On arrival in Tirmasahun, two things became clear very quickly. It was very hot, and it wasn’t changing any time soon. And in the middle of nowhere, there is a big white building, with United for Hope written on the gates, that gives life to a village.
On arrival at the community centre, you can immediately see the strong bonds between staff, volunteers and visitors. Everyone is greeted with a chai or water. Volunteers speak with each other about their travels and share gifts they’ve brought from home. Jelly beans are distributed like currency. Everyone has something new to share with the group. I quickly started trying to learn names and remember who does what job. And with that, everyone is settled in and back in the routine of community centre life.
I was lucky enough to take part in all the community centre activities during my visit. Waking up at 5am isn’t exactly my idea of a good start to the day, unless you’re doing it in Tirmasahun to go on the water run. Jumping on the back of Krishna’s motorbike with Federica, we take off behind the van. Watching the villagers come out of their houses with the clean water bottles, ready to be filled is an educational experience. I take my water for granted so often, and here I am watching these people line up for a reliable water source. Some villagers want to learn more about the filtration process, Federica and Krishna oblige them with a description of our UV method against other water sources. They deliver water, and knowledge!
We are soon back at the community centre where we are meet by Sudha. Her warm welcome consists of a traditional Indian dance and a wide smile. She brings such positive energy to the building, its palpable. Through giggling and laughing, she gives each of us a traditional bindi and then she’s off to get on with her work. Boglarka and Sukai are outside working on the community centre make over before the sun gets too strong. Most of life here is dictated by the heat and the cooler hours. Payal, our translator and resident fashion queen, is making last preparations for classes that will begin soon.
When 4pm rolls around, the community centre takes on another role, class room. The community centre is transformed by the energy of 16 excited children, ready to play some games, learn some English, and most importantly, see what sweets Miss Bogi has brought from her travels. I join the class and quickly see these are not the quiet children I presumed. There is sharing of stories and sweets before class officially begins. Once class is called to order you can soon see the United for Hope in action. I was surprised at the level of English some of these children were speaking. I was clearly able to communicate and partake in class with minimal assistance from Payal. Class in the community centre is very different from the government school. There is of course teaching grammar and syntax, but there is something else built into the classes. Self-confidence. Children are encouraged to take part, share their opinion and try their best. This has created 16 bright and self-assured children. After classes, there is a disco in the hall. Girls are dancing to Bollywood music, while the boys throw the cricket ball and teach me how to whistle. You can clearly tell they don’t want to leave. But by 6pm, they’ve packed up and wave goodbye (three times each) to everyone.
It’s the evening and we are sitting on the step outside enjoying the breeze. With the main gate open, villagers walk by and look into the grounds, interested to see what’s going on inside. This building is a sign of energy and community. Locals want to see if classes are happening, if the water van is around, or if Federica is free for a chai. While the community centre is vastly different from the normal village life, it has quickly become part of the community, as has everyone inside. I felt lucky to witness the welcoming energy and sense of togetherness.
The next day as I pulled away in my taxi, I was a little upset. I was happy to escape the heat and mosquitoes. But there was something that wasn’t so easy to leave behind in Tirmasahun. A community.
Shannon for United for Hope