My way to give back to India
by Eva Von Sahr
Arriving in Delhi in 2012, I knew I wanted to commit to working for an NGO using my teaching qualifications. Surprisingly to me, it turned out to be challenging to find a volunteering job without Hindi knowledge.
Luckily for me, some weeks later, I met Matthew Spacey in Mumbai, founder of the NGO Magic Bus. He proposed to me to teach English to young adults working in the Delhi office for his NGO. Me?? teaching English?? As a German Chilean teacher with an ok level of English? Why not! He then connected me to the Magic Bus head of office in Delhi – Govindpuri.
I was the first foreigner ever visiting that Magic Bus office. Both sides – the head of the office, sports mentors’ employees, helper’s helper, and I- were equally nervous and curious regarding our first encounter.
I was fortunate to be driven in a BMW as my husband worked for the company. The first day I went to teach – just me in my white BMW – I had time enough for trying to find answers to matters like: Do I shake hands? Have lunch together? Drink Chai or filter water from their glasses? Toilet? Etc.
I used to block the traffic on both sides of the road when it came to U-turn in front of the Magic Bus building. Our car was too long for the turn in one move. All that traffic chaos just for me!!!! I wanted to die!! Then, stepping out of that car when I was the only passenger was quite an adventure. Surprisingly nobody got upset, nor did I ever get a scratch on the vehicle I drove.
From the office rooftop, they spied my arrival. Two mentors came out to guide me on the way to the office. I walked through dusty pathways, dirty stairways, ruined chairs, no air condition, no ventilation, very noisy, tiny rooms, and many people.
A warm welcome under the boiling heat of Delhi, a glass of water, and enough time to discuss my job waiting for me. We agreed on teaching English 3 hours with a lunch break in between twice a week.
The 18 students were young adults between 20 and 25 years old. Employed by Magic Bus as sports mentors and leaders to work in slum communities. Additional to their salary, they got free mentoring, computer classes, and English lessons to improve their personal development and future job options. They all had a similar background to the ones they were teaching and encouraging now.
There was only a board to write on in the office room, so we squeezed 18 chairs in that room while I stood behind the bosses table and started to teach.
It took me some time to understand their needs and know their abilities to choose the proper teaching topics. For me, standard teaching methods were a challenge for them: speak out loudly, read and write on the board, ask me if they didn’t understand, correct my English, stand out for their own opinions, discussions, role plays, etc.
Later I started to bring my visitors to the lessons. My students and my friends appreciated the opportunity to cooperate, to learn about their mutual jobs, family lives, independent lives, etc. It was an enriching moment for both sides and great to observe how the shyness to talk to foreigners was soon decreasing.
Two years later, my students started to get married. One woman moved to her husband’s family’s home and mostly had to quit working. At that point, I learned how
challenging it is to keep your personal development and dreams of independence awake when others around you keep glued on to traditional structures in the family. Step by step, the student number was coming down, and after 2,5 years, I said goodbye.
I loved the teaching, connecting to another India. I hope I gave something back of the much I received from my students at Magic Bus.
Magic Bus Website: https://g.co/kgs/Lx9ZMD
Eva Von Shar German but raised in Chile, Delhi Expat, and supporting wife. Moved to India in 2012 following her husband’s work and lived in Delhi for a few years, enjoying her teachings throughout her stay.
Carla Maradey: “I met Eva at a tea party, and afterward at the Latin Lunches once a month all throughout her stay. We made several trips around India and became good friends. She is one of the most humble and genuine people I have met throughout my stay, and I’m fortunate and proud to call my friend. We continue to keep in touch. I asked to contribute with MangoliMag, and she wrote this beautiful article. I hope you all enjoy as much as we have and learn from her on how to give back to incredible India.”