Hello from the computer room at Amar Seva Sangam Ayakudi (ASSA)!
Nearly two weeks have come and gone, and here we are today marking our second last day at ASSA. While words cannot explain the experiences that we have shared with everyone at this organization; here goes our best shot at explaining it.
Since our last entry we have been keeping very busy. Some of the programs we have been working in include…
1) Post-Acute Spinal Cord Centre: Here we have been working with a vast array of health care professionals. This includes learning from the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other support personnel. The experiences here included but were not limited to observing the professionals providing treatment and education to the patients, hands-on experience in physical therapy and dressing, participating in leisurely activities and simply enjoying a lot of quality time with the residents.
2) Medical Testing Unit: Here the occupational therapy students had the opportunity to shadow various physiotherapists and assist by implementing fine motor activities with children following their physiotherapy treatment. In addition, we were able to leave these physiotherapists with a list of possible hand therapy activity ideas for children that they can continue to use when we leave with the materials they have already have available.
3) Vocational Training: Here we had the opportunity to observe a number of the patients in their work settings. It was so much fun to see how various products were made (toys, clothes, notebooks, etc.)! Through simply observing many of us had gained a greater appreciation for the work that goes into making so many of these items. Watch out Canada, when we come back we will be lean, mean, button up t-shirt making machines.
4) Schools: Here we observed the children in the classroom setting. Some of us had the privilege of teaching English and Music classes (we learned that some of us remember the words to Barbie girl more than the Canadian national anthem…embarrassing).
5) Special Needs Schools: Here we observed children with special needs in the school setting. This included assisting the teachers with daily programming as well as the in-school physiotherapists with treatment and hand therapy ideas.
6) On-site Government Project School Kids: Here we engaged in various semi-structured programs such as yoga classes, playing sports or doing the girls’ (and some boys’) hair and nails.
When we weren’t busy with programming in the various units we spent very enjoyable free time playing card games (don’t tell anyone though…apparently this is illegal in Tamil Nadu…oops), Frisbee or chess with the spinal cord injury unit men and other ASSA residents. In the evening hours, we could often be found joining the kids in dance classes, English tutions (extra schooling outside of class time) or for prayer time.
This past weekend we took a vacation to Madurai and Kanyakumari (the most Southern tip of India). Friday night we arrived in Madurai where we stayed at a beautiful hotel with a rooftop restaurant located in the heart of town. We started Saturday morning off early visiting the Gandhi museum, followed by a visit to Thirumalai Nayak palace. Following this we had plenty of opportunity to use our bargaining skills as we shopped up a storm. To finish off the night we visited the Meenakshi temple where we got to see a number of cool exhibits and FINALLY see an elephant- an elephant which blessed us for 10 rupees, well worth it! Late late Saturday night/Sunday morning we took the train to Kanyakumari where we arrived at 4:30 am and went straight to the beach to watch the sun rise with hundreds if not a couple thousand Indians- incredible turn out. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the super hot heat (some of us a little too much), the beach where we swam in three bodies of water at one time ( Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean)- fully clothed and sticking out a lot as the only foreigners, shopping and a visit to the Gandhi memorial.
Just yesterday, along with the 4 volunteers at ASSA from Project Abroad we visited the local Courtellam Falls which is a favorite bathing location for MANY Indians in the Tenkasi area. We joined the locals in separate male and female lines to bath under the main waterfall- where we lasted less than one minute because of the ice cold water. Afterwards, we trekked through the monkey-filled forest attempting to find the top of the waterfall and stumbled across a second smaller, more secluded set of falls (more secluded meaning only 100 indian people with us) where we bathed again. Very enjoyable. Highly recommended.
Out of all of the activities we have done the past two weeks, one of the best parts of our time here has been the people we have met. All the staff and residents at ASSA have welcomed us with opened arms and treated us like family. We have shared so many amazing experiences and learned so many lessons from these special individuals. As we continue at ASSA and the other NGOs we look forward to many exciting adventures to come.
For more updates STAY TUNED as we head North to Jagdalpur as we visit our third and final NGO, Lifeline Express.