Monday, June 15, 2015

Continuing the Journey

It's hard to believe that the group's time in India is over. But from so many of the stories that the kids have shared, it is clear that their leadership and global citizenship journeys are far from over. We can't wait for the kids to get home and share everything with you that they have expressed about the impact of this trip--strike that--the impact of these people upon their lives.

As I type this, the kids are all in the Mumbai airport awaiting their flights. Rick Dunn and I (Kyle Vaughn) would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Susan, our WLS instructor, and Krishna, our WLS guide, for all of their leadership, love, and care. They are two of the most warm, inspiring, and professional people you'll ever meet. And thanks to Ross, Erin, Jennifer, and Maria at WLS (hope I didn't miss anyone!) for all the work they have done to get us to this point. And I would like to extend my deepest thanks and admiration for Rick Dunn and all that he did to make this happen. You were an amazing travel partner, and I am so grateful you allowed me to experience this with our students. 

And, thanks to our parents for allowing us to journey with your kids on this incredible experience.

And last, but not least, thanks to our students for investing so much time, energy, and heart into everything we did. Coach Dunn and I are so proud of you!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back to Mumbai

Yesterday, our last full day in Chinchoti, started off with some time following our homestay families as they went through their daily routines. While there were a variety of activities, many students helped make food in their homestays, so parents, have your kids make you some Indian food when they get home!

In the afternoon, our leaders for the day, Will and Cole, gathered us together with the kids of the community for a final celebration. With the kind help of the community, Parish girls came decked out in the fabulous saris you'll see below. 

That evening, after our celebration, there were even more festivities--Krishna surprised us with a concert by Chinchoti's local band. 

It was hard to say goodbye this morning, but we leave Chinchoti knowing it has had a deep impact on who we are and where we are going in life, especially as we become global leaders that lead through connection with others.

We're back in Mumbai now and are looking forward to our last day together here before we fly out tomorrow night.

Sophie helping in the store that her homestay family owns.
Saris for the community celebration 
At the drum performance 

P.S. Amanda wants to wish her grandmother a happy birthday.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Village Life

It has been amazing to see how our 1st cohort of Parish Abroad student travelers have immersed themselves in the culture here in Chinchoti. From making roti to speaking a little Marathi to learning some Marathi songs, they have investigated so many aspects of life here with grace and curiosity. 

Yesterday our student leaders for the day, Sophie and Allie, helped us to organize some final lessons and games with the kids from Chinchoti. Everyone especially seemed to enjoy freeze dance! In the afternoon, we took a quick trip to nearby Nagar Beach to cool down. What an idyllic place!  (We hope to post pictures soon, but Mr. Vaughn's iPhone is not currently cooperating!) At the beach, our leaders for the day, Sophie and Allie, both strongly agreed that their perspective on India has changed 1000-fold in a most-positive way.

This morning, as we experience our final full day in Chinchoti, we are spending some time with our homestay families, and then, this afternoon, our leaders for the day, Cole and Will, will help us organize and participate in a community celebration.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Building bonds in Chinchoti

Life here in Chinchoti is gorgeous and relaxed--but, of course we have been quite busy experiencing all sorts of new things so that we can get the most out of our time here--so thanks for being patient while we find some time to update the blog.

On Wednesday our group leaders for the day, Grayson and Tanner, helped us to make some important insights about what it takes to make connections and cross cultures as we are trying to do. They were also the perfect pair, with their experience in sports medicine, to help us stay hydrated as we worked and played. In reflecting on their day, Tanner and Grayson note that the impact they are hoping to leave on this community runs both ways--and the community of Chinchoti is having a big impact on them. Grayson also wants to pass along that it is not easy being 6 feet 4 inches here  with low ceilings and doorways!

On Thursday, our leaders for the day, Lexie and Jordan, helped us hike to the top of the mountain behind Chinchoti for some great views and some powerful time reflecting. They also led wonderfully as we transitioned from our service project and games with the kids from the previous day to some English-Marathi lessons with the kids at Chinchoti's school. We can't wait to show you some of the stories that Parish and Chinchoti collaborated on when we return. Reflecting on their day, Lexie and Jordan were so impressed with how our own group supported each other. As we work together to take what we've learned about Indian life and culture and the Millenial Development Goals into the real world and as we lean on what we've learned about each other and our qualities and leadership styles, we see how we are able to, as Lexie noted, have real impact on others. Jordan summed up the day quite powerfully by simply saying she now realizes why she is here.

