It has been hard for me to effectively write about my experience at Chetana and with HEAL for quite some time, as I almost feel like I am still there in a way. I was only able to stay for a week, but I have been ardently planning my return to the point that feels like I am on vacation in America! In any case, my experiences were absolutely incredible, and I am proud to be among the first American volunteers to ever work with Chetana.
I was very excited to come to Guntur, as I study Carnatic music and my guru is from Vijayawada, and grew up in and around Guntur. In this regard it was exciting for me to experience where he came from in a more tangible way, but it became even more exciting upon our arrival at Chetana. Before coming to India, we are under the impression that all of the HEAL projects were in separate areas of Guntur, so one can imagine our surprise when we awoke to 500+ children at our door step! It was so incredible to be able to work with so many kids, and to see how perfect everything and everyone works together to make the Chetana community flourish.
Before arriving, we had hashed out several ideas of possible methods of teaching music to the children, and ultimately decided that the best approach would be to simply spend time with the children and see what happens. At first this was a bit chaotic, as the kids were just getting used to us, and were really just interested in having fun and making noise, but over the course of the week, many of the children became more and more interested in learning music, and began coming to us demanding practice at all hours of the day. This was perfect, as it was exactly what I had hoped to instill in the children; a curiousity and interest for music, and furthermore, a desire for personal expression.
I find that this desire not only leads to artistic creativity, but greater sense of personal creativity in all aspects of life. This is especially evident in the improvised ensemble situation which we created with a small group of the HEAL kids. Even though many of them have never had any form of music training, they realized that if they worked together with what they had (in this case drums and percussion), they could create music that worked together rhythmically and melodically, and ultimately create coherent music. I feel like this extends beyond music though, as this seems to be the way that the children approach all situations in life at Chetana, and I feel that music and arts training can only make this better than it already is.
Writing this right now is already getting me excited about coming back, and generating so many new ideas. I am hoping to come back very soon, and already spreading the word as much as possible here in the States, so that more Americans have they chance to experience such an amazing community, and an even more amazing group of kids! Next time I promise I will stay longer!
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