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INDIA – Lessons Learned

I arrived in India not knowing what to expect.  A lot of things which other people have said had been circling my mind. “You are never prepared enough for India”, was a constant reminder told by many of my friends who have been on the project before. But what makes this place so special? Why do people who experience being part of this project want to return again? What are the lessons learned during this brief period?  Clearly, a lot of questions had to be answered.

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Tania Integrated Rehabilitation Centre – New Project

“Let’s go give it a look,” I said smiling.  ‘What could one possibly expect?  Keep your hopes down.  No expectations.’ I told myself as we were planning to visit an Integrated Centre for children with additional challenges during my trip to Kenya last year.  ‘No expectations.’  I remember thinking the exact same thing as I was preparing for my first trip to Kenya the year before.  What is with our brains needing to keep expectations low for fear of future disappointment?  Needless to say, neither experience yielded anything anywhere close to disappointment.  More than anything else, each trip to Kenya leaves me with a new-found sense of satisfaction and appreciation for the little things.

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My second placement in Kenya

Upon leaving last year, looking back at the village while the van made its way downhill, I promised myself I would come back, someday. So here I am, one year later. I’ve been asked several times about the reasons as to why I’m not going to some place I’ve never been before, for a complete different or new experience. Sometimes, I ask myself the same question, and I find that I always go back to two main things in this place that can lure you right back at it.

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Volunteer Training

Training is an increasingly important aspect of attracting, supporting, retaining and rewarding volunteers. Volunteering with children can have a negative effect if done without the right training. Right to Smile takes a very important approach to protect the children we work for and we believe training of volunteers is important for both the protection of children & the outcome of the volunteer program.

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My community Development experience in Olasiti, Kenya.

Blog post by Nicky Mifsud. Volunteer, Kenya 2017.

 

The first thing that comes to mind when someone goes on a  voluntary trip is that he/she will go to a another country and help out the community in any way possible. Generally volunteers get comments like “congratulations!” or “well done!”  from close relatives and friends which feels like a sense of admiration from them.

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Volunteer Coordinator

A great opportunity to travel to India & volunteer on our project. This placement is for candidates who have and would like to develop leadership skills, Cultural Education & Community/Development Work.

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First visit to the Village Playschool by Steve Gruppetta, a Right to Smile Volunteer

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As the group of volunteers approached Bholabiga, a village close to the Bodi Tree School, children were playing on a makeshift swing made from cloth. To the left, mud built homes with straw roofs stood there unimpressively, and straight ahead a narrow corridor between several other mud houses led to the centre of the village. Residents were diverse, young jolly children running about full  of energy, young mothers of no more than a few months carrying their infants and elder men and women who stood there gazing curiously at a foreign born party. Goats, chickens, cows and dogs also live among the villagers, equally claiming a hold over village life. The air was calm and tranquil yet the smell of hardship was breathtaking even though it was not evident at first glance on the villagers’ grinning faces.

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The Power of Groups

In the Western world we seem to be receiving the message that happiness is an individual path that we travel alone to seek. For example,  in practices such meditation, yoga, solo travel or alone time. The progression in technology has had a great impact. Watching television, playing a computer game or chatting on your phone leaves you feeling good, entertained and connected albeit superficially yet no deep meaningful connection is made. Physical communities are more fragmented as people move localities and form new homes without having opportunities to forge a relationship with their new host community.

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Volunteer Facilitators

Dear friends,

As you know, a big part of Right 2 Smile’s work is involving volunteers in our projects via 3 week programmes. We view these programmes as learning experiences for the volunteers to understand more local culture, realities and challenges of the people and communities and the work the project is doing to face them. Our short-term programmes are based less on ‘doing’ and more on ‘understanding first’. We aim for these short term programmes to activate persons to become more socially conscious.

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We are happy, our family is growing :) – Video

During the month of July one of our members traveled to Kenya to do an outreach in the communities we work with about children who need special assistance in education. Janet was referred to us by her Grandmother who had just started working at our school as a Baby Class Carer.

Janet never went to school due to her conditions which made it impossible for her to travel  or be integrated into the school services offered in rural areas. Together with her Grandmother made sure to offer urgent medical needs she had. We worked to find a school for Janet that is more adapt to her learning skills.

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Stronger Communities: Literacy Project at Local Level

We are happy to announce our collaboration with the Local Council of Santa Lucija & the Department of Local Government to promote literacy and further encourage youths from the area to join our Youth Group.

For the last 12 months, we have been working with youths in Santa Lucija and surrounding communities. We have built a strong relationship with the youths and we are now all ready and eager to welcome more to join our projects.

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Garden of Smiles by Bernice Casha. A Garden of Smiles Volunteer

“Good morning Bernice! How are you?”

I’m greeted each day by warm smiles, a hug, someone taking my hand or gesturing me to sit beside them. Sewing machines are taken outside together with wooden benches, and a green carpet is laid out on the floor as workspace. The mood is bright as the girls gather in the blue Garden of Smiles building and start setting up their tools and materials before the morning assembly.

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Bhola Biga Creative Experience by Lara Cassar Delia – Right to Smile Volunteer

My name is Lara Cassar Delia and I’m writing this blog post to express my personal experience as a volunteer at Bodhi Tree School India with Right 2 Smile. I’m a graphic designer so art is part of my daily work and love. It was my initial intention to show and transmit love and fun through art to the school children.  With art one can communicate a message to everyone, no matter the culture or age.

