Taina Barrau '16
This spring break a group of thirteen students journeyed to Orissa, a region of India, to help the organization Gram Vikas. We worked with the founder of the organization, Joe Madiath, and his team to see how and what Gram Vikas does for the people in the region of Orissa. By visiting several villages we saw the adaptation of the program based on the needs of the people. In these villages we interacted with communities composed of 'untouchables' and others composed of all five castes. In a village that had people from all five castes we saw how Gram Vikas uses water and sanitation to unite these rural communities. Gram Vikas has extended its impact beyond water and sanitation to develop the educational opportunities for the tribal children and other children in these rural villages.
I was moved to tears by the talent that these children posses and the joy they give freely to others. Language did not prevent this exchange of happiness but strengthened the forms of communication that were available to us, through singing, dancing, sports, and games we as a group created an indescribable bond with these children. Even though the school they attend is their only chance of improving their options in life to move them and their communities forward. I learned so much by just simply bonding with the children, helping the workers move fenceposts, digging holes, and just talking with the team of Gram Vikas and the teachers. This experience has left a huge impact on the way I see life now.
On our second day at the Gram Vikas-sponsored school, we arrived in a hot, stuffy bus eager to see the kids we briefly met two days prior, where we'd had a great time playing ball, dancing, and talking. It was breathtaking if you took a step back and saw this lively playground of laughter, sweat, and unity. Once we stepped off the bus, crowds of children flocked to greet us again. We took a quick tour of the campus and all its features, but deep inside, each of us wanted nothing more than to run to the kids who were playing games and join them in this jumble of happiness. The second that we had finished the tour, we dispersed and ran to the game we enjoyed the most. I went to a group of kids playing with one of the balls we had brought for them and started kicking the ball around. After a while, I could see this game wasn’t stimulating them so I decided to take a little time out and teach them how to play a tailored version of American football. They were quick to learn and immediately, there was major competition between my team and theirs. Each side scored points but what stayed in my mind the most was seeing that no matter which team scored, all the players would give each other and me a high-five with huge smiles on their faces. We loved every second of it and I remember looking around me to see laughter and happiness caused by little more than running and throwing a ball around. It really changes one’s perspective on the things that should make you happy in your daily life, things that you might not even notice usually. That day was the most memorable for me since I had the opportunity to interact with these kids in such a natural yet life-changing way that I found absolutely amazing.
Enjoy a gallery of images from the trip. Click on any image to take you to the TASIS Gram Vikas gallery on SmugMug.
TASIS Global Service Program
The Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.