Know where we have  reached

Delnaz sums up her experience in her own words ..

.....I was fortunate enough to be able to spend my time working with 17000ft. I signed up for one month, as I knew that anything lesser than that would not let me “experience” the place, as I would like to. So packed up and was ready to spend my time doing something constructive. Being in a completely different field of work, or not having any experience working with children made me a bit nervous. But since I was serious about this, I asked for help and went with my gut on most occasions.

I was paired with different types of volunteers and facilitators. The staff at 17000ft is extremely talented and it was a pleasure working with them. I was lucky to be able to travel to many schools and set up a new library as well as a playground. Some schools had merely 12-15 students while the larger residential school had 120. That is still less than the number of students that are cramped up in the classrooms in the big metros.

Everyone in Ladakh seems to go to school. No matter how poor or how far away the school is, it does not deter people from sending their kids to school. Almost every family from every village sends at least one kid to study in the city or if they can afford it, at a private school nearby. Slowly, that trend seems to be changing. With the introduction of reading programs, libraries and playgrounds the parents are convinced that authorities have not ignored them and by seeing the positive impact on their children, everyone feels just a bit more satisfied.

The kids are extremely focused, intelligent and seem to have an awesome grasping power. From a 3 year old to a 17 year old, they all have the same level of enthusiasm. Most of their questions revolve around on how life in the big city is. Being the hotbed of Bollywood, Mumbai was not hard to describe with a few movie references. The children were like sponges and were open to learning anything new. English being my first language, I never paid much attention to grammar and rules of English; it sort of just came naturally over time. For many of these kids who are first generation English speakers, they would ask me questions like,” why this and why not that?” and I would scan my entire brain quickly looking for a valid reason which cannot be something like, “Because it is!” They made me analyze everything differently and more importantly taught me to never take anything for granted.

The kids everywhere were obedient, disciplined, hardworking and sometimes I felt they were going to kill each other if not themselves. They are brave hearts and don’t seem to care about anything around when they play. Not even gravity! I have images in my head of kids jumping off the first floor terrace to get a ball that fell down while juggling. Another vivid memory is six to seven kids running down a hill at full speed chasing a ball. From where I was standing, it looked like the other side of the hill was a steep drop off. (Luckily it wasn’t) The kids are born without any limiter or brakes and can very easily put any city kids to shame when it comes to bravery. I, with the attention span of a 12 year old found it very easy to connect with them. They tried to make me run down hills a couple of times but failed. I guess all these years in the city had ruined my “gravity shutdown” button.

The kids taught me a lot about their culture, customs and I proudly learned new words every time. Mostly all of them revolved around food. It’s something about the oxygen and the climate that makes you hungry every couple of hours. Even just vegetating and having meaningful discussions on the ever changing climate makes you a bit hungry.

One minute the wind will be blowing dust all around making it hard to see, the next minute it will be sunny and still. Exactly five minutes later, the sun will get covered with clouds and BAM! Oh choo choo. (Ladakhis say this when it’s cold). And probably that is why any warm beverage is welcome anytime of the day - Butter tea, khunaak, Meelak tea (Milk tea) , Chos khol (hot water)! Much more to write but some time later.... Thank you 17000 ft for this awsome experience !

Delnaz - we thank you for helping us in our projects and look forward to see you again in Ladakh to write some more interesting stories!