Volunteer Case Study: Excerpts from a Diary

Ola Smuklerz is a student at Manchester Metropolitan University and she spent four weeks this summer in Kerala, India volunteering in a school in a Muslim community just south of Trivandrum. Ola has put together a collection of excerpts from her diary that reflect on her experience, from meeting her host family full of nerves to being taking to a Pentecostal church on her first day (and how she grew to love going!)… check it out below, it’s an interesting read!

We’re finially in Trivandrum! After a full day of travelling, feeling tired and frustrated we are here [in Kovalam at a small hotel]… And it’s beautiful! We already have a pet spider but we haven’t named him yet, that will be up for discussions! In the morning we met Kath and Lauren and other volunteers to find out the plan for the next 6 weeks. Tomorrow we are meeting our host families and I’m bursting with excitement. I will be team teaching with Becky in a Muslim school which I’m also really looking forward to!

Ola with Lauren (Programme Manager) and Becky (project partner) on the way to their hosts

Ola  (middle) on the way to meet her host

Finally in the house of our host family! I’m staying with Nelson and Freida, all devoted Pentacostal believers who are already trying to convert me. They have took me and Becky to church pretty much as soon as we arrived and I have never seen anything like it! Everyone was wearing white, all men were separated from the women and everyone was singing and clapping! It’s amazing how happy people are just with a roof over their head and few speakers all because of something they believe in.

Today we went to visit the schools for the first time. Everyone seemed really welcoming and talkative (they tried their best to communicate with us!) and we got chai [tea], my favourite! We introduced ourselves and the children were very pleased to see us. All wanted to shake our hands and touch us. Afterwards we went home for dinner and I can definitely get used to the food! I already love my meal routine… Breakfast at 8am, lunch at 1:30, snack and chai at 4 (best time of the day!) and dinner at 8. Freida is an amazing cook and after the student life I have been leading it’s great!



The family is looking after us really well, this morning Nelson walked us to the bus stop, even thought it’s only 2 minutes away and we have been told exactly how to get it. We then taught for the first time and surprisingly it went really well. We ran out of time but it definitely is better than having too much time! For the first time I also had to do my washing in a bucket, it is a workout to say the least!



By now we have started to get into our teaching routine. We teach 4 classes: 6A, 7A, 7B and 7C. The communication overall is much better than I expected but because everyone still gets a bit overexcited it takes a bit longer to explain everything. All our classes are so different but equally fun! 6A is the naughty class, 7C is the best behaved, 7A is a bit of both and 7B wants to sing and dance all the time!

It’s a day off today. All the kids told us they were going on “tour” also known to most as a field trip! Nelson is very excited to have me in the house, all of the family and his brothers and sisters in Christ (as he calls them) come over more or less everyday. It is pretty entertaining, especially with the fact that not many of them speak English but they try to teach me Malayalam at every opportunity!

I cannot believe it’s August already, it’s flew over and we only have one week of teaching left. I actually love going to church now! I always get chai and snacks. Women from the church always cook for me too and give it to Freida so I can have it for dinner. I cannot imagine being hungry in India!

524039_10201789690333965_1233882560_nToday we went to say goodbye to the children at school. I burst out crying when the girls from our classes were singing the national anthem. I loved the kids and got very attached to them! The worst thing about it is the fact that we will not be able to find out how they get on in the future. I certainly hope they all do really well! The host mother always treats me like her own daughter, even though she does not speak much English at all she always communicates with me in body language, and cuddles me at the end laughing about it!

As my trip came to an end, I have realised that although there was some challenging moments it was an amazing experience. My favourite thing about India are the autos and the buses. To my own surprise all the things I thought I would miss did not make me unhappy at all, I have quickly adjusted to the lack of toilet roll, eating curry most of the time, lack of pavements and the little spiders!

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