MESSAGES FROM VOLUNTEERS

Arvind
“I have had the profound privilege of supporting Nirvana school for many years now, ever since I made a very short trip to the school in November 1997. The heavy monsoon rain meant that our visit that time was just for an hour.”

Umesh
“For those of you who are currently reading these words I really have only a few things to say. If you are thinking of going to Nirvana school then stop thinking, just start packing your bags and go!”

Nishi
“Everyone
who I have met who has visited Nirvana School seems to return with a strong sense of attachment to it. My visit to the school certainly changed my perspective of things and marked my first time in India.”

Bridget
“I will just explain how it was when I arrived here in January and how it is now after 10 months. Wow! I cannot believe it has been that long when initially I remember saying that there is no way that I would stay more than four months!”

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From ARVIND DEVALIA, UK
Visited the school in November 1997, March 2000 and March 2005

I have had the profound privilege of supporting Nirvana school for many years now, ever since I made a very short trip to the school in Nov 1997. The heavy monsoon rain meant that our visit that time was just for an hour. At the time, I promised Vinu Massi that one day; I would return and help her at the school.

In early 2000, I was at a point in my life when I could just pack my bags and go to Pondicherry for a month. I didn’t really know what to expect and I was worried about things which now seem so petty – such as will there be hot water for showers and what will I be eating! But I need not have worried – once I got there, my outlook on life changed. As I was at the airport, leaving for Pondicherry, someone said that it was going to be a life changing experience – and how!

There were all these people around Nirvana school who seemed so happy – and yet they had so little compared to me. And best of all, the children gave me so much joy! I was really privileged to make a difference in their lives, even though it was only for a few days.

I soon realized that I could not fix things for these children – their standard of living was not going to improve dramatically over night, but I could make a difference by giving them a chance via better education.

My time at Nirvana school was a very humbling experience – I thought I was humble to start with, but now I definitely am! I did so little for the Nirvana kids and yet I got so much back.

Since returning from India in 2000, where possible I have shared my experiences about Nirvana school and my personal goal has been to get sponsorship for all the school children. It looks like this goal might be finally achieved in 2005, even though the number of pupils has gone up to around 350.

For just £80 a year, we can make a huge impact on the lives of the whole Nirvana community.

I returned to the school in March 2005, along with 6 teachers from the American school in St Johns Wood and was amazed at how much progress the school had made.

This website, launched in October 2005, is a testimony to how the school looks like now and shows the progress made in the last 5 years. I have taken most of the images and video clips and these photos show the school and children as seen through my eyes. I hope you enjoy going through this website and thank you for sharing my journey, and that of the many other people who have visited the school.

I would once again like to take this opportunity to truly thank Vinu Massi and acknowledge the work she is doing. Having spent so much time with her and seeing what she has done, I can really appreciate what she has done for the Nirvana children.

India is not the easiest place to live and work for one used to life in the West. And yet Vinu massi has achieved so much almost single-handedly – I am not sure that even she fully appreciates the scale and scope of what she has created.

She has given so much love and brought joy to so many people. It is truly awesome.

Our objective in creating this website is to show others via Vinu Massi’s example, just what we can achieve, if we put our heart and mind into doing something for others.

Please contact me at Arvind@ArvindDevalia.com.

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From UMESH PAREKH, UK
Visited the school in January 2005

For those of you who are currently reading these words I really have only a few things to say.

If you are thinking of going to Nirvana school then stop thinking, just start packing your bags and go!

I can tell you about my experiences of the school, which were incredible.

Where would I start? Do I tell you about the fantastic smiles on the faces of the children? The cherubic faces of the Kindergarten kids? Or the cheekiness of the Upper Class kids trying to get out of their set work?

For every one who goes to the school, there are a wealth of experiences to be unearthed. But these treasures are different for everyone! In fact you will make your own experiences based on what you get involved in – and getting involved is what it is all about.

I personally helped set up the computers with educational software and re-indexing the library using colour coding to help the children find the books on their own. Some days I also taught the children maths or science.

The key is to go with an open mind, as you will always find something worthwhile to get involved in when you are at the school. It is all about taking the initiative, as Vinu massi is always happy to introduce new ways of doing things into the school.

If you are worried about how the children will perceive you, then don’t be!

At first, the children will be curious and a little unsure of you, but after a few days they will laugh and joke with you – and one thing I guarantee you is that they will love you. You will never forget the warmth and affection of the children and Vinu Massi.

Pondicherry is also a great place to hang out in. It is on the coast and has long been associated with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which attracts a very international mix of visitors. You can also check out Auroville – a vision of how the world could be. There are plenty of choices of accommodation to suit all budgets.

If you have never been to India you may be a little apprehensive. It is a unique place and it may feel a little strange, but keep your eyes open and you will see how the people make a point of enjoying life every day.

