The Gokuldham school/campus is a magical place! The biggest evidence of this is the boundless energy and joy of the children. These kids are happy to be here and they are very appreciative of visiting volunteers! They are being nurtured and taught well and I think they feel how special this place is and how well they are treated and cared for. First, my travel buddy and I were picked up promptly at the train station by two staff members, along with another volunteer who had already spent two weeks here. They took to the campus, which is outside us for lunch, then for ice cream, and then of town and has its own private security gate They showed us around the campus, which has a large beautiful temple that has a dining hall on the ground floor, as well as classroom buildings, boys’ hostel living quarters for the swamis, a small home for the elderly, a water filtration plant and a cow shed. They introduced us to key staff, then let us rest from our trip, and after dinner let us relax in our rooms.
The next day they had a special ceremony with all the students present to welcome us. They took us later on a tour of a magnificent white marble Jain temple nearby. The next day we started sitting in with teachers and when we were ready, teaching classes by ourselves or assisting teachers with classes. Mostly it was just conversation class and one person taught music because she is a music teacher in Russia. They assigned us classes according to our preferences and abilities. I also tutored the hostel boys in the evenings. They came to me with questions in all subjects and to my surprise, they especially enjoyed poetry. I engaged the kids in conversations or more often, they engaged me first! – at lunch and in the chess room. I don’t play chess, so I played carom (that was a lot of fun!) I accompanied the kids on the field trip to the Jain temple. I went with staff and children on an outing to plant trees at a government school, and I could see the difference in happiness between those kids and the Gokuldham children. That really showed me that Gokuldham is making a difference. I really enjoyed the simple interactions with the super friendly staff who brought us food, and the lovely chai (tea), of which I’ve become a big fan while here in India. I was here on August 15, which is India’s Independence Day, and I had the honor of giving a short speech. Some of the little kids were dressed in costumes as a little Mahatma Gandi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandi and historical princes and princesses. It was really cute. I learned some Hindi and even Gujarati. The volunteers were very well taken care of at Gokuldham. Aside from our wonderful interactions with the staff and students, I also became fast friends with the other volunteers. My 4 weeks at Gokuldham were an amazing time! I would recommend Gokuldham wholeheartedly to anyone wanting an authentic, safe, friendly, rewarding and memorable experience in India!