Over the last three weeks I have tried to find a fit for myself and develop a schedule to engage with the communities which surround the ashram. I have been fortunate enough to see the majority of current projects, ranging from health to education and from children to elderly, and in the last week I've found a space to focus my time.
I have started helping with two community gardens, one in an NGO-constructed center and the other in front of a home in the slum community (Ramapir No Tekro). We are cleaning the spaces and starting to plant okra, tomatoes, cilantro, and eggplant. The garden in front of the family's home is especially important because it has brought five families together and sets an example of teamwork for others in the community. The women have been amazing to work with and the children really love to be involved. There are other families that have already started asking for advice/assistance for the land around their homes.
Also, I've recently started "working" with 10th standard girls from a nearby hostel. In my first meeting with them we created name tags and then they each wrote something nice about each other. It was a nice exercise and I hope it reminded them of their good qualities and gave them a reason to smile (they have such amazing smiles!).
My most recent engagement has been sitting with widowed maajis (maaji = elderly women) in the slum community and helping them in any way. We tried to offer to help with house work, but they were not having it so now another volunteer and I sit and talk with them while helping them with some of the sewing work they do. It's been a nice way to practice Gujarati and to interact with a part of the community that generally gets forgotten.
Another totally different thing I'm doing which is more planning focused, as opposed to directly community focused, is create a Dosti (meaning friendship) program. We are inviting 32 7th standard private school students to the ashram to engage with 32 7th standard students from the slum community. Currently thinking of activities that will help create a foundation for a friendship, and fighting the chance of students only focusing on their differences.
All in all, my key take away from the last few weeks has been to live without a back-to-back schedule and let the day create itself. I still have specific things to do at specific times, but what I'm learning is to let the time between "meetings" exist and to appreciate the moments where anything can happen.