Gillian Phair India

What members of staff do you remember the most and why?

Bala and Buna and some of their extended family were the only staff members. They ran the school well. I especially enjoyed the school assembly at the start of the day. It really got all the kids in order and was a good exercise of disapline.

What were your impressions of the accommodation?
They were pretty basic as I was expecting..

Why did you want to volunteer? 
Would be great experience, something different.

What did you do for fun?
We talked a lot, went to the pool or the markets. At weekends we visited mamallapurram and Pondicherry . We took a visit to some nearby mangroves and that was such a beautiful experience. There is a large outcrop of rocks very nearby.. imagine lion king landscape and you’ll understand how epic it looks!

When was your most enjoyable experience, do you have an interesting story?
Just getting to know the kids and learning so much about their lives and cultures.

Who did you make friends with and for what reasons?
I made friends with many of the volunteers which was great, it’s great how much you get to know people when you don’t have tv’s or computers or anything and you just interact with everyone.

What were the names of the best places to hang out and socialise
One particular restaurant we crowned ‘the disco restaurant’ because of the cool light display inside.. nice cheap food too! There was also a nice swimming pool in town and lots of good markets.

Would you considering going again or perhaps to another project with Original Volunteers?
Perhaps another project, I don’t think I’m cut out to be a teacher so a different project would be preferable!

What would you say/recommend to a friend who was interested in volunteering?
Do it! Great experience… don’t be scared.. arriving there is a pretty daunting experience and culture shock hits you the moment you get off the plane but it’s an incredible country and the whole volunteering experience was amazing and I don’t regret a thing!

What items would you suggest future volunteers pack?
Hand sanitiser. Small bag for weekend excursions. Light raincoat in monsoon season. Don’t bring a suitcase if you go travelling!! The terrain is rough even around town and city streets and the wheels on mine broke, thankfully I was able to find a mediocre rucksack but another traveller may not be as lucky

How much money would you suggest you take per week?
Life is so cheap out in India.. food is £1 or so a night.. While volunteering you might spend maximum £20 a week but travelling you’ll be sure to spend more but there are cash machines in villupurram which is easily accessible.

Could you offer any tips to future volunteers? 
Definitely go travelling around India aswel for the full experiece Indian coffee houses make the best omlettes ever.

Anything else to share?
One of the moments that really stuck out for me was when one of the girls in my class became really keen on geography, which is what I study at university. Among all our children’s reading books we had a road atlas book of London and at the end of everyday when it was playtime, boomika would come up to me and say ‘miss! London book, miss! London book!’ so we would sit and go through it and I would tell her about the rivers, hospitals, roads, houses and she really learnt a lot of vocabulary and vital skills on how to read a map… and it was really cute that she wanted to spend her play time reading a map with me