Friday, May 13, 2011

Swimming with One International

One International is an NGO that I've been volunteering at this year with several other women. It's a school that was founded ten years ago by a Canadian women who rounded up some street children and started teaching them. It's grown into two different schools now. I go on Wednesdays and help teach English to the children. The American School's second grade also partners with them and does three different events with them during the school year. When I found out that 40 kids from One International were going to ASB this week to swim, I immediately volunteered to help out.

Coming to ASB for these kids is like commoners going to the queen's palace and getting to spend a few hours there running around. Most of these children are living in make shift structures and the only meal they eat is the lunch they get at One International. I couldn't wait to watch them.

ASB provided the swim suits and towels for the kids, or rather I believe the second grade donated them. Now, India is not known for it's swimwear. When at the beach, most Indian women go in with their saris on. Showing skin is just not done. So, the girls and boys were split up because the some of the older girls were nervous about what they were going to be wearing and being seen. The teenaged boys were fore warned about girls wearing bathing suits and Tania, the founder, told the boys if they were caught gawking (Indians win the gold medal in this event), they were done and would have to leave the pool. Luckily this was not an issue.

The girls went first, so we corralled then into the locker room. First, we had to get them undressed, into their swimsuits and showered. There was much hesitation, but as soon as the showers were discovered (they are the kind that rain straight down from the ceiling), it was hard to get them out. ASB didn't realize they had a water park right in their locker room. It was wonderful, all the smiles and squeals of delight. Finally they were all ready and we headed out to the pool. They were all required to wear a life vest in the pool. Most of the kids started out in the kiddie pool and the taller ones were in the main pool. Some of the girls were naturals and had no problems putting their face in the water and swimming around. Others were more content to hang out in inner tubes or in the arms of volunteers. When the kids switched it up, the boys were completely different. Most just jumped right in and the only ones clinging were four and five year olds.

ASB students were also swimming with the One International kids. I wonder what their impressions were of this experience... Some of the ASB girls wanted to jump off the starting blocks with OI girls. We were able to round up some brave souls and they all had a blast.

After swimming and changing back into clothes, the kids had lunch and then headed back to Khar fishing village. One of the things that I like about ASB is that each student will work with many NGOs over the course of attending the school. It's a good experience for such privileged kids to experience that the majority of people living in India don't even have half of what they do, but still are just humans like they are. The joy in a child's face is the same no matter where you are.

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