DAKOR-GUJARAT, MAY 7, 2015: On 2nd April, 2015, Susanne and Jamian, two college-going youngsters from Mumbai set out for a remote place in Gujarat called Dakor, as Volunteers for a month. At Don Bosco Dakor, they joined the Salesian community of Fr. Isaac, Br. Tony, Fr. Ignas and Br. Ashwin who welcomed them warmly. Together they organised a month-long summer camp for some youth and children from Dakor, Chhota Udepur and Kawant, teaching them to read, write and converse in English, conducting games, competitions and cultural activities.
At the summer camp, the volunteers got to know more about the culture, lifestyle, customs and what goes on in the daily lives of the children and the people there. Games, competitions and outings were fun and helped them bond with the children. They learnt to dance the traditional Garba and Timli dances of Gujarat, sing a few songs and speak a few words in Gujarati.
Everyday was a adventure with unexpected new experiences like finding a honeycomb and licking fresh honey off it, seeing a mid-summer hail storm, shooting stars and a cell-phone tower with peacocks at each level. It was also the first time they would spend Holy Week away from home. This time they celebrated Easter not with new dresses, suits or Easter eggs, but with a bunch of new friends they made there, dancing to Garba music at full volume till 3 am! But more than anything else, they enjoyed the quiet serenity of the small towns and villages.
Visiting the villages for Easter house blessings in the company of the Salesians, the sisters of St. Ann of Luzern and the Salesian sisters gave the volunteers a realistic idea of the way people lived in remote villages in Gujarat. Many of these villagers had lost their crops due to the recent hailstorm and were finding it difficult to make ends meet. This made them reflect on the way the farmers and their crops were dependant on the vagaries of nature. They were also touched by the simple life led by the sisters known as “Behenjis” who lived in the villages.
Jamian and Susanne felt that besides giving their time and energy as volunteers, they were able to learn a lot from the children and the people they met. They observed that the villagers didn’t own many devices and gadgets, but were happy with the little they had and were capable of sharing. They realised that a simple unsophisticated life, far removed from the busy atmosphere of the city, was initially difficult to adapt to, but it brought a sense of fulfilment and peace. It was difficult to depart on the 2nd of May, leaving behind the Salesians, the sisters and the children who felt like family. Volunteering was an experience that enriched them in ways difficult to express.