Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day Two

Hi everyone! So I haven't updated in a while. Like Pithi (Aunt) says I seem to be on a schedule similar to that of the Princess of Wales. But here are the happenings here in Hyderabad. At the Sweekar Upkaar facility I switched to the OPD (Out Patient Department). It was very interesting there as the patients an their families discuss their symptoms and problems with one of the staff members. After the staff member has recorded their problems they are sent to the appropriate department. I was exposed to so many different cases and patients in this environment and it was fascinating to observe their behavior and speech. Although I do not speak the native language, I was able to understand most of it because the staff records the patient’s symptoms on a computer in English. After the patients have been sent to their appropriate departments they spend about ten days there. Then they are sent to the actual clinic where they see the doctor. He observes them as well and prescribes different medication based on what their symptoms are. This was also extremely interesting because I was able to get an inside look on what a doctors thought process is while they are diagnosing a patient. It was interesting to listen to the advice that the doctor gave the patients because it seemed as though the simplest advice achieved miracles. For example, one patient was having chest and back pains. He was a very young man and it is peculiar to have these types of pain at such a young age. The doctor asked him about his schedule and he said he woke up every morning at 3 am to study and then drive two hours to attend his engineering college. The doctor immediately knew that this was the cause of his problems: not getting enough sleep. It was amazing to me that such a simple thing like not sleeping enough can lead to severe chest pain. I will spend one more day in the clinic on Monday and am looking forward to being exposed to more cases. On another note, we have been looking for a Physics tutor here. I have to take physics next year and seeing as I have no prior knowledge about the course, this was the perfect opportunity to get a head start. After a few failed attempts at finding a tutor, we finally found one, who just so happened to be head of the physics department at a renowned college. Imagine our luck. And imagine our luck when we discovered he only lives 5 minutes away from our house. I was thrilled to have finally found someone capable of teaching me. He was able to transfer difficult concepts to me in an interesting way by showing me real life examples. He was extremely eccentric and obviously passionate about Physics and this excitement was contagious. I found myself actually interested and listening attentively to everything he was teaching. He made some of the most difficult concepts easy to grasp, something that only a truly a great teacher has the ability to do. I look forward to attending more sessions with him and enhancing my physics knowledge. I am sure that this will make my life much easier next year when I have to take the course at school. On a lighter note, some of the fun things I have been doing around here: yesterday we went to a wedding, I've been spending quality bonding time with Ammama, Padma Auntie, Thata, and Nalin, I've been visiting the club, reading, and shopping. Since I've gotten here I've had an extremely packed schedule, but I find myself enjoying every minute of it. The volunteering experience is fantastic and being able to do this in my own country while spending time with family makes for an unforgettable experience.

Shrikar! One of the wonderful students I had the opportunity to work with in the CLD.

Sai! Another one of the fabulous students I got to work with!

The kids had such a great time taking pictures of each other! It was an incredible feeling to see their faces light up when they saw a picture of themselves!

The remarkable staff and students I had the pleasure of working with in the CLD.

The marvelous Sweta who patiently endured getting me ready for the wedding and ensuring that every safety pin and item of clothing was in the perfect spot!

I love you Ammama! Thank you so much for taking so much time to ensure that I have the most enriching and enjoyable experience here in Hyderabad. My trip has been incredible so far because of all the great things you have managed to get me involved in!

Thata! Thank you for all the informative lectures. Whether it was how the brain works or how to land a plane, they were all so interesting and it is a pleasure to talk to you!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day One

Hi everyone! I cannot believe that I am finally in India. It is surreal to think that I traveled on my own to a country that is thousands of miles away from home. Somehow I managed to figure out the traveling process on my own. It gave me a perspective on what my parents must constantly deal with while traveling as a family. It was difficult for me to take care of myself while traveling, and I can’t begin to imagine having to take care of a whole family. Although I managed, to say the process was stressful would be an understatement. There were times when I thought I was going to explode and yell at everyone around me, especially in Mumbai with the sweltering heat and hundreds of bodies crammed together anxious to get aboard the plane. However, that was the only part of my journey that wasn't luxurious. I was completely surprised at the airport when I found out that I would be flying executive class. Thank you Mom and Dad! It was fabulous. The journey was so comfortable and smooth. I couldn't have been happier with the flight.

