Of Tribal Kids, Arachnids and Blooming Orchids
By DTCC Connection
Vijay Aviur and his wife, Amita Aviur, both work for DTCC in the Dallas office. Vijay is an Executive Director with DTCC’s Group Chief Risk Office (GCRO) and Amita is a Project Manager with DTCC’s Data Engineering and Platform (DEP). This summer they led a two-week internship with a group of 15 high school students from across the U.S. to teach children at the School for Tribal Kids in Allampally, Telangana, India.
Allampally is a village inaccessible by paved roads, located deep in the forests of Kawal — a tiger reserve in the Adilabad District of Telangana, India. It is inhabited by tribals, who live in small hamlets known as ‘thandas’. The Jeeyar Gurukulam School for Tribal Kids was established in Allampally with the goal of providing free education to these children, most of whom stay on school premises full-time due to poverty and lack of transport. Since its establishment, the school has contributed immensely to the area’s socio-economic development.
Below is brief account of Vijay and Amita’s experience.
It’s hours after dusk and you’re traveling in a rickety bus on muddy roads in the middle of a dense jungle with no light in sight. With each passing bump, the wavering headlights partly illuminate the precariously winding path, treacherously thick vegetation and odd warning signs for tigers and other wildlife. After hours of driving though the lush wilderness, you finally arrive at a school in the middle of the jungle and are overwhelmed by the warm welcome you receive from multitudes of tribal kids who are waiting for you — cheering, waving and celebrating your arrival. Now if you are part of the volunteering intern group that Amita and I were chaperoning on this summer’s trip to the Jeeyar Gurukulam School for Tribal Kids in Allampally, your adventure of a lifetime has just begun.
What seems like a dream was more of a dream come true for Amita and I who volunteer with Volunteering Together for Service (VTS), a global nonprofit that helps support and provide education to underprivileged and visually challenged children. This trip was the realization of our dream as a family to have a “volunteering vacation” where we could visit places together while also making a difference for others. Being part of this nonprofit provided us the perfect opportunity to chaperone our children and a group of high school interns during a two-week volunteering internship and to teach in tribal schools in the Nirmal Forest and Kawal Tiger Reserve in Telangana, India.
The goal of this volunteer internship was to have youth volunteers from all over the U.S. spend time in the tribal school and teach the students various subjects that included robotics, scratch programming, Rubik’s Cubing, and self-defense as well as English, math and general science. Besides staying in the school and teaching, the team visited the tribal hamlets, also known as “thandas”, and experienced true hospitality from the tribal community. The interns also got a chance to interact with visually challenged children and discovered how they learned to overcome their challenges to not just pursue an active, independent lifestyle but excel in both education and athletics.
THEY SAY TEACHERS ARE AWAKENERS. IN OUR CASE, WE WERE THE TEACHERS. AND THEY, THE AWAKENERS.
We were astonished at how quickly the tribal children picked everything up — be it robotics, learning English or even solving Rubik’s Cubes. And while the children greatly benefited from our teaching, we really were the true beneficiaries. Living with them in a place surrounded by wilderness and insulated from urban chaos gave us the chance to experience life in its simplest, purest form. We learned to appreciate the sunsets, recognize the scents of the wild orchids that bloomed in abundance and awed at the magnificently starry night skies. The interns acknowledged how all humans are the same regardless of where and how they live, and that there is something to learn from every single person on the planet. It helped them realize how true happiness can be found in the simplest of things, and that “privilege” is often overrated.
During our trip, the 10th grade public examination results were announced across Telangana. And with it arrived the wonderful news that two of tribal schoolchildren had obtained perfect scores and were amongst the top five in the entire state. When this was announced during recess, it also suddenly started pouring rain outside. Upon hearing the announcement, the jubilant kids rushed from their classes and pulled us with them to head outside. Despite the downpour of rain, we danced and celebrated in the rain. It was truly magical — as if the skies had opened in celebration of the news.
As our journey came to an end and it was time to say goodbye, our interns realized that they had not only made life-long friends but also made memories that would last a lifetime. Bidding adieu to our tribal friends was tough; on our way back in the bus we recounted so many funny and inspiring stories from the trip and spoke of their kindness, cheerfulness, perseverance and tolerance. We joked about how terrified we were of the large spiders and bugs in the dorms and how they didn’t matter at all after the first couple of days.
As fulfilling as giving back and teaching these kids felt, our true reward was really the trove of implicit daily learnings and inspirations that we garnered from the tribal kids and their way of life. It is these that will continue to fuel our purpose and inspire us to be the best we can be.
They say teachers are awakeners. In our case, we were the teachers. And they, the awakeners.