Visit Report of Jamie Estalella
My name is Jaime Estalella. I am 19 years old and I come from Madrid, Spain. I volunteered to come here to St. John’s, for one month, as an English and Music teacher and I am going to tell you about my experience here for the last four weeks.
St. John’s is a school and home for children affected by HIV/AIDS funded by SANNI Foundation. There is also a hospital that provides mostly free medical care for up to 250 patients a day who could otherwise not afford it. It is located near the city of Trivandrum in the state of Kerala, South India.
HIV is a big problem in India that carries a lot of stigma. The families affected by this disease are rejected from society and children are not admitted in government schools. These people have no way out of this situation. The parents are unable to work or take care of their kids due to their own illness and relatives are unprepared to accept them into their families. As a result of this desperate situation, many cases have been registered of entire families committing suicide.
At St. John’s, the children from these families are given, essentially, a life. They are dressed and fed well, educated and receive all the medical care they need. A total of 32 boys and girls from ages 3 to 18 live at St. John’s. They go to school here, where they are taught the local language “Malayalam” as well as English, mathematics, science and how to use computers. Only through this education will they one day be able to work and support themselves.
I have been teaching the kids in English and Music for the past four weeks. The children here are truly happy because they are treated with love by an amazing team led by Father Jose, who is a true inspiration to me. So far, my time here with SANNI Foundation has been one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. Let me tell you why:
When I first came here, it was hard to understand how all these people seemed SO happy regardless of the fact that they have nothing. But from my own experience I have come to realize that the secret is that caring and giving to others is actually a hugely rewarding experience. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from these children, most of whom have been left alone in this world, and yet face every single day with a smile on their faces. This is possible thanks to the excellent team that has been put together at St. John’s with the help of SANNI Foundation, without whom this project couldn’t have happened. This team of fathers, sisters, doctors, cooks and many others care for them and give them the love and attention every child deserves.
During my time here I felt that my work as a teacher is valued and really makes a difference to the life of the children. Education is the only thing that will enable them to live autonomously in the future, and hence, something that we have to do our very best to improve. But furthermore, just having somebody come to visit is a big event for them in the first place, no matter what you are here to do. They really appreciate you spending time with them learning or playing together. Every time they see you around they run to you and start playing with your umbrella or whatever it is that you have… You are just absolutely fascinating to them! And those smiles make your day, everyday, and you don’t forget them.
I would like to finish by thanking Father Jose and the rest of the marvelous team here at St. John’s for also giving me the opportunity to make a difference to the life of these children. I would also like to thank the kids, who had a tremendous impact in my life and last but definitely not least to SANNI Foundation because without their generous help none of this would be possible.