Coolies Update – Year 12 Graduates in India
Our time at Boys Town Madurai began with being welcomed off the buses in a ceremony where we were marked with a Bindi on our forehead, cloaked with silk and greeted by all of the Students and Brothers. Our accommodation is comfortable, consisting of a small bed, a toilet, shower and bucket to do our washing in – something many of the boys could do more of!
Before beginning our work, we attended an all Tamil mass with the community, we have ridden on public transport into the city, visited the markets and seen the surrounding temples. It has been a real struggle trying to exchange or withdraw money as the Indian government tries to legitimise much of the countries money. Maximum withdrawals from an ATM are 2000 Rupees (about $40) and with 500 and 1000 Rupee notes no longer in circulation no shop keeper will accept the new 2000 Rupee note.
Many of our students, not having visited Asia or been outside of Australia, were understandably shocked by the chaos that is India. This was great for them to experience, as Boys Town is on a beautiful and vast property and is very much a great escape at times from the hustle and bustle of the rest of India.
Our task for the three weeks that we are here is to restore a large dilapidated building consisting of three big rooms into accommodation and possibly a cultural centre, which will help the Brothers generate money for the students who live here. There is approximately 45 students who were mainly orphaned and dropped out of school. They attend Boys Town for one year to practise one of three trades – welding, electrical and lathe operator. The students are then set up with employment after their year is complete. They live on the property and are fed, clothed, housed and educated completely free of charge. Other means for the Brothers to generate an income is through the orchards and coconut plantation which they all chip in to harvest every 45 days.
Our Coolies team have been doing a fantastic job and have taken to the task exceptionally well. Our constant job is to filter sand for concreting and brick work. Just as we neared the end of one pile of sand sure enough the truck roles in with another twice the size of the last… lucky us!!! We were asked to smash 20 square meters of 15cm think concrete with a few small mallets. After barely scratching the surface after half an hour, I’m not sure but I think there might be some form of power tool on its way tomorrow, otherwise – ‘next job please Brother.’
Our evenings are spent with the Indian students usually loosing at beach volleyball (played on pebbles) or being made to feel really tall (a first for some of us) in basketball.
At night we debrief of the day which is led by a student. This has brought about some fantastic discussions about the challenges we face each day. Many of our students reflect upon the appreciation they have for the country and the life we are all so lucky to live. It is certainly evident (even at this early stage) that our students gain just as much from this experience as the mark they will leave behind.
Hope everyone is well back in Melbourne and all the best finishing off the year.
Mr Michael Wilson