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Monday, 19 March 2012

Boys' Town

            If you have ever taught, tutored someone or remember your days back in school then you surely know that teaching can be a challenging profession. Teaching my 7th and 8th grade students is rewarding especially when you see the curiosity they have and when they successfully learn a concept in class. Nevertheless many of the days can be exhausting and leave you wondering if the students understood you or enjoyed the class sending you away with the feeling that you could have done better or maybe you’re just not cut out for this. So what I have found is necessary, like when working any job, is to indulge in self care. Reading a book, playing the guitar, and on a rare occasion defeating my fellow volunteers in a game of Bananagrams has been a great release from some tiring days in the classroom. What could top this type of self care you could ask? Well it’s a place called Boys’ Town.

            I have briefly spoken about Boys’ Town in one of my previous blog entries that does not and this will probably not do it justice. Boys’ Town is located near the St. Andre School (where Christa, Charlotte, and Lucy currently teach) in a village that is about a 30 minute drove from where we live. Every time I enter the village, and gaze upon the rural landscape that is covered by rice patty fields and roaming cattle I feel relaxed and re-energized. Once you pass through the rotting gates into to Boys’ Town you enter into a dilapidated barren area that is somehow a beautiful place. How? Because here is where 35 amazing boys ranging from 3 to 18 years old that live there. Boys that have a passion for life, boys that love one another like they are a family, and boys who will put the brightest smile of your face. They are all orphans, have no parents to care for them and for the most part only have the love of each other and the two amazing Sisters (Sr. Lucy and Sr. Mary), who care for them.

            Northeast India has a violent past that has left many children parentless or dead in some cases. Starting in the mid-1960s migrants from Bangladesh and mainland India came to the Northeast making the tribal or indigenous people the minorities causing severe tensions between the Bengalis and the tribal people. As the struggle for land, resources, and equality ensued rebel groups were formed and violence became the means of the solving the conflict in Tripura and throughout Northeast India. Many Bengalis and tribal people were abused, violated, and killed as a result. Since the 21st Century has rolled around there has been few violent eruptions (still plenty of racism and corruption), but many of India’s families and children have been left to suffer the consequences. The majority of 35 tribal boys are orphans as a result of their parents being slaughtered on their own land during the conflict. In 2000, Boys’ Town opened it arms and doors so the boys could have a chance to be educated, fed, and loved.

          Some of the older boys who are now in high school must still remember the horror of their childhood, but somehow they are so strong, brave and take care of the younger boys like they are their own children. Sanjit, who is class 10, wrote an essay in his English class that Christa teaches about the struggles of living without parents and how it affects him daily. “I would like to tell the whole world that until and unless you yourself experience it you will never fully understand the deep thoughts of an orphan, how much an orphan child wants to have experience mother’s loving touch and feel her presence. It seems so vague when friends talk about their mother.” This breaks my heart to hear this and so you might be thinking about how going to place built in response to evil actions can be a place where I retreat for self care. 

            When we spend a few hours at Boys’ Town I remember why I decided to do a year of volunteer service. We do not work miracles here and we are by no means doing much service here or at least what we traditionally think of service. We are simply having fun. We laugh at each other as I miss the volleyball and fall on my face or as I try to explain how to solve a geometry problem for 20 minutes then realize I ignored an important of the question and have to restart. From looking at the pictures I’ve posted I’m sure you can imagine how much fun we have and how much joy they bring to us every second we spend with them.

            At Boys’ Town we are limited to playing games and tutoring, which is fantastic but unfortunately does not replace the failing beds (which the Sisters have been trying to replace for six years), fix the countless building repairs that need to be done, or pay for a doctor to visit the boys who have been suffering from infections for years. So here’s how we can all help make a small difference. We can’t all fly to India to pitch in and replace the missing shutters, but most of us can sacrifice a few dollars to help fund these inexpensive and vital projects. With a donation of $20 you could replace more than ten of the boys sandals, which have holes in them basically making them barefoot. If you are interested take a look at this following link and consider making a donation and passing the word on to others.
            Maybe even consider doing a small fundraising project at your school, church or within your community. For example, Erica Cramody (a fellow Stonehill alum) is a volunteer 2nd grade teacher in Montana who organized a fundraiser with her students that raised money for Boys’ Town. St. John’s parishioners in Canton, MA collected school supplies and shipped them here (below are the boys receiving their new supplies). I think of how no one or no amount of money can ever replace a mother or father, but at least by joining together we can make sure that these children receive some basic human rights such as medical care and safe place to lay their heads at night.


Monday, 12 March 2012


This past Thursday, March 8th, we all had school off to celebrate Holi Day. Holi is an exciting holiday that involves powered paint and chasing one another you attempt to color your friends as much as possible. Before coming to India I had seen movies and pictures of people covered in paint thinking that it looked interesting, but could not completely buy into the idea that this would be worth dying your skin and clothes. Well Holi, like many things in India, definitely exceeded my expectations. We went over our Francis’ (one of the young neighborhood boys) house to celebrate the colorful festivities with our Agartala family. This vibrant blues, purples, reds, and sparkles made for a fantastic time as we smeared colors into each other’s faces.

It is hard to describe how much fun we had especially due to the fact that we were given Sprite and snacks during the festivities making be feel like a kid again. The removal of the paint was difficult as expected and I still have some glitter and paint on me as I type, but it was well worth it. A lot of the older students that live at the school right next to us had surprisingly never played before so we convinced them the following day to join us for a battle of colors. We ran around the large sports field and drowned ourselves in the colored dust. The sight was spectacle as both the young kids and the high school students raced around the field until all the ammunition was gone.

Holi is a day that I actually know little about the true meaning of the holiday so I must admit that I still need to read up on that. I can say that it was definitely one of the funnest days I have had here in India. Its a joyous celebration that even some adults partake in as it brings excitement to lives of everybody involved. It was a rejuvenating day that has re-energized by mind and body. Throwing colors is such a simple thing yet brings more joy to you than you could imagine. I think it is a tradition that America should adopt and I know that 99% of children would agree with me, but I'm sure many parents would push back.