During our stay with the Veerni Institute, which lasted the duration of a month, we spent the majority of our time focusing on a group of sixteen girls. A number of these girls had just arrived at the Institute and therefore one of our aims was to help to encourage them to feel more comfortable in their new environment. With all the girls, we sought to strengthen their English speaking abilities and ensure a level of confidence about expressing themselves. It was an exciting time to visit the project for they had just relocated to a new building. We were significantly impressed by the facilities provided, which included a lovely dining room where all the girls could eat together.
Before we begun our lessons with the girls, we would sit down with Mahendra, the Director of the Veerni Institute and Vimlesh, the Nurse, to go over our plan for the day, providing an opportunity to discuss our progress and any concerns. Their warmth and extensive knowledge made our discussions both interesting and enjoyable. Initially our lessons proved somewhat frustrating as the girls were very shy and it was unclear what level of English they knew. As a result we felt our methods were not effective. However, Mahendra reassured us that soon the girls would open up and rather than focusing on vocabulary , it would be helpful to concentrate on fostering a feeling of friendship with them. This was an invaluable suggestion and we decided to put on a fashion show, which proved incredibly successful and ensured that from that moment on, the girls were never shy to express themselves around us. We extended this more interactive method into our teaching tactics, carrying out activities like beading, creative drawing and writing and games. Such activities leant themselves to our aims and allowed us to incorporate discussion of English phrases in a fun and memorable manner. Similarly, the use of flashcards with matching illustrations proved a useful technique and created a conducive environment for learning.
Our other projects centred on composing profiles of individual girls and focusing on presentation skills with a handful of students. Furthermore, we set up a blog for the Institute, allowing us to document our weekly progress and achievements. We hoped this would prove a useful record for future volunteers, as well as a forum for life at Veerni to be shown.
A particularly memorable experience was our trip to the village MK Dhani, where a number of the girls from our group were from. Watching Vimlesh encourage Alumni girls’ parents to allow their daughters to attend college was truly inspiring and demonstrated the dedication of the project to its girls. Their significance was also shown when two girls approached Mahendra, making an appeal to him to let them attend the Institute. It was wonderful to see the girls excitingly arrive the following day.
Overall, our experience with Veerni was greatly rewarding and we were touched by the love and affection found at the Institute. The farewell ceremony was a tearful one and really highlighted the bond that we had forged with the girls over the month we had been there. We are certain that in the future we will return.