As the summer heat continued, things were a flurry of excitement at Vanavil. Thanks to our donors, we were able to do a week-long art camp as well as two different dance camps, one featuring traditional Tamil dance and the other teaching more modern dance. The kids enjoyed working with the many artists and dancers that came, and they put their artistic talents to use. They were very dedicated and focused when participating in the camps, putting forth nothing but their best work.
Preparation for the upcoming 10-year anniversary celebration also continued throughout the month. Vijaykumar came to practice the play that the kids would perform for the annual day, working hard to ensure that it would be ready after only a couple weeks of practice. The art from the camp was framed to hang up at the celebration, and the kids continued to rehearse the dances they had learned from the dance camps.
In May, we were joined by two volunteers from America, named Erin and Delaney. Erin, from New Jersey, was a teacher for twelve years in a variety of international schools in different countries. With a lot of professional experience behind her, she was a great asset for providing new teaching techniques and activities for the teachers. She brought a variety of resources and a passion for children, which carried her far. Delaney, from Utah, is currently a college student studying International Studies and Anthropology. Her positive outlook and youthful energy was a good pair for Erin’s expertise and passion, and together they jumped right into the midst of things, eager to work with the kids. Here is what they discovered through their experiences at Vanavil:
“Upon walking on campus every day, I was hit with an excitement that I have never experienced anywhere else. The children are so eager to learn and be involved in everything, including the day to day workings of the school. They love to sing, dance, and participate in many arts activities. They are a very artistically talented group. The teachers are very polite and welcoming, and they tried very hard to ensure that I was well taken care of. They included me in their conversations the best they could, and I was welcomed into their classrooms at any time… Vanavil is a chaotic (at times), energetic, and beautiful force that challenged me to think about the world in a new way. It is much more than a school. It is a chance at a new life for these children, a safe place, a home. They receive support and care in just the right doses to allow them to also be free to make decisions for themselves and, most importantly, be children.” -Erin
“Vanavil is a place unlike any other and has changed the way I see the world and my place in it. These kids have become extremely important to me, and it is pretty obvious why. They are resilient, tough kids who are happy in spite of whatever circumstances they might be in. Not only do they have their families and each other to take care of them, but they also get the support and love of the Vanavil teachers and staff. The day to day activities of Vanavil may seem like those of a typical school, with kids participating in their classes, eating lunch, and playing outside. However, being here has shown me the numerous ways in which Vanavil provides opportunities for success for these kids. By helping them in school and life, Vanavil equips these bright students to be successful in whatever endeavor they attempt. I am thoroughly impressed by and grateful for Vanavil and these kids, who have changed my life and captured my heart.” –Delaney
The volunteers stayed with us throughout the months of May and June. Before sending Erin off, we took a school trip to the Nagapattinam beach. The kids played in the waves and sand with their new American friends, enjoying cold ice cream and crunchy snacks. We said goodbye to Erin at the end of June and will say goodbye to Delaney midway through July. The kids enjoyed spending time with them and learning about the American culture. They were eager to share Indian culture with Erin and Delaney and taught them much about Tamil language, dance, and song. Forced to communicate solely in English, the students progressed quickly in their English skills. Interacting with native speakers was both challenging and rewarding for the students, and many of them find themselves dedicated to their English studies with new passion. The teachers and administrators also learned a lot from the various teacher workshops that Erin did with them and plan to implement a number of the strategies they learned in their own classrooms.
Start of School and Annual Day
June brought with it the start of the new school year−as well as the long-awaited 10-year celebration! Held in the nearby town of Sikkal, the students performed, putting to use their many hours of hard work as their families and friends gathered to watch. The performance went beautifully, showcasing the artistic and scholastic accomplishments that ten years of Vanavil history has produced. Thank you to everyone who came to show your support and to those who, although unable to come, supported from afar.
This year, we enrolled eleven students in the nearby government school for sixth standard. After much studying, we also sent two students, Kumar and Vedhanayaki, to retake their tenth standard exams on June 29, and we are now awaiting their results. We also have two students, Amsavalli and Dhanam, who have graduated tenth standard and are now attending one plus, studying history, economics, commerce, and accounting. Lakshmi is in her final year of study for a BA in Economics, and Murugamma is in her final year of study for a teaching diploma.
We are beginning to use the new computer lab (funded by our gracious donors at Wipro) as a support for the material taught in the classrooms. The kids enjoy using the new systems, and take good care of them. We have already seen much progress with their English, due to an online program used to practice the skills they have learned in their English classes. The teachers are eager to learn how to use the online resources for their classes, and we are excited to see how the lab will improve our students’ education.
The computer lab is only one of the recent changes we have made at Vanavil, as we turn our attention to improving the classroom structure and administrative support at Vanavil. At the end of June, we interviewed and hired a new Assistant Project Manager, who will be responsible for donor outreach and public relations, Head Master, who will act as the administrative head over the school, and warden. We are excited to welcome the new staff to Vanavil, and we hope that they will contribute to the progress that we are making.
There promising change in the air at Vanavil, and we will continue to keep you updated on the progress these changes bring. We are grateful for the trials and triumphs that the past ten years have brought, and we look forward to what the next ten years may bring. Thank you again for your continued support.