Saturday, 23 October 2010

Big mouth

So we planned our trip to include a period of volunteer work. We registered with Aid camps international and they placed us with SCAD (Social Change and Development) in Tamil Nadu. Many of you will know that we needed to raise at least 500 pounds each for the charity and we both managed around 700.

Gemma did loads of research into various places to volunteer as there are some reports of organisations being less than reputable. Volunteers not being treated well, having nothing constructive to do or the organisation just in it to take their money. Even so we were a little nervous before starting our work. Human nature I guess.

Happily the fears have been unfounded. SCAD is an incredible organisation which has been growing for 25 years. Your money is being very wisely spent. Have a look at some of the things they do on the website. In a nutshell they support some 500 villages in the area funded by donations and revenue from a whole host of training colleges in and around Tirunavelli. Some of the most interesting work is with special communities- Snake catchers (a nomadic tribe constantly in danger from snake bites), a Gypsy community, a Leprosy community and workers on Salt Pans (who suffer terrible working conditions to harvest salt from evaporated sea water).

We have been based on the college campus and have been helping some of the other volunteers here. Gemma has been working hard on a publication for the organisation and the content of a new website. I have been working on two separate things:

1) The energy consumption of the campus. The organisation is keen to be environmentally friendly and reduce their electrical consumption and so I have been helping with an energy survey of all of the college buildings. We are looking at where the electricity is currently being use and what we can do to reduce and/or generate alternative forms of energy. I'm looking into LED lighting, wind power, solar energy and a bio digester (which breaks down biodegradable waste to make gas, fertilizer or electricity).

2) Helping with the teacher training college. There are two training colleges for teachers; one for primary school and the other for secondary school. I met and talked with the lecturers and the principals to see if there was anything they would like me to do to help. It turns out that yes indeed there was. They wanted me to do a lecture/seminar on innovative teaching techniques from the UK for 100 secondary teachers students on a Saturday morning. Me and my big mouth.

I have to say I have really enjoyed getting my teeth stuck into some work. It's nice to be travelling and having time to think and read and meet people and see beautiful sights. Of course it is. But from time to time it's hard to shake the feeling that you are just a lazy, workshy, glorified bum. I'm glad to say that it only takes a couple of days for that feeling to go away.

So this morning I gave my lecture. I was understandably nervous but it went very well. The teaching students had just completed their first placement in an actual school. I can remember the feeling well and so I tailored the speech to what I thought would be most useful. My presentation was well received and the audience (with the occasional help from an interpretor) seemed to enjoy it and take some good things from it. I must confess that as I was finishing up and trying to inspire them that teaching was a good profession I found that I was glad that I was a teacher myself. It is a good profession. Mind you it's easy to say that when you are not mid term, half broken and knee deep in marking, admin and bureaucracy!

For all you educators out there I'll leave you with the thought that the teachers here have to face a class size of somewhere between 40 and 90 pupils. Ouch.