When I first came to America there were a lot of things that dazed me, a few that set my teeth on edge and still does. Among all the myriad stuff that was going on one thing that struck me most was the volunteer spirit of the people. The President urges people to do volunteer and community service, the schools gear students from Middle School on to participate in social service activities and making it a requirement for graduation. From a young age kids see very closely the value of volunteering and giving back to the community.
From the Peace Corps and Habitat For Humanity to the local food banks providing food for the homeless and poor volunteering runs the gamut. The first time I registered DD for a team sport I was surprised that the coach of the team was a volunteer. I start to compare the sorry state of sports in some countries and the nearly flawless system that has been devised to train a large pool of young kids in various sports disciplines here. The use of parents volunteers in schools to augment the effort of the teacher is another aspect that never ceases to amaze.
A couple of colleagues at one of the companies I worked for were volunteer fire fighters who set aside time every week to attend training beside being on call during the weekends. All I could do was admire their selfless commitment.
The local gazette(our local newspapers which is free) has a page devoted to volunteering activities that are in need of volunteers. It was through these pages a few years ago that I came across a volunteer opportunity which fit in with my schedule and expertise! It was reading to elementary aged school kids reading below grade level. Having children in that age group and with experience of reading to them everyday I decided I would be able to handle it. In more ways than one the opportunity gave me back more than I ever expected. The pleasure in the kid's face when she saw me those two days a week and the progress she made during that year was very gratifying. She slowly opened up to her desire to own a puppy and how some days her stomach growled during the day because her mom dropped her late and she could not get breakfast at school. It was hard to hear a kid tell me that she was hungry at school. When given a book to take home and read and she did without fail and from interactions with her she was very bright kid. I thought to myself that all she needed was someone to sit with her and be there for her. I volunteered for a year before my job situation changed where in my team which was part of a non-profit organization got bought by a big giant of a company and my schedule changed drastically and could not accommodate the volunteering activity.
It took couple more years before I could get back into volunteering. The one I am involved with now is teaching basic literacy to an adult student. Before becoming a volunteer tutor