I reluctantly returned from volunteering at Salaam Balaak Trust (New Delhi, India) in April. I have to admit, it has been a very hard transition back into my ‘normal’ Melbourne life. I hate to sound cliché; however, volunteering at Salaam Balaak Trust (SBT) did change my life.
SBT was established in 1988 and provides support services for over 4,500 children each year through five shelter homes and fifteen contact points in New Delhi and Gurgaon. The organization is aided by approximately 130 full-time staff and up to 170 volunteers who work with SBT from across the world.The children arrive at SBT for a variety of reasons. I heard the most horrific tales of abuse, poverty and abandonment. However, I was continually rewarded with the children’s resilience and courage.There are no street signs in Delhi. My directions consisted of: walk to the first T intersection, veer left past the noodle stand, cross the road at Dr. Holly (purple sign), turn left at the eleventh street, do a U-turn through the vegetable market, and enter through the gate. If the directions sound sketchy, crossing the road was even crazier. I had to dodge buses, trucks, cows, bikes, and auto rickshaws. I somehow made it to school each morning. I wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything in the world – I was in my element. I was rewarded with smiles and hugs upon arrival.
In the afternoon I worked with Satyender and Iqbal, two members of the City Walk team, both having met some great adversities in their lifetime. I assisted them with PowerPoint and presentation skills. Satyender is now studying business in San Francisco and Iqbal continues to charm tourists on city walks around New and Old Delhi. I continuously adore and miss them both, we became friends over a short period of time and I hope that I taught them as much as they taught me.
Volunteering is not easy. It requires patience, careful planning and flexibility. I was responsible for planning sessions and writing reports on the boys’ progress and attitude daily. Some of the boys have endured physical and emotional challenges; in short, you never know what you could be dealing with. It was by far the most rewarding and enriching experience of my life (yes the tears are welling). The children and staff at SBT are incredible and I cannot wait to go back.
Partnership Wheeler and Dealer for G Adventures and supporter of Planeterra