Helping build the school wall:
Playing games with the kids of Chinchoti and bonding with homestay families 
Playing cricket 
By the lake 
Up on the mountain 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Good morning from Chinchoti!

We arrived in Chinchoti yesterday to much fanfare, led through the village by two boys playing drums to announce our arrival. It was immediately evident how warm and inviting this community is and how excited they are to have us here. Our leaders for the day, Kate and Luke (birthday boy), did a great job helping to organize our transition. Kate and Luke say their main takeaway for their first day is that they feel immediately accepted as family members here in Chinchoti.

Today Grayson and Tanner will lead us as we interact with students from the community.

Here are a few pictures from our first day and this morning:

Monday, June 8, 2015

On to Chinchoti

We've had an amazing couple of days in Mumbai, and we're off to Chinchoti this morning. Everyone is in great health and great spirits. Our internet access in Chinchoti might be come and go--we will update the blog as we are able.

Why We Are Here!

Here's today's post from Raunak and Margot:

Today changed us. We began the day with an authentic Indian breakfast. Always filling up our stomachs to the brim to start the day with energy. Following the spice filled breakfast we did an icebreaker as a group to get the blood flowing for the adventure we had awaiting us. Before we headed to the Dharavi slums we had a special speaker, our very own Susan Lambert. She told us her leadership journey which included listening to people's stories, walking with others, and pride. Her story set the tone for the day as we walked with others. For most people we walked right out of our comfort zone into Dharavi. The tour of Dharavi is not where our adventure began, it started with a chaotic crossing on streets to get to the jam packed bus stop. From there we took the local Indian train with our three tour guides. Little did we know that what we were about to experience in Dharavi would impact us as individuals and as a group. Krishna, one of our leaders and the founder of Reality Tours in the Dharavi slums, tried to brief us on what Dharavi was going to be like, but as we walked into the eye opening experience we realized that no briefing would do this justice. We split into three groups and headed off to our tours. The efficiency within Dharavi made us wonder why it is considered a "slum." Everybody was working hard to get the rupees necessary to support their families. If everybody in America worked as hard as this densely populated community, we would an even more powerful nation. The tour started with the commercial area and lead into the residential area. One thing that seemed to be shocking to everyone in our group was the happiness that surrounded the members of Dharavi, particularly the children. Whenever we passed children by, they would either show a big smile or say hi in the most exciting tones. After the tours we went back to the community center in Dharavi where there were students from Dharavi waiting to meet us. But before we engaged with them, there was an obvious change in perspective within the group. This perspective was about to change even more. We ate lunch with these people and then began a talent show. Once everybody had showed their talents, one of the community members turned on his music and began to teach us all dances. Before we knew it, we were all drenched in sweat having the most amazing time with people that we had met on an hour before. This experience seemed to be the greatest one so far to most people. After leaving the Dharavi the group as a whole felt almost a sense of guilt. We are ignorant to the world outside of our Dallas bubble, but today changed us. After this emotional and physically tiring opportunity, we took local Indian taxis back to the hotel. The taxi is an adventure that's for sure. We could hear the honks ringing in our ears for hours after. When we arrived back at the hotel, we got cleaned up and headed to Raunak's family's house for dinner. The excitement in everyone was outstanding. His family was a blessing to have during this trip and the welcomed us with open arms. The dinner they made us was mouth watering, and the hospitality was even better. Following this, we ended our day with a taxi ride back to the hotel and some group time to reflect on our day and prepare us for what was to come in Chinchoti. What an amazing day we had - we are forever changed from this experience and extremely blessed to have this opportunity.

On our train ride to Dharavi, Rick, Chetan, Sunny, and Krishna demonstrate what rush hour on the train is like. Chetan and Sunny work with Krishna at Reality Tours.

Nicole and Grayson share some dance moves with members of the Dharavi community.
Lunch with Dharavi community members. We are so well-fed. Everyone has been so brave--excited even--about trying new foods.
Learning some Indian dance and music with Dharavi community members:

Dinner at Raunak's family's house: