Ooty2013-Making dreams come true

Dear friends,

After joining an IT Company in 2006, I never took any vacation leave till 2012. Though my company policies allow me to take vacation every year, I never availed those leaves simply because I didn’t know what to do after taking vacation :) . So, in my past 6 years of work, I have never taken a vacation. So, I thought why not use this vacation as an opportunity to volunteer for a good cause and to spend some time with nature. Though I volunteer throughout the year, it was one of my dreams to volunteer in schools located in hill stations.

Reason? Very simple. I love hill stations :) .

So, I decided to volunteer in schools in Ooty. Since, I do not know anyone in Ooty, I dropped an email to Everest volunteers asking them to refer schools and a place to stay there. I got reply from more than 25 volunteers who helped me with school and guest house details. Finally, one of the Everest volunteer Sudharsan helped us with accommodation and school to volunteer. His father Dhandapani who is a Canara bank manager near Ooty is the person who helped us during our stay there. Five Everest volunteers also took vacation along with me and joined along with me for the Ooty trip.

And this blog is all about what we did in Ooty for 8 days. If you have time, go through my picture story to experience the same joy that I experienced. I have also updated the same along with pictures in my FB page – http://www.facebook.com/kartheebanc

Here is the summarized blog post of my Ooty trip:

The trip was between Feb-2 and Feb-9, 2013.

Day-1: Feb-2, 2013 (Saturday)

Reached Ooty by 7.00AM and waiting for the vehicle to reach the place where we planned to stay. Felt the chillness immediately after getting down from the bus. It was 15 degree Celsius.

We reached a village called Ithalar which is 15kms from Ooty. This village has less than 150 families.This is where we stayed for all the 8 days. The moment we reached this place, we went to the view point to see where we are. And this is how it looked:

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And, this is the home where we stayed…

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Schools have holidays on a Saturday and hen

ce after a good breakfast, nap and lunch we went to Ooty market, followed by the visit to Botanical garden by evening. I had a good time walking in the garden.

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And, I just loved this rose garden there. Lovely.

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Just had this thought while standing in front of the rose garden:

பூக்கள் இருக்கும் உலகத்தில் அணுகுண்டு  உருவாக்க மனிதனுக்கு எப்படி மனம் வந்ததோ? அவன் அவ்வளவு கொடூரமானவன் ஆகிவிட்டானா?

(How come a human being ever think of inventing atom bombs in a world which is filled with flowers? Has he become this cruel?)

It’s 7PM by now and it’s time to leave the garden. We enjoyed the chillness and returned back to our home in Ithalar.

After reaching home, I oriented the volunteers who accompanied me on what we are planning to do in school.

Day-1 just got over. All we did on Day-1 was getting adjusted to the climatic condition there.

Day-2: Feb-3, 2013 (Sunday)

It’s Sunday 10AM when we woke up. To wake up in front of a mountain is a bliss. Nature is the height of beauty! Below is the view from our home where we stayed there!

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Started exploring the homes in Ithalar… Inside a villager’s home now. All homes here are very narrow than wider. The picture shows a narrow bed when in which 4 people can sleep (2+2). Interesting innovation to suit the place :) :)

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Majority of homes here has a first floor where they store potatoes, carrot etc. They also store wood logs for winter at the top floor.

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Decided to go to Avalanche lake and Kundah power station. The travel towards these places from Ithalar is a sheer beauty!

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The avalanche lake..

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Also we visited Kundah power station and back home by 5.30PM.

And that’s the end of Day-2. It’s getting dark and we settled in our home. Kept all items ready for the next day school visit.

Day-3: Feb-4, 2013 (Monday)

I’m waiting for this day for long time. The day, when I’m going to volunteer in a school in hill station.. Wow!

Day started with preparing lunch for 5 volunteers. As usual, I’m not the cook :)

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We visited Govt hr sec school, Nanjanad (12 Kms from Ooty and 3 kms from Ithalar). he school entrance.. Need to walk down atleast 100 meters steep down to reach the school from here…

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While walking towards the school from the entrance.. Much closer view…

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A lovely place to have schooling..

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Classrooms.. Not in use now…

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Inside the school….

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Man made in God made place.. A school computer lab located in the hill…

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A lovely basketball court in the school.. Kids shows a lot of interest in sports in this place…

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The school infrastructure is really good compared to many of the government schools in cities… 50% of staffs working in this school studied in the same school years back! Their dedication is really amazing…

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We conducted Everest Serve India poster competition for kids on 8 social themes which includes no smoking, save trees, save water etc.. Kids picking their theme in the picture…

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A Volunteer guiding the students to make their poster…

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We distributed prizes to students who prepared good posters and presented it well. The idea behind poster competition is to create awareness on social themes while teaching them soft skills like Team Work, Decision making and presentation skills.

