitement. This was my first lesson – Greetings, greet everyone who you meet with a firm handshake and a warm smile.
At the beginning of the class each student and volunteer had to introduce themselves and each of us had to tell one good thing that happened to us that week (this happened every class). As I stood there listen- ing to the volunteers, I realized that most of them were either just out of 12th or were just finishing up with their college. I kept wondering why I didn’t volunteer before? I always wanted to do ‘something for the society’; I had even checked the U&I website in the past 2 years but didn’t really gather up the cour- age up until now. That’s when I learnt my second lesson –My Good Thing, like the old saying its better late than never. I had finally gathered up the courage to be present that day!
I was supposed to be teaching 2 girls, Nirmala and Lavanya, of grade 6 chemistry and biology. I was more than happy to teach these subjects, since those 2 were my favorite subjects in school. So, I was wondering how difficult would it be to actually teach these subjects indeed? I soon learnt, that it was in very difficult just to teach just these 2 girls. Nirmala was very shy in the beginning, she wouldn’t even look at me, let alone talk or answer. On the other hand, Lavanya was one of the most inquisitive persons I have ever met; she had a million questions and a wild imagination. It took me a couple of classes to strike a balance between both of them, and in the process learnt that both of them loved challenging and teaching each other. This definitely made my life so much easier.
At the end of every class the student and the teacher had to tell something good about each other, this was called as affirmation. Their usual affirmation to me was “Thank you for teaching us Akka!” – this made me so happy. I also could see how my affirmations and one word of encouragement lifted them up. This was my third lesson – Affirmation, always affirm your- self for everything you do, because if you don’t approve of yourself who else will?
But like life, my classes and my children also had their ups and downs, sometimes they were the best and would listen to class with utmost attention. But there were times when they wouldn’t do their homework or they would be distracted in class (oh well! They’re children after all), at these times I had to be strict with them and give them a timeout. A time out is like giving them a warning and asking them to reflect on their behavior. This was my fourth lesson – Giving yourself a time out, when life doesn’t go according to plan, one must take some time out to prioritize and re-focus.
At the end of every class a volunteer or a child tells us a story which has a take home value (much like toastmasters), this was to mainly encourage and install values in the kids, this was called the Launch. This was my last lesson; every one we meet and everything we do is for a reason. I have learnt so much from these kids in the past 9 months, I have learnt patience and have also realized the value of every teacher in my life. I have learnt to be curious and I al- so learnt the 6th subjects all over again, this time it even made sense. But most importantly, I have learnt that struggles are real for some people and also realized how fortunate most of us are. Every day is a blessing and every day is a new beginning and that is my Launch.