I finally arrived in Hyderabad around 3 a.m. and was thrilled to be greeted by Ammama (Grandmother), Babi Mama (Uncle), and Nalin (Cousin). They graciously waited for three hours at the airport because my flight was delayed. I can't thank them enough for that. Seeing familiar faces after such a long journey was priceless. We took a long drive back to Ammama's house. After greeting Thata (Grandfather), I slept for about three hours and then it was straight to work when I woke up. I came to India not only to spend time with my family, but also to volunteer at the Sweekar-Upkaar foundation in Secunderabad. Sweekar helps middle and lower class families with children who have learning, speech, physical, or mental handicaps. So this morning, Ammama and I went to the foundation and took a detailed tour of every department. It was an absolutely riveting experience. In America, it would not have been possible to get such a detailed look of the occurrences in a hospital, and to have an uncensored view of everything was really eye opening. As clich├ęd as it sounds, being exposed to such things is a very humbling experience. It makes you thankful for all the simple things that we generally take for granted. It also made me appreciate the remarkable things accomplished by such organizations. They are able to provide health care and schooling to families for free. The people who work here are compassionate and patient and they never give up hope for these children. They constantly work with them until they show improvement, and that patience and sheer passion for what they are doing is something I admire. Today I had the chance to work in the Center for Learning Disabilities. I spent the first hour talking to the staff there about the things they do and was absolutely fascinated. I took detailed notes on what methods they use to help children with learning disabilities and have listed them below:

1. Center for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
• 12-14% of children in India have a learning disability.
• The CLD goes to various schools and identifies children who have academic difficulties.
• They are brought to the CLD for one on one attention so that they can
improve academically.
• The students achieve academic improvement through sight, speech, sense, and writing.

2. Different Skills taught to students and the methods used to achieve them
• Spelling and Differentiating between letters
• Sand writing. The coarseness of the sand that gently pricks their hand stimulates nerve in the brain that improves their spelling.
• Far Point Writing- Copying words and sentences from a board to paper
• Near Point Writing- Copying words and sentences from a book to paper
• Difficulty differentiating between b+d, p+q, 6+9, and m+n. Thumb Method. A thumbs up on your left hand is a lowercase "b" and a thumbs up on your right hand is a lowercase "d".

3. Memory
• Window Therapy- Ask children to read something. Teacher covers this passage with palm and they are asked to reproduce it.

4. Hand grip for Writing
• Sponge Therapy- Children dip a sponge in water and they squeeze and release the sponge in order to improve their hand power and pencil grip.
• Clay Therapy- kneading of clay and playing with clay in order to improve grip on
pencils, sharpeners, and erasers. This stimulates and exercises their fingers so that they can write better.

5. Concentration
• Puzzles. According to age. 3-5=Alphabet and 5+= More difficult puzzles.
• Mix grains and they must separate them into color shape and texture.
• String of beads. Beads of same size and different color mixed up in a bowl. Children must place them on string grouped by colors.

6. Hand Eye Coordination
• Dribbling a ball.
• Skipping
• Throwing marbles into a bowl.
• Checkered Net- must place Lego like toys into a checkered net. Focus and concentration tested.

3. Peer Activities and Socializing
• Sensory Park- outdoor park where they play games. Peer social skills etc. They must obey and follow orders and patterns.

It is one thing to hear about these many methods but to see the children do them and improve while doing so is amazing. This is what I experienced today while watching them work and actually helping them today. It was a great feeling to witness their smiles and joy when they finally understood something or grasped a concept. Overall, I know that volunteering at Sweekar will be a life changing experience. Being a part of such a great organization that helps so many is an honor and I know that it will have an immense impact on me.

In addition to all the hard work I will be doing here, I am sure that I am going to have a blast. Whether it's spending time at the Secunderabad club with Nalin or just chatting with Ammama, I know that this trip will be very memorable and I am excited to document it all on this blog!