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This is how we had lunch today!

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All staffs in the school have their lunch in school. No one brings lunch from their home. There is no hotel nearby. They have a staff kitchen when they cook lunch every day and make tea 3 times a day. Even those who stay with their family also eat lunch made in staff kitchen. Staffs share the cost. It only comes to Rs 500- Rs 600 for lunch and 3 cup of tea a day for 22 working days a month per staff!

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During logical thinking session for students today…

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Students solving a logical puzzle!

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Finally, we conducted Poster contest for 2 classes and logical thinking session for 1 class.

Returning back from school..

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A day to remember.. My dream of teaching kids in hill station came true today… A happy Karthee in picture below :)

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The school is 3 Kms away from the place where I stay.. Walked back from school to my home today. A lovely experience…

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Day-4: Feb-5, 2013 (Tuesday)

We visited the same school Govt hr sec school, Nanjanad for the second consecutive day today. We did poster contest, logical thinking, skit contest and career guidance to students today. The below will tell you the picture summary of what happened today!

The day started with visiting the village people and heads of Appacode village. They have invited us for their village coming Friday to take session for their school in their village.

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During assembly in Govt hr sec school, Nanjanad. Able to give a 5 mins talk in the assembly about our purpose to the school.

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We conducted skit competition today. The class was divided in to 12 teams and each team was given a moral story which they need to understand and perform as a skit. This is to help them overcome stage fear and speak fluently. Students prepare to perform skit during the time given to them.

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Students performing skit..

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Students listening to the feedback given by judges..

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Prizes has been distributed to the winners of Skit contest.

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Volunteers interacting with students while waiting for the bus to return to home after the school is over..

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After the school visit, we started to visit carrot field. We need to cross a tea estate to reach the carrot field. What you are seeing in the picture is a tea estate..

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On the way to carrot field.. We are nearing the field now..

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Wow.. For the first time in my life, I was seeing the carrot in its roots.. Yet another childhood dream came true today :)

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A much closer look of the carrots…

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Fresh Carrots and not so fresh me :)

Near to the carrot field is a beetroot field.. Got chance to see it as well..

Can you see a green tiny dot in my hand?? Believe it or not.. It is a seed for beetroot! You will get 3 beetroots from it.

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This is the manure for the beetroot plants.. Poultry waste is used as manure for the beetroot plants..

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Day-5: Feb-6, 2013 (Wednesday)

We visited the same Govt Higher sec school, Nanjanadu for the 3rd consecutive day. Since, this was our final day of service in this school, we conducted poster contest, logical thinking session, skit contest to as many classes as possible to cover maximum students. The pictures will explain more on what happened today!

The day started with interacting with kids who were waiting for their school bus…

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A Kid waiting for school bus..

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My yet another little dream of taking picture with Ooty kids got fulfilled today :)

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One of our volunteer Kowshik celebrated his birthday today. We celebrated his birthday in the school assembly. In the picture, the school HM is gifting Kowshik a birthday gift!

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This is something new that I tried in 9C section today (Wednesday). When I visited the same class on Tuesday, I spoke about the importance of helping others and requested everyone to volunteer atleast once a month (12/365). I requested all the students to bring a small gift which is not more than Rs 10 for their friend. They should not newly buy it. They can even make greeting cards for their friends. On Wednesday, when I visited the same classroom, 20 out of 29 students have bought gifts for their friends. We put chits to identify who needs to gift whom. In the picture, a student is gifting a sharper to another student as a symbol of kindness and making someone happy. The students promised to help someone and make them smile every month!

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We had Skit contest where students need to come to the front to perform a skit. This is to overcome stage fear and teach moral to the kids in the form of a skit. Top-3 teams who performed well were given prizes. In the picture, kids were preparing for their skit performance :)

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This is the 3rd and final day of our visit to this school. The day ended in the school by taking a photograph with a cute and sweet kid Sneha. Sneha is studying 8th std and score between 5th and 7th rank during examination. Her ambition is to become a doctor. Her parents are working in tea estates as daily labors. She is very curious to learn and always wants to do better than yesterday. Her attitude impressed me a lot and I thought I should take a photograph with this kid which I can keep it as a memory.

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Once the school visit was over, we went to a nearby Broccoli field…

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The Broccoli plant…

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Day-6: Feb-7, 2013 (Thursday)

This is our Day-6 in Ooty and Day-4 school visit. After volunteering for 3 days in Nanjnadu school, we decided to volunteer in Emerald Govt high school which is 3 Kms from the place where we stayed. The photo album will explain you more on what happened today..

