“I shall cherish the spirit of sharing I learnt from the children” Ms.Maria Georgiadas

Maria Georgiadas is all of nineteen. She was 18 when she decided to volunteer with Don Bosco Navajeevan, Vijayawada. Inspired by her friend Elina Gruber who had earlier been a volunteer at DBNJ, she came to India right after high school, with a lot of excitement and skepticism all at once.

She was with the shelter home for six months teaching English, art & craft at the shelter for street children, the children at Residential Vocational Training Centre and at Mogga.

Excerpts of an interview with her at the close of her 6-month volunteer work.

What did you study? What got you interested in Don Bosco’s activities in India?

I just completed my high school. My favourite subject is Biology. I used to enjoy working with younger children – I would baby-sit and tutor back home.  I also enjoy music – and can play the Saxophone.

I got interested in Don Bosco’s work when I heard my friend sharing her experiences of volunteering at DBNJ, Vijayawada.

What are some of the challenges you faced while volunteering?

The biggest challenge for me was to be a friend AND teacher to the children. I would teach them English during the day and by evening, I would be playing with the same children.  Language was a barrier initially that I enjoyed overcoming.  I learnt a few words in Telugu like ‘Baagunnaara?’, ‘Nee peremi?’.

I also found that working with Indian kids is different from working with Austrian kids.  I learnt and found new ways of teaching and relating to local contexts.

There was a lot of difference between the groups of children I worked with in Vijayawada. While I had to use a lot of motivation with the street children at the shelter, with the children at Mogga I had to use all my energy to calm them down.

What are the most memorable moments that you will carry with you?

I would wake up each morning with a lot of motivation and enthusiasm.  I had never thought it was possible.  I would look forward to see the happiness in the children’s faces every single day. The children taught me that one could share even when you don’t have much.  I was surprised to see children sharing even when they had just one biscuit.

I feel like it was a family.  It is great how you all connect and want to work together for the children.  I have a feeling that I can always come back here and be welcomed anytime.

I was a better tourist after the stint at DBNJ Vijayawada. I found that I could relate and identify with the people and systems and culture so much better than the average tourist I encountered.  I have learnt that the best way to understand a place and people is to live with the people and experience it all.

What is your plan for the future? How has the experience at DBNJ influenced it?

I want to study medicine. I want to be able to help people. My experience here has made me more confident about myself and my ability to learn and also work and adapt to different culture and environment. I would like to travel to other countries too and learn.  The children at DBNJ have helped me explore my own creativity and innovative spirit and an appetite for learning.

What would you advise your peers?

I would advise young people to try new things all the time – even if it seems hard at first, keep trying because at the end of it all you will be proud of it.

How did you find your overall experience of India?

India is so vast. I have been through different parts of South India. Vijayawada is more conservative and Hyderabad seems like a modern city. Unlike in Europe where its mostly similar culture, here the culture and environment is different every few kilometers!