I spent 5 weeks volunteering at Gokhuldham in November 2022 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Gokhuldham is a beautiful campus surrounded by nature – there are hundreds of parakeets flying around and the land is lush and green. I lived on campus opposite the beautiful Swaminarayan temple, next to the boy’s hostel and a short 3 minute walk away from the school. There was also a gaushala (cow shelter) and vrudashram (old people’s home) on campus.
In my day-to-day life in London I am a lawyer and so it was incredibly refreshing to spend 5 weeks teaching English to groups of excitable and vivacious Gujarati children from Nar and nearby villages. The children were fascinated by my background – they loved the fact that I was a British Indian and could speak English fluently, and intrigued by the fact that my ancestral heritage stemmed from Gujarat, India. As well as teaching English, I was able to teach the children about life in the UK, my work as a lawyer and what it means to me to be a British, (Gujarati) Indian.
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The children at the school range from ages 4- 16 and I had an opportunity to work with all ages. The school is modern and is really well equipped and resourced. As well as teaching English, I had the opportunity to observe music, art, IT, economics and science lessons.
The staff at the school are all incredible. Most of the teachers are very young and the school is progressive and dynamic in its approach to teaching. As well as working with the children, I was able to bring new ideas and resources to support the teachers at the school. The school holds itself to high standards and this is evident in the hard work of all the teachers that I observed and worked closely with.
In addition to teaching, I gained a deep insight into the Swaminarayan faith and their approach to teaching and doing social good. Whilst I don’t identify as a Swaminarayan I was deeply moved by their philosophy and approach to life. I attended “Arti” (Hindu ritual employed in worship for the veneration of deities) every evening at 6.30pm and was able to observe the Swamis (Hindu male religious teachers) provide sermons to the hostel boys on topics ranging from the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu religious text) to the importance of discipline in all aspects of life.
The standard of teaching at this school truly went beyond conventional classroom learning and this was evident in the kindness, respect and intelligence shown by the students at this school. As well as teaching, above all I was fortunate to learn so much myself from the children, teachers and Swamis at this beautiful school.