The role of the volunteer here at Daddy’s Home really deserves an analysis and description. I don’t intend to rank the good ones and the bad ones, obviously this is not my role and it would not be useful at all. But please allow me to focus for a moment on some aspects that I consider significant, just to translate into words the feelings that I got overwhelmed by the first time I arrived here. After all, this is my own blog isn’t it?
Therefore I am going to allow myself to tell my readers about this aspect of my experience in India.
As I’ve already told in my article “The first journey”, I got to Daddy’s Home thanks to my husband Ugo who got there in the first place thanks to a colleague of his, named Paolo. Ugo is a doctor, I am not. Ugo has a very important role within the orphanage, I don’t. Ugo knew what he was going to do over there, I didn’t.
When Paolo left me speechless by telling me that I had to go and be a mother to all the kids I decided to listen to him and face everything without too many expectations. I was going to adapt, day by day, offering whatever I could give. I am definitely an unstoppable hard worker who can adapt and is not scared to sweat a little. I mean real sweat, caused by that physical fatigue of manual works that break your nails and makes you tired. I definitely didn’t expect to have two daughters that were so similar to me. In one way or another they have pushed me when I wanted to quit and have helped me when I was exhausted.
So there I was in front of the Daddy’s Home gate on a rainy August day of 2011, tired after a never-ending trip during which I often asked myself not really what I was going to do, but why I was actually doing it in the first place. At Hyderabad airport, waiting to board that tiny plane with destination Vijayawada, my daughters and I were the only non-Indian passengers. Everybody curiously looked at us almost puzzled at the sight of those white women travelling alone. Let’s be honest, our attitude was a little snooty. Angelica was 15 and Carolina 17 years old. Both had already been through quite difficult trips around the world ever since they were young, but their reaction in the waiting room was exhilarating. Even now when we think about it we still laugh a lot. “Where are you taking us mom?” that was the most obvious question they could ask me and my answer was just as obvious “Don’t worry, dad is there waiting for us”. Without saying it out loud the actual thought that was going through my mind at the time was “That crazy reckless father of yours is gonna hear me once we get there!”
Padova Home is welcoming and full of other volunteers. Everybody is very kind but extremely private. At first we almost feel like we are intruding, even though we aren’t. Unfortunately that’s how it is, or at least it was for us. The volunteers that frequently come to Daddy’s Home form a real team when they gather to have lunch and dinner. After that they disappear. My girls and I ask for advice on what we can do that’s good and most importantly useful. Even though it’s only the first day and we are exhausted from the plane journey, we would like to start helping out immediately because we don’t have many days to spend here.
There’s no need to say that initiative and practicality that have always been my main features, especially in these kind of situations, help me understand that it’s up to me to come up with something to do. As I said before, Ugo is a medical doctor who is inside the dental clinic from 8 o’clock in the morning until the evening and we only see him during a very brief lunch break. We don’t even consider the option of assisting him at the clinic, especially because it’s a very crowded and very requested position, therefore we roll up our sleeves and begin. We clean and tidy every room and closet from the little kids houses to the teenagers. We breathe in as much dust as possible, we sweat all the liquids in our bodies and work like crazy. There are ten houses to go through and the workload is a lot. But it’s such a great reward to see the rooms looking so clean and tidy. We collect all the clothes that are most ruined and that will go to the slum. In India you never throw away anything because there is always going to be someone who is poorer than the poorest of all.
Of course it would be great to get some direction from whom, here at Daddy’s Home, has been coming for a longer time. Just to avoid feeling lost and useless. Demotivation is dangerous; it leads to frustration and detachment. After this first experience I promised myself that I was going to let anybody help me, as long as they were ready to work hard. I don’t like being taken for the one that knows it all, and I don’t want to act like I am the host, because I’m really not. But the most important thing, in order for a group of volunteers to achieve a goal, is collaboration and mutual understanding, respecting each other and accepting each other’s limits and weaknesses. It might sound obvious and patronising but the first volunteering action you do is indeed towards the other volunteers.
Nowadays my girls know how to move inside Daddy’s Home and like to go back on their own. Which is something that makes me really proud. They saw me cry, they heard me curse, they understood how important it is for me to be able to spend time with the new-borns and how I find it difficult to relate with the older girls. They learned to roll up their sleeves and sweat, to stop for a second to recharge their batteries before starting all over again. Most importantly they have understood how important it is to offer their experience to whoever might find it useful.