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Caitlin Santa's Trip to Wai, India

Caitlin's Trip to Wai, India

Caitlin Santa is an Elementary Education major from Lancaster, CA. This is her reflection about a service-learning trip that was organized by Westminster College.

Caitlin Santa with Wai StudentsOn a whim, I decided I was going to Wai, India, in August 2011 with other Westminster students. I had no idea about the details of the trip. As I learned about it, I found out that trip participants would be teaching in schools in a village in Wai. Since I knew that I always wanted to teach, and since elementary education is my major, it seemed like a good fit. As I went to trip meetings and learned about the project, I became more invested. The trip became something that I actually cared about, instead of just something that I would have fun doing.

We were required to raise funds to donate to a small library in Wai. I was glad to do my part to contribute to the needs of the library. But, at that point, I was still not connected to the people and project in Wai. So, I had no idea of the degree to which my enthusiasm for the trip would eventually develop.

We arrived in Wai on a Saturday, and we walked around the community. We initiated conversation with the people, and the kids would come up to us and say, “Hi! America?” That was pretty much as much English as they knew. We’d get our cameras out, take pictures, and show the kids the pictures. The kids loved to see the pictures, and they treated us as though we were celebrities.

Wai BuildingsIt was almost surreal; it was still my first day in India. In my head, I was trying to put together that I was there and taking everything in. I was able to watch and enjoy everything. I’m not a person who really likes to travel. I never thought I would travel out of the country, and I never thought my first trip would be to India. Even though I was so far from home, I almost couldn’t feel the distance. It looks and smells different, but at the same time it was easy for me to forget that I was on the other side of the world.

We spent a few hours in the library each day as well. We developed relationships with the library founders and saw the book collection. Finally seeing the library and the people who needed our help felt like proof that what we had done to raise funds was actually going to make a difference. It was a feeling I knew I would never forget, and neither would all of the people who have dedicated their lives to the library in Wai.

Students with DrawingsThe other main reason for our visit was to volunteer in one of the local schools. Working in pairs, we read books and helped develop English-speaking skills with some of the students. There were definitely some challenges, but I believe this was the most rewarding part of the trip. Although I didn’t have any teaching experience at the time, I still felt that I was making a difference in the lives of these students.

Plans are already being made for the next trip to Wai in August 2012. In addition to providing services for the G.G. Jadhav Library, trip participants will also be involved in instruction at a school in Wai. If you would like to participate or contribute in any way, contact Kristi Jones (kjones@westminstercollege.edu) as soon as possible.