In the past days, I offered to start a mural in the hall of the main school. I decided to draw a cute boy playing with a dog  due to the fact that the children are familiar with it since at school they take care of a dog called Sheru. All the children were fascinated, one could see it in their eyes, the joy and the amusement.

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A Volunteer Journal: Education is an opportunity

Rich, that is what we are, rich. But not with money, property, etc., but rich in opportunities!… This is one of the many things I am learning here. When we visited the Bodhi Tree Playschools, this thought kept cropping up. In Malta, there is an abundance of schools to choose from, and transportation is widely available, but in Bodh Gaya, education is not such an easy luxury, thus the work being done by Right 2 Smile in collaboration with Bodhi Tree School, and many other volunteers, helps provide this basic need.

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‛What do you think about love?’

‛What do you think about love?’ This question took me quite by surprise, since it was was not the type of question I was expecting to hear during discussion sessions with Indian University student. Serving as a way of understanding and learning about our unique characterisitics in our cultures, this experience taught me that despite our different lifestyles, and whatever religion, race, sex, age, etc., we all have one basic need. Love.

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Republic Day, India.

Today we celebrated Republic Day at school. It was my first time being part of this celebration in India. Celebrating it with the students, staff and volunteers was the best way to commemorate this special day for India. It was heart-warming to see such national pride though beyond that, it was amazing to feel part of such a big international family. The children’s parents were also invited and it was a good turn-out. It felt important that the school also involves parents who care for the children we meet daily. I asked to meet one girl’s mother. We couldn’t communicate much but I was glad to have at least seen her face and praise her child with my limited Hindi. I hope for more interaction the next time.
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Our approach to Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to give service to your community. It is well known that helping others also helps yourself. Volunteering can give you great satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment by doing something meaningful and giving back.  Learning about injustice, help us put life into perspective. Volunteering can also be pro-active, working towards social causes such as with advocacy or environmental groups.

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The Vision behind the Organization.

When I first put my mind on setting up an organisation, I had no clear idea on what type of entity it would be. However, what I did have was a very clear idea of the foundation on which it would be built – principals, ethics and objectives set to improve people’s lives in all areas.

Setting up the organization as a Non – Governmental Organization (NGO) was the best way. An NGO has no ownership, decision-making is shared and all accumulated assets are managed by its members and stakeholders. If, at any time, the organization ceases to exist, all its assets would be transferred to a similar cause rather than quantified and distributed to its members. I like this idea. I like that all the work put in by everyone is for the benefit of all the stakeholders and society, rather than for the benefit of an individual. The basis of all the work done needed not be on the self, but rather on altruism.

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Planting Seeds Of Hope

What an incredible morning! Karmapa arrived just late last night and bright and early we headed out to Bodhi Tree School for a visit just as the sun was coming up in the sky. The paths lined with hundreds of students, the smiling faces in all directions reminding me of just how lucky we are to be here in this present moment, a powerful surge of joy was in the air, hanging over everything like a warm blanket of good vibes. Karmapa’s welcome was overwhelming as per usual, to the chanting of Welcome! Welcome! from everyone within a mile radius, flags and banners on every surface, colored wreaths of golden flowers and incense smoke filled the air.

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A personal experience from a Volunteer Coordinator – Part 1

Working with people was something I always felt drawn to.  But after 23 years of social work, I felt there was something more that I needed to do. I was not ready to give up social work – this ‘more’ had to be related to what I was already doing, but at the same time remaining where I was, was a non-option. There was a burning desire inside of me to explore further.

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Call for Medical Volunteers

With a population of over 1.2 billion, India is now the second most populated country in the world. It’s services are severely stretched and there is a need for more staff at hospitals and community clinics to help cope with the demand of an ever growing population.

The program is aimed at reaching people in villages who struggle during the monsoon season to reach the closest local clinic.

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Volunteer Training – Introduction to Cultural Awareness

All our volunteers, who offer their time on one of our programs in India, Cambodia, Kenya or Malta are offered a training course. One of the subjects we discuss during the training is Cultural Awareness.
‘Culture’ is a shared set of knowledge, beliefs, customs, morals and habits. Many of us are unaware of our culture, because we grow up in it and consider it normal. Within every society there are micro cultures: families, religious groups, social groups and different places and types of work all have their own cultures to some extent.

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A Common Thread in Waves of Colour

“ A Common Thread in Waves of Colour” is a mural art project by Right 2 Smile in collaboration with local councils (Hal Safi, Birzebbuga, Hal Kirkop and Marsaxlokk) and Families for Lifelong Learning (NGO) funded by Creative Communities Fund of the Malta Arts Council. The concept behind the project is that each community is unique, with individual traits that give it its unique identity. What makes Marsaxlokk different to Hal Safi, and Birzebbuga different Hal Kirkop? Yet, we  all have a common thread that ties us all together despite our differences and that is our humanity.

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School Nutrition Programme

Over 300 warm meals are served everyday at our schools in India & Kenya. The food program is part of a project to reach more children in the communities to attends school more frequently in order to improve the level of education offered at our schools.

What are the Benefits?

A meal at school acts as a magnet to get children into the classroom. Continuing to provide a daily meal to children helps to keep them in school.

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Launch of new site

We are very pleased to be launching this new website.

We are going through very exciting times with our ever growing family of volunteers and friends following and supporting us. Through this website we will be able to update you more often, help you get to know us better, show you where your contributions are going and who is benefiting from them.

Once again, thank you for your support!