‘It teaches you gratitude’
Marshall High School graduate Linnea Bader spent time in India this summer working through International Volunteer HQ
She went to India to teach others, but ended up learning more than she can say.
“It was a really good experience,” said Linnea Bader, who spent a month teaching underprivileged children in Delhi, India. “It’s easy to fall in love with India. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Bader, a Marshall High School class of 2015 grad, attends Minnesota State University Moorhead and majors in teaching English as a second language and has a secondary major in communication arts and literature education. The daughter of Cindy and Dean Bader of Marshall, she learned of the value of volunteering through her education professor who had been in the Peace Corps for several tours. After doing some research, Bader found out that the Peace Corps needs a minimum two-year commitment.
“I don’t have that kind of time right now where I can put my life on hold for two years,” Bader said. She then learned of a program that is similar to Peace Corps but offers shorter commitments of time, International Volunteer HQ.
Bader said she has traveled abroad before, but the India trip was her first time alone. The flight to India is long, but she broke it up into two eight-and-a-half hour stints by having a short layover in Amsterdam.
She taught children from a slum neighborhood from ages “not even 2, and the oldest was about 12,” she said. “It’s hard to say because not everyone knows their age.”
Records are spotty for some.
Many of the children had untreated medical conditions.
“It was really difficult to see them come to school with infections,” she said.
Bader said the longer she stayed in Delhi, the more she became attached to the children.
“You wonder what’s going to happen to them after you leave,” she said.
Bader was given little instruction on what to teach the children. Some children may have already learned the material, but she just had to start from square one.
“Anything we could teach them was good,” she said.
Teachers were few and far between.
“There was one staff teacher for about 150 students,” she said. “Halfway through, her mom got sick and she had to leave to take care of her.”
Bader said the principal cared about the children and “could never turn someone away.”
Supplies were scarce.
“I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of materials, but I wasn’t prepared for how little there was. The principal tried to have three notebooks per kid. One for English, Hindi and math. But the younger half of the classroom, not all of them would get them. Most kids didn’t have pencils, so they would borrow the school’s. There were no textbooks, no reading books,” she said. “They had a white board, which was helpful. (The lack of supplies) was a learning experience. Learning how to work with what you have.”
Part of Bader’s fee for volunteering went to supplies for the school. The children were grateful for new supplies that came in.
“One time we got five erasers and sharpeners and the kids were jumping up and down. It was crazy,” she said. “It teaches you gratitude.”
She stayed with a host family where she ate typical Indian food such as chapati, a flatbread which is eaten with meals. She ate soups with beans and also ate lots of potatoes.
“In America, they assume you eat meat, but in India, they assume you are a vegetarian,” Bader said.
“Everything is salty,” she said. “You need the salt, because you sweat so much. Even the bottled water has added salt and sugar.”
The heat index was 117 in Delhi one day and when she visited Agra, India, it was over 120.
Bader bought a sari, which many Indian women wear. Women must cover their shoulders, but it’s OK to show the midriff.
“A crop top is not a problem,” she said.
She also wore a kurta, a long upper garment for men and women.
On weekends Bader was able to sightsee. She went to Varanasi, a sacred Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges River. Pilgrims visit there to take a “holy dip” in the Ganges.
“People from all over India come,” she said. “It’s a very sacred place. Many Hindus believe it breaks the cycle of reincarnation.”
Bader also visited the famous Indian landmark, the Taj Mahal in Agra.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be that big,” she said. “It was very majestic.”
She saw a wedding one time.
“It was so interesting,” she said. “Everyone was completely dressed in head to toe in jewelry, bright colors. The groom was on a white horse which was covered in fabric for him to ride to his bride. There was fireworks and music playing.”
Bader loved the architecture and clothing.
“Whatever it is, it’s so beautiful and ornate,” she said. “India is colorful, loud, fast. It’s easy to get swept up in it.”