The day started with watching this lady for some time. I saw her struggling to carry the water to home. Only when she approached near me, I noticed that she is visually challenged. Oh my God.. What I was doing sitting nearby and taking a photograph? Just put my mobile down, ran towards her and took the water on behalf of her to her home. When I enquired the nearby home, they told that she use to take 5-10 pots of water every day to her home from 100 meter distance. Just got amazed at her spirit. The village people near her home will also help her whenever possible for them. A great inspiration to start the day!

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Then, we went to a new school today – Govt high school, Emerald where 300 students are studying. As usual, we conducted poster contest, logical thinking sessions and moral value skit .

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The classrooms…

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The playground for 300 students..

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Students practicing to perform skit. This is to help them overcome stage fear!

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The day ended with a photo with another sweet kid Shreya today. Yesterday, I took photo with Sneha and today it’s Shreya. Let’s see whom I meet tomorrow. :)

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Day-7: Feb-8, 2013 (Friday)

Today, we went to a new school (3rd school during our trip) – Govt primary school, Apucodu. This is one of the small village in the Nilgiris dt where less than 100 families live. In this school, we had only 10 students studying. The low strength is due to a nearby matriculation school and parents prefer to put their kids in English medium and not in Tamil medium in Govt school. The school has a teacher and a Headmaster. The students are really well guided by staffs and we can see beautiful talents standing in front of us.. During the afternoon, we traveled back to Govt high school, Emerald to cover the missed out classes and conducted various sessions.

Another volunteer, Srinivasan joined with us today in Ooty for volunteering :) .

This is the school we visited on Day-7. Govt primary school, Apucodu

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The location where this school is located

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The beautiful quotes written on the school wall caught my attention…

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During the short 3 hours’ time we spent in this school, we were teaching kids using iPad.

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Village people looking at what we are teaching to kids..

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Village people who came to school to see what we are teaching and to thank us for volunteering.. Great gesture indeed.

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During official thanks giving..

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Gifting the sweet students in the school…

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A group photo with 10 students in the school :)

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This time, it is a photo with Mr.Jeeva, a 1st std student. He is extremely smart and quick to learner. Multiplication is introduced to students only at 3rd std. Whereas, Jeeva being in 1st std, he knows multiplication tables up to 6th tables. An amazing talent on top of the hills…

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During the afternoon, we traveled back to Govt high school, Emerald to cover the missed out classes. A volunteer during logical thinking session…

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Day-8: Feb-9, 2013 (Saturday)

This was our last day in Ooty. With 5 days of volunteering in schools, Day-8 was an emotional day to start with.

The day started with meeting the family who offered food for all 8 days of our stay in Ooty. Every day, I returned from the school, I go their home to hear their stories. They deserve a separate blog post..

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Leaving the place where we stayed for 8 days and travelling towards Ooty for site seeing.. Note: We stayed 15 Kms away from Ooty, a place called Ithalar.

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Went to Ooty Tea museum on the last day of our Ooty trip..

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Welcome to Tea Museum..

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A series of information boards has been kept inside the Tea museum to help the visitors understand how important the role of ‘Tea’ in History of this world!

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A description on the board…

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Hot air is blown through this to remove moisture from tea leaves!

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Tea powder on conveyor belt.. A lot of process happens in between for the tea leaves to get converted in to tea powder!

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Tea powder finally getting collected in bags..

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There was a retail store at the exit of tea museum where you can buy all kinds of tea powder.

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On top of Tea Museum was a Chocolate making unit.. :)

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Chocolates kept for display..

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Next we visited Doddabetta. Doddabetta is the highest mountain in the Nilgiri Hills, at 2637 meters. There is a reserved forest area around the peak. It is 9 km from Ooty, on the Ooty-Kotagiri Road in the Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu, South India.

While getting down from Ooty to Mettupalayam, we stopped for a while. Can’t resist visiting the nursery which was kept there!

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Finally reached Chennai on Feb-10, 2013. What a visit it was!! Wish I go to Ooty every year! Felt very happy since it was one of my child hood dream. It thought me that you can make all your dreams come true, if you really prioritize them and put the efforts it requires!

Just realized that a place looks beautiful not because of its geographical location or because of the resources it has. It is because of the people it has.. In this blog post, I mostly focused on what we did for 8 days. In my next blog post, I will write about an interesting family I met there!

So, what is the moral of the story?? Please follow 12/365. That is, volunteer at least once a month. In other words, volunteer for 12 days out of 365 days that you have in a year. You can do that by taking a vacation too! :)

See you all in my next blog post!

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