As a Fishel fellow, I was placed in India with JDC Entwine Multi-Week Global Jewish Service Corps with Gabriel Project Mumbai, and I am now working in Berlin as a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps fellow.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kalwa Slum


I can’t believe I’ve only been here for 3 days- it feels like weeks!  I’ve been experiencing so much every day that I started to take notes on my phone to try to remember it all.  Get ready for a long post.

Today was very exciting because it was our first trip to the slums.  We were all anticipating the visit- after all, this is the reason we’re here!  I have to warn you all that I wasn’t able to take pictures of the kids there because it was our first visit, and we wanted to be respectful and not distract them.  But there are more pictures to come in the next few weeks!

A short rickshaw ride took us to the base of the Kalwa slum, home to 80,000 people and the place we will be volunteering.  We walked through winding alleyways filled with shoe-less children playing and women washing clothes to get to our first stop, the home that we will be cooking meals for the children in.  This area is considered the nice part of the slum because the homes have concrete walls.  We then began the 30 minute walk through the slum to the classroom.  I have never seen anything like what I saw there.  Most of the walk was through a field that used to serve as the slum toilet, so it is completely filled with feces and garbage.  In the past few months, the Indian government put up a wall surrounding the slum to discourage more settlement since the slum is actually illegal.  This created a huge sewage problem because it blocked people from the field they used to use for the bathroom, so now people defecate anywhere.

The "nice" part of the Kalwa slum

 Holy cows- some of them had necklaces on

There are children running around and animals everywhere- dogs, cows, chickens, goats, ducks, donkeys and pigs (I have never seen such happy pigs with all the mud and trash).  Homes are made out of sheets of tin and whatever scraps people can find.  But when I looked around, people seemed genuinely happy.  All the kids are giggling and playing together, and adults are hanging out and joking with each other.  It really makes you think about different standards of happiness.  Too often in the U.S. I see people who are rich with regards to money, love/support, and opportunities but are unhappy.  But here, these people have nothing.  But they do have a strong sense of community and identity.  Just something interesting to think about.

We met the children who we will be teaching in a tiny one-room classroom made out of sheets of tin.  There are 3 classes of kids ages 3-14, and they are all ADORABLE. They were beyond excited to see us and are so eager to learn.  And we’re so eager to start teaching them!  I have done a lot of teaching in many different settings from international students at UCLA to disadvantaged kids in LA and Israel, but I know this is going to be very different.  I can’t wait to get to know the kids better and to see them learn and develop throughout the summer.

Other excitement in the past 2 days:

We’re taking a yoga class next door every evening.  I’m not a fan of yoga, but this class is great.  The teacher chants in Sanskrit, and the class is outdoors, so it’s really relaxing- so relaxing that I fell asleep.  People had to wake me up at the end of the class when they saw I wasn’t moving anymore.  I’ll try to get a picture in the next few days to show you what it’s like.

I went to the mall for the first time, which is very modern and Western.  I should probably take this time to describe the Western vs. Indian situation here.  The first taste I got of this was when I got off the airplane.  I had to use the restroom, but when I walked into the stall, there was just a hole in the ground.  Completely thrown off, I just took my stuff and walked right back out.  Apparently you have to ask everywhere you go if there is a Western toilet (the kind we know) or an Indian toilet (a hole in the ground).  Also, clothing stores are divided into Western and Indian sides.

Here's a photo of the mall- it's really big and modern, and the best part? There's A/C!

We saw the Superman movie at the mall which turned out to be an interesting experience.  Differences between Indian movie theaters and American movie theaters:

They made me give them my camera battery because people film and bootleg movies all the time.

We tried to sneak in food, and everybody got caught except me, so they had to leave it outside.

They sell Indian food like samosas inside the theater.

There’s assigned seating and an intermission which happens exactly halfway, which in our case was during a dramatic scene where Superman was mid-sentence.

The audio cut out a few times, and each time people in the audience yelled.

I tried kulfi, a block of Indian ice cream on a stick.  It has the consistency of frozen halva but tastes kind of like dulce de leche (yum).  In this pic I'm with 3 of the other program participants and Hayley, one of the Indian staff members.


  1. This article was really great...!
    I got to know much about kalwa...thank you!

  2. thanks for your visit in India ... have great time