Visit Report of Maria Mödder, 2015
One morning in January this year my plan was to write applications to german schools. Instead of that spontaneously I googled for an opportunity to go abroad. Eventually I found Sanni Foundation, wrote an email to Susanne Schroff and got a call the next day.
Three months later I sat in a plane to Trivandrum in the South of India. The beginning of two months full of wonderful experiences with many warm-hearted, open minded and motivated people.
My task at St. John’s School in Trivandrum was to teach children in English and to organise sports and games for them. It didn’t take a long time to get part of Father Joses team of priests, nuns, teachers, doctors, social workers and other co-workers. I felt home very soon, also because the children were not shy at all and always motivated, no matter what we did. I was impressed how selfcontious, creative, well organised and helpful they are. They are around 30 students in the age of 6 to 18 years who live at St. John‘s because of their HIV-infection. Here they have good medical care and are educated by several teachers in small groups. If you didn’t know about their Infection you would never guess, because they have so much power – running, playing, dancing all day long. But their immune system is weak, so a usual cold can be very dangerous for them. They are supervised by social workers and medicins in how to handle their desease and do that very confidently.
I was teaching English to two groups everyday, Juniors and Seniors. It took me some time to learn all the Indian names and to find out about their individual state of knowledge. The more I got to know them, the easier it was to find fitting exercises and games. One of the students could not read, so I taught her in the evening. I really enjoyed teaching, all of them made a lot of effort and improved very well. Especially in June, when the new school year started and the students tried to talk English also during the meals and in the evening. Father Jose set up that new „Speak English!“ -rule. You need to know, that their mother tongue Malayalam is very different from English language. They have another grammar and a totally different alphabet, what makes it even more difficult to read and write in English.
Next to the lessons we spend our free time playing group games, card games, doing sports or watching english films together. During May the students had holidays, so we had a lot of time for that, joined by children of the neighbourhood who stayed at St. John’s during the Holiday Camp. We had two Highlights: A visit to „Magic Planet“ (a theme park with magicians and artists) and a Bollywood film in a big cinema. The film took three hours!!! What I really enjoyed was to teach the students „Kubb“, a western game played in the park. A carpenter made that game for us, the children liked to play that a lot. Usually girls and boys do sports seperately in the afternoon. Boys play football or cricket, girls play badminton. Kubb they played together… I also taught them a little bit of german culture, we had a photo presentation about Germany and celebrated „Kölschen Karneval“ by colouring our faces, wearing red noses and listening to „kölsch“ music. To stay in contact we wrote letters to my future students in Germany. This summer I will start beeing a teacher in Hennef next to Cologne looking forward to answer the letters with my new students.
As I taught English and facts about Germany, the students taught me Malayalam and a lot of their culture. I participated in the mass, got to know a lot of spicy but delicious food, enjoyed doing Yoga in the morning, learned how to wear a Saree, tried indian dance, was invited to an indian wedding, was painted with henna („Mehendi“) and watched Chandhu, one of the elder students, climbing up a coconut tree.
Sanni Foundation is not only supporting the children of St. John’s but also a mushroom laboratory and a group of women, doing jewellery they sell in India and Europe. I joined them and we made some bracelets and chains. I had a wonderful day with the women, singing indian songs and Queen. In June I visited a boys home several days. I was teaching 20 boys in the age of 10 to 15 and had a great evening, when we organised a football match between the Boys Home and St. John’s.
Fathers Jose offered me enough freetime to visit Trivandrum and the beach nearby, and organised a trip to the tea plantages in Munnar and to Cap Comorin, the southernmost place of India. Kerala is always busy, very colourful, and full of contrasts.
What was most impressing to me was the way keralan people cared for me as a guest (especially in St. John’s but also at all the other places I went). They took all the time they had to make me feel comfortable and help me in all my needs. So തനക് യു (thank you) to all the members of St. John’s family and Sanni Foundation for that great time, full of rich experiences I will never forget. What luck that I didn’t write applications that day in January…