Today was our first day of school teachings! We taught the 9th standard, which consists of 13-14 year old kids. At first, they were very quiet and wide-eyed, but that frame of mind was immediately killed when we requested them to scream “penis,” “vagina,” and other HIV education-relevant words of the sort.

I love how strongly the kids react when we make the smallest- and in my opinion somewhat pathetic- attempt to relate to them. To the kids, pathetic is the furthest thing from how they perceive it. For example, if you fold your hands, bow to them, and say “Vanakkum” instead of simply waving and saying “Hello,” their faces just light up more than you would believe. Seems like a small, effortless action, but I realized today that it means so much to them because these people know that this type of greeting is not the norm for us. They see us making an attempt to adapt to their culture, and they genuinely appreciate it- not to mention they probably get a kick out of our awkwardness and mispronunciations.

While our class was taking their post survey to analyze what they learned, the teacher of the class came to talk to us. Her eyes filled with tears as she asked us where we were from and why were doing this. Her first question was if we were getting paid. When we told her we were not, she acted as if she could not believe it. She said that we were a blessing. She said that we were a blessing for “our people” from God. Watching this woman express her gratitude and being so new to the concept of volunteers working with her children was humbling, unforgettable, but above all heartbreaking. Where is all of the help? These children are equivalent to United States high school freshmen, and are clueless about the simple anatomy of their own bodies. It is more than likely that more than one child in that classroom has a family member- a grandmother, an uncle, a close family friend- suffering from the HIV virus, and they do not have the slightest idea of what that means.

When all of the classes were released into the hallway, all Hell broke loose. Sheema made me put away my camera because all of the kids were climbing all over me to get their pictures taken. I think I shook over 50 hands today. Our CPs from India told us that the kids were treating us like we were from Hollywood. They even asked one kid from our group for his autograph! It was absolutely mind blowing, but most importantly I really felt like I made an impact today. I am so blessed to be able to have similar experiences for the next 7 weeks!