Volunteering Abroad: two volunteers’ experiences
Give an education to gain an education
Gaining an education was neither the purpose of this venture nor was it within the reaches of my imagination how literal ”give an education to gain an education” would prove to be. I had decided to spend a year volunteering. It was a vaguely researched decision of the heart over the head that steered me towards India and the Tibetan community. My heart chose well. I threw caution to the wind and came to India without a plan, without direction, and without expectations. Diving headfirst is a risky business, but it achieves depth.
And so it was with hope, excitement and a dash of fear that I began to wander. I stumbled across E.S. Tibet, and after a brief introduction and tour, my heart had finished wandering. I moved into the volunteer rooms as soon as the manager agreed to take me on as a teacher. I agreed to stay for one month. After one week I asked if it would be possible to stay until Christmas. After two weeks, I asked if I could possibly return after Christmas for another six months. I had wandered into a fairy ring with no return.
My first impression of the students was the level of hospitality and respect shown to the manager, volunteers and their fellow students alike. They are relentless in this. They predicted and still predict my every need, and as a sole traveler I am never left in want. The atmosphere in the school is one of warmth, compassion and understanding. They care for each other as we care for siblings. No one is forgotten or left behind. I feel humbled and privileged to have been welcomed into this family.
I have taught the students English. They have taught me humility, compassion and honesty. The teacher became the student. They have shown me how I want to live my life, the importance of our relationships with others, and the importance of openness with ourselves and with others. They have shown me the meaning of contentment. I will forever be grateful to each of them for our chats, for our debates, for spontaneous hugs, for the fact that they pulled me up the mountain, for their humor and enthusiasm, and for their joyful singing.
And now my time here is coming to an end, yet I feel that my life has just begun; my life as I want to now live it. The line between teacher and student has been breached, and I have made twenty-four friends. While I still love to wander, the school had taught me how to rest, enjoy, and appreciate. I will wander on, but this place will remain a fresh print on my heart.
©Eibhlin Nic Diarmada