Tom was so impacted by his experiences there that he vowed to join forces with Friends of Mithra and help the children there through fundraising back home in Brisbane. Recently, he welcomed attendees to a movie night fundraiser at Regal Twin Cinemas and gave a welcome speech sharing stories of his life changing experience at Mithra. Here is an excerpt:
I first arrived at MITHRA in Chennai India, on my 17th birthday and felt a world away from the comforts of life in Brisbane. I recall walking through the gates and being struck by the overwhelming happiness of the children. Here were kids that had virtually nothing but wanted for nothing. It was a privilege to be part of the College’s India Immersion, and to spend a week at MITHRA Rehabilitation Centre. It was truly the most life changing experience. Take a moment to watch their video and hear the stories of some of the most exceptional people:
Over the course of the week, each student was given a classroom, where they would individually assist the teacher. That in itself was a shock, as we spoke no Tamil, and no one in my room spoke any English. I must admit, at the start, I thought I had drawn the short straw. The other boys had, without my knowledge, volunteered me to work in the classroom with the non-verbal women at MITHRA. It was a blessing in disguise because at least it eliminated the language barrier. As soon as I overcame my initial hesitations, I discovered that these young ladies were the funniest, kindest people. I felt uncertain about how I could care for six disabled women by myself, but as soon as I entered the room and saw their smiles, it was the easiest thing in the world. I knew all we had to do was have fun.
Each day was spent drawing, doing puzzles, and reading stories. I can honestly say, that in 13 years of education in Australia, my favourite days in the classroom came from a week spent in India. We would start the day with some writing practice – both English and Tamil letters. I could only help with one of those, of course. And after a crowded, boisterous lunch with the entire MITHRA family, we would play puzzles, draw, paint nails, and sometimes even sleep. Then, when the bell finally came at three o’clock, I was released with all the boys, to play cricket until the afternoon wore into evening. It was one of the most amazing times of my life.
There was nothing quite like watching the sun dip down over the rooftops in Chennai, as the bowler came steaming in again from the western end. Being called out of a game to paint nails, or even the entire game devolving into tag whenever we bored of cricket. It was truly one of the most incredible, almost surreal, experiences I’ve ever had. The children at MITHRA, for all I was supposed to be the teacher, were teaching my important lessons about what is important in life. For them, and now for me, there was nothing more important than spending time with friends. Everything else was secondary. To live in the moment like that, was remarkable.
It is honestly hard to pick a favourite moment from my time at MITHRA. From Pudasamie’s obsession with bubbles, to being bowled out in a street cricket match by a man who would only answer to the name, M.S. Dhoni, MITHRA was filled with moments of fun and games but also of humbling experiences, moving experiences and heart wrenching stories. I remember one afternoon, I sat patiently on the steps, and painted the fingernails and toenails of any child who wanted them, both boys and girls. My creative talents were truly pushed to the edge, as I had just that morning taught myself how to paint nails, practising on my own hands! But, it was all worth it because in that moment, I saw the happiness and genuine smiles on the children’s faces.
With all the troubles in the world at the moment, it’s crucial that we remember what’s important. And making life a little easier for kids with the hardest lives of all, is the most impactful thing we, as a community can do. I was privileged to see first-hand the difference that we can make in someone’s life. I went to India expecting to make a difference in their lives, but I wasn’t prepared for the huge difference they would make to my life. I am forever grateful for this experience.
*On behalf of MITHRA, thank you. Please consider making a difference to the lives of the students there by donating to this cause. CLICK HERE. Thank you so much.