My time in Shunem

Arriving slightly late to morning prayer is a blessing. Even though the iconic red arches and luscious greenery are hidden by the early morning darkness, an instant warm, loving atmosphere greets you. The sound of children singing serenades your walk through the gates. A unique dawn chorus. Morning has broken.

As a guitar playing volunteer, I often provide the musical accompaniment – and in the afternoons, the guitar lessons!
The children love learning new songs, we dedicate time to this on Sunday evenings.

After a tasty breakfast, the excited shunem children pile into the school bus. In the UK this bus may hold 25. Here in India 50 children, four adults and a guitar can easily squeeze in.

Nithsdale is a school full of happy children and staff. Assembly starts off each day, this involves: singing songs including ‘Jana Gana Mana’ the Indian national anthem, bible stories, prayers and current affairs -an older child will read the daily newspaper.

It is clear that these children love coming to school. Their motto is “Be Joyful Always” which is evident in each child’s attitude towards Nithsdale. By God’s grace this school is thriving and it seems fitting that their school song includes the line “…we praise him for his love.”

As a secondary school Maths teacher, I have been enjoying teaching eager children, thirsty for knowledge. Something I don’t always experience in the UK! Education in India is never taken for granted.

Shunem is home to its children, elders and approximately half of the staff. During the day, whilst the children are at school, the once bustling atmosphere is replaced with peace and quiet. Chatting to or just sitting with the elders is a privilege, they have many interesting stories to tell. I love spending time with the staff also. They go above and beyond to look after me – whether that’s making my favourite ginger tea, cooking for me or dressing me in a saree on Sundays. We have a lot of fun too and some have become great friends. A love for Jesus is everywhere at Shunem, in the people young and old, that live and work here.

Volleyball is an afternoon routine for most of the boys. In true Christadelphian fashion, it is taken very seriously. If you’re not a good player, they’ll kick you off the team – or at least just push you to a non critical place on the court. Winning is most definitely more important than taking part!

Evening prayer is in Telugu and then, time to eat. Dinner time is always good fun. Firstly, we wash our hands and plate outside with cold water. Vast amounts of rice are dished out accompanied with, by comparison, fairly small servings of curry. The children will eat mountains of rice – something my western bowels are not used to! I eat in the evenings with the boys and they have taught me how to eat with my hand.

Mixing curry and rice, manipulating it with your fingers into a semi solid state then popping it into your mouth with the tip of your thumb, without getting your meal all over your hand, is made to look easy by the children. I know I am getting slightly better at it now because they no longer laugh at me.

Volunteering at Shunem is proving to be an invaluable experience. It is a wonderful place filled with beautiful hearts. The children have filled a void in my life I never knew I had. I will definitely go home a little empty.

I decided to come out to here because I wanted to give to others. I felt ready to offer my skills and help those that need it. The funny thing is, I am the one who has been helped the most. I have learnt so much by spending time with these incredible, hardworking and generous people. Their faithfulness and complete trust in God is humbling. God’s love is at the centre here and the love of Jesus is so evident among the Shunem family.

Mim Slinn