The last lessons…

Unfortunately, the last week of our job shadowing has arrived and it also gave me special memories that will remain as lifetime experiences.

One of the most memorable moments happened in the World Water Day when JRP’s French volunteers, Alice and Cyrielle organized some water-related activities for the kids in Banafulla and Kanchanjanga. They focused on water’s role in our everyday life and the importance of hygiene and washing hands. In both schools, children were so excited and enthusiastic about the games that the two girls played with them. First, kids were asked to list some daily use of water they do and the answers came very quickly: washing face in the morning, cooking, drinking, watering plants, or washing clothes. The next question aimed to discover when they wash their hands and if they do it properly. They made a demonstration at the fountain of the slum. In Banafulla, there was no problem with that, there is a little square with some running water taps where people can take water, wash their clothes, and take a shower. The kids really enjoyed to wash their hands with soap and counting the 20 seconds, the time necessary for a proper hand washing.

But in Kanchanjanga, the water service is very limited, there are only two hours every day in the afternoon when the taps work… My feelings were ambivalent when I had to decide how to talk about the importance of regular hand washing: here people have a very limited access to clean water, but awareness rising is undoubtedly important, especially under these conditions.

The game was that every child got paint spots into their palms, representing different kind of staining, like playing outside with the sand, using the toilet, sneezing, playing with animals and so on. Then they were asked to touch each other and see how they dirty their classmates. The next step was trying to get rid of all the paintings, first just with water (and see that it does not work), and finally also with soap. Besides that, it was really good to see all the smiling faces, but also astonishing to experience that all the children were so concentrated: they listened very carefully and they were not walking in and out as usual.

And like every time something unusual happens in the school, we met some new children who we had never seen before. One of them was a silent 9 years old boy in Kanchanjanga who was very interested, but at the beginning did not feel comfortable. First, he sat in the circle among the other children, but after a few minutes, he walked out – but not away, he stopped at the door refusing to go back. I faced the challenge: I tried to convince him to go back and play, but I don’t speak Oriya and he doesn’t speak English. After a very short conversation with very simple questions like “What is your name?” and “How old are you?”, we have exhausted all our possibilities of verbal communication. I had my camera in my hands, so I proposed him to take some picture – that always works. We took selfies, he showed me what to shoot on and showed me what he knew: he turned several cartwheels in front of the school. Later he returned to the classroom and joined the other children, he got the paint spots in his palm and he enjoyed it very much. He was very happy every time he noticed I was watching him and proudly showed me washing his hands with soap very carefully. This little episode with that boy reminded me of a very simple lesson: no matters how or where they live, one of the most important things children want is just some personal attention.