Volunteer reflection – Daniela Keren

Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 in GPS Blog Posts, Volunteer Reflections | 2 comments

After having been asked to write a blog article about my experience during the three weeks of summer camp at Global Pathways, I found myself staring at a blank document, unable to collect my thoughts. How do I sum up the magic of the GPS community in one measly article? The truth is, I can’t. There is no way to describe in words how incredible it is to spend time in a place where happiness is found in the simplicities of life where the value of education is put on a pedestal. The best way to truly feel the magic is to go to Chettipalayam and become a part of the magic yourself; to anyone who has the opportunity to do so, I highly recommend you take it. I have been to GPS twice in the past four years and I am already planning to visit the next chance I get. Each time I’ve been there I have taken something different from the experience through the relationships I have built with the students, teachers, and community; both visits have had a profound impact on my life in that they have broadened my perspective on what is important in life and what will bring me happiness. My time in Chettipalayam has taught me never to take a single meal for granted and to love the clothing I wear everyday, wear it until it has maximized it’s use and then try my hardest to find another use for it. My time at GPS has taught me to take advantage of every lecture I attend and to give 100% of my effort and energy towards all my courses because I am so fortunate to have gotten this far in my education and still have so much further to go. My time in India has taught me to see the positive in every situation because my problems are small; it has taught my to see how fortunate I am to be where I am today.

Traveling across the globe to Tamil Nadu, India, is a huge adjustment and with it comes an unimaginable culture shock. Instead of nodding to say yes or to agree with someone, the people around me were bobbing their heads like bobble heads and I still, to this day, am not entirely sure what the head bobbling means. Eating is done using your right hand only (tricky for us poor left-handed souls) and the driving is absolutely insane (if lanes exist, they mean nothing). That being said, I have never felt more welcomed in a foreign land before in all my travels. The children at the camp instantly grew to calling the other counselors and me “brother” and “sister,” huge amounts of thought and care were put into ensuring that all of our meals were delicious and that we were confortable in the beautiful GPS guest house. The GPS community consists of some of the kindest-hearted people I have ever met.

Spending the days with smiling and energetic children at the camp sometimes allowed me to forget the struggles many of the kids face and the difference GPS makes in their life. Upon visiting the settlements, we were all given a bit of a reminder of the reality the children and their families face. The kids enthusiastically toured us around their homes and we met their families. The houses at the settlements are small, having only one, maybe two rooms, and many of them will house a mother and father, three or more children and even grandparents as well. As a nineteen year-old girl, fortunate enough to be born in North America, one thing that I noticed most upon visiting the settlements was the number of young pregnant women I saw. All the girls who grow up in these communities marry into arranged marriages when they are roughly my age, and birth control is not a well known concept at the settlements. Walking from house to house, I was most struck by how awful it seemed to me to have to bear children in the settlements. Never mind having to care for an infant there, the sheer number of people who live in each house is astounding and unmanageable. GPS school has a maximum capacity of 25 students per class and, although the school is continually expanding, this year they had to reject over 500 new applicants. Even just in our visit we encountered a man who introduced us to his young son and begged us to let him into the school; the families know that being educated at GPS may be the only way for these children to escape the cycle of poverty.

On a lighter note, although these children live in extreme poverty, they all seem incredibly happy and spirited. They love school and learning more than anything and are so proud of the little they have. As much as I know my presence in volunteering at GPS is helpful for the school and the community, I gained more perspective, gratitude and humility from the magic of GPS than anything I have to give. The GPS community inspires children and adults alike to realize their capabilities, work hard to achieve their aspirations, and treat others lovingly and with compassion along the way. I am just thankful that I have had the opportunity to take a part in that.

Daniela Keren – November 2012



  1. I was touched by an article written by Stephanie Nolen in The Globe and Mail, Monday Nov. 19, 2012. Your school must be an inspiration to the children in the community. As a former teacher and I am, at present, volunteering in a small, private school in Toronto, I enjoy reading about the incredible work and success schools like Global Pathways make. My husband and I have visited India, both the north and south, several times so we have a become more aware of both the charm and warmth of the country but also the obstacles that are ever present for the future. I am wondering if there may be some small way that we might be able to participate or assist your school in some way. Mary-Lou Middleton 20 Deanewood Crescent Toronto, Ont. Canada M9B 3B1

  2. I was interested in the possibility of volunteering myself but the email I send to volunteer@villagecommunityschools.org keeps bouncing back as undeliverable

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