This Saturday afternoon NalandaWay trained eighteen volunteer mentors for children between the ages of 7 and 16 who come from impoverished circumstances, but are talented and gifted. NalandaWay held the workshop in the impressive office building of Rane (Madras) Limited on Velacherry Road. The volunteers were employees of Rane Madras, other private businesses, and the state government. NalandaWay’s mission is to bring big businesses and poor people together and to link corporations with local communities. Tamil Nadu business support for social justice causes of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may become a rapid trend. We learned today that the largest number of NGOs are located in India, which mobilized into action minutes after the tsunami, and, therefore, India did not have to depend on massive foreign relief aid. Gargi is blown away seeing so many organized, community activities, involving large numbers of volunteers. There was no such thing when she grew up here as a young woman. At that time, the government ruled and one’s family took care of itself and the extended relatives.
There were more male volunteers than female volunteers who came for training, which again was quite impressive. Gargi made a presentation on the psychosocial development of children and adolescents, as well as gave feedback to mentors who role played potential difficult meetings with their mentees. Linda, Kristen, and Miko joined Gargi with their own comments. They also facilitated other role plays that took place in small groups. It was a four-hour session of much energy, enthusiasm, laughter, and charismatic leadership. Maybe Indians have a sense of the drama because the volunteers were fairly dramatic in their role plays as mentors and children. Rane Madras served us great snacks, beverages, coffee, and tea. So we skipped dinner. The volunteers talked of blogging and starting an internet support system so that they could stay in communication. They recommended that Gargi join them in their blogging. But Gargi does not know how to blog. However, she promised to send them explanations on various developmental theories as attachments and to be available to consult with them through e-mail over mentoring issues.
Instead of going to dinner, we debriefed about our reactions to the workshop. We talked about our views on public policy people and NGOs doing psychologically oriented workshops. We found strengths in as well as concerns about the popularization of psychology. We wondered how psychologists can influence the contents, skills, processes, and ethics of such training. Psychologists could be the trainers of local trainers, but, at the same time, stay away from controlling the cultural aspects of sharing, help-giving, and interpretation of local needs. Be that as it may, wide-spread societal action is needed because it has been predicted that in 2025 one of every five girls from poor Indian households will become a child prostitute and be at risk for AIDS.
Owing to their tenacity and persistence, Linda, Kristen, and Miko retrieved 100 Rupees from a restaurant that short-changed us. They spoke in English, and the waiters, cash register person, and manager spoke in Tamil. Despite language differences, the important points were understood and truth prevailed. What’s up with Kristen? She wants to eat off a banana leaf as a substitute for a plate. Gargi, born and brought in India, has never eaten off a banana leaf outside of Hindu religious festivals. Gargi has steered Kristin away from banana leaves. Linda is in charge of accounts and under her direction and scrutiny, we’re frequently paying each other colorful rupee notes and paisas (coins), which lead to a vigorous team economy. We are all checks and balances for each other and are participating in healthy group management.
Gargi Roysircar, Linda Lee, Kristen Robinson, and Michiko Ishibashi