On the 2nd of February, Jesuit Missions volunteer Matthew Whalley left the cold winter of the UK to travel to India, where for six months he will be teaching in a Jesuit school in the tribal region of Dumka, Jharkhand, close to the border with Bangladesh.
After one month, Matthew gives us an update about how he is settling into his new life.
“It has been an amazing experience so far. I have met lots of interesting people in the nearby communities, I have been teaching some classes at the school and I was able to watch their performance of Cinderella which involved lots of colourful dancing. Everyone has been very welcoming.”
He describes a typical day in the school.
“I wake up at 6am for 6.30 am Mass and then have a wonderfully prepared breakfast – chickpea curry and chapattis. After this I prepare for school, which starts with assembly at 8.30am. I have taught a few lessons with the Kindergarten class (maths and English). This is the youngest class in the school. They are really sweet and eager to learn and get everything right. I have also taught some maths, English and Geography to years six, seven and ten.
The children are keen to learn everything about England and were shocked to find out that the Queen was still alive! The school is quite basic with only chalk boards for the teachers to use. School finishes at 2pm with lunch – no meat as we’ve given it up for Lent. I help with after school clubs with the nuns. Supper is after night prayers at 7.30pm.”
Matthew has been struck by the strong faith of the local community and describes his first experience of a local tribal mass.
“The culture is very different to the UK, but everything is very bright, and I am learning a lot about it. I spend a lot of time with the Jesuit Community and it is refreshing to see the great belief in it and God.
Yesterday I went to mass at a church in a local village where Sentali tribal people live. The mass was wonderful (even though there was not a word of English), there was beautiful singing, people giving vegetables and rice at the collection and a wonderful feeling of belief, community and Gods presence.
At the end of mass, the girls sang me a welcome song, my feet were washed, a flower necklace was placed around my neck, I gave a speech and was gifted with many flowers from the young girls. Afterwards I greeted many of the people with the local greeting where you put your hand out if you’re older and bow down into your fist if you are younger. This was truly an amazing experience, and I hope to go again to Sunday mass in the local villages to yet again experience this amazing feeling off community through religion.”
Do you want to experience a new culture, put your faith into action and serve some of the most marginalised communities? Read more volunteer stories and find out how you can volunteer with Jesuit Missions here.
Posted on 06th March 2018