Take every opportunity to connect with the Indian people, and they will make you feel at home.

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From NISHI NATHWANI, UK
Visited the school in August 2004

Everyone who I have met who has visited Nirvana School seems to return with a strong sense of attachment to it.

My visit to the school certainly changed my perspective of things and marked my first time in India.

This was an unforgettable experience. I noticed so much scope to help everyone, the school children, the local community etc.

When I saw first-hand all the work Vinu Masi was undertaking, I felt truly inspired – it is not often you meet people who live their lives to help others in that way.

Vinu Masi was so supportive and caring, and despite only spending two weeks with her, I feel very attached to her.

Not only was the work I undertook there truly appreciated, but I really enjoyed doing it.

I am sure those of you who are able to visit the school will enjoy themselves as much as I did.

My only advice is to go for as long as you can!

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BRIDGET ELLERY, New Zealand
Visited the school in January 2001

Bridget Ellery arrived at Nirvana school in January 2001, having first heard about the school after a chance 2-minute conversation with Arvind at Baker St tube station, London, in September 2000.

Bridget is from New Zealand and was planning to go back home via South America, and was learning Latin Spanish at the time so as to be able to help as a volunteer for six months. But after meeting Arvind and also Vinu Massi in London, she decided instead to go home to New Zealand via India and visit Nirvana school.

Having spent almost a year at Nirvana school and also all around Pondicherry, Bridget sent an email to Arvind in October 2001, outlining her unique experience.

BRIDGET’S MESSAGE

Hello there!

I will just explain how it was when I arrived here in January and how it is now after 10 months.

Wow! I cannot believe it has been that long when initially I remember saying that there is no way that I would stay more than four months!

So when I first arrived I could not get over the children… whether it was the initial impact of them all dressed beautifully in their uniforms… standing to attention as you walked into the room… running up to me and say good morning madam, and I am certain that during the first few days there every one of the 200 children had managed to run up in front of me and greet me good morning.

Even though their manners, smart presentation and their good English was all very impressive….but what really captured my heart was their big open eyes full of so much emotion and love… and I straightaway felt that these children have been through so much more than I could ever imagine or handle. Above all I felt that they were my teachers rather than the other way around and it still is that way, believe it or not!

I came to India with the dream and inspiration to help children but I quickly realised that there is nothing much for me to do except just to love them and that was very easy.

Besides the school being there to give them an education…it is a very special school because it really loves these children and that radiates through from the inspiration and love from Vinu massi and her family and all the many loving and kind hearts in England and all over the world… I believe in my heart that this is not just any organisation that we all are involved in.. And actually I don’t like to think of it as an organisation because it is not that at all.

It really is one big family…we are the parents in the west helping the children in the east and it is not because of pity … it is because of love…

I spent a lot of time with 7 children in the fifth standard. They were the first children to attend the school and I became very attached to them and when they left at the age of teen to further there education at a government school I saw them sad to leave this special school that they had spent their important younger years in. But I also saw them full of much confidence, enthusiasm and love and I knew that what this school had given them would be in their hearts forever… it had given them a sense of invincibility, a certain strength and confidence and hope that will always be with them, no matter what comes up against them along the way.

In the West we are all busy striving to be the best we can …to push ourselves and to be always improving ourselves and the opportunities for doing this in the West are immense.

In the East, there is not so much this striving (though it is there in the big cities as globalisation becomes stronger and stronger) but in the villages of India, because of the mass population and poverty the scope for opportunities are far less as most families are mainly concerned with who will marry their children and how they will be looked after…In educating these children they begin to see a few more doors opened to them and it doesn’t really matter whether they choose to go through them or not as that decision is for them to make alone. Just to show them another door is a great thing and gives these children a great hope and a realization that things don’t necessarily have to be the way they are…

I would also like to say a little about the improvements I have seen in the school and it’s progress… which by the way are many, and it is progressing minute by minute, and it will continue for a long time yet I am sure as it is god’s work that is happening here…

What I really felt in my heart to share with you all is the inspiration and the love that I feel here and that is clearly coming directly from everyone that is helping these children that cannot be physically here in India.

This love from you all is just flowing like a river and getting stronger and stronger and it is really felt in the school and I see that it really is touching the hearts of the children and the families …not in an obvious way but a very subtle and powerful way.

So after being away from the school for a few months and now coming back I can really see that this river of love is growing and becoming more confident and stronger and it is very evident in all the children here and I know that it will continue on and on…

I also feel very sure in my hearts that all whom are brought here to contribute to this big family is of no coincidence at all and that there is a much deeper significance and meaning within it that is for each of us to discover and inquire into ourselves.

So I thank you all from the depth of my heart for all your love and generosity and for giving me the opportunity to be here and to help with the wonderful work that without you all would not be possible.

With all my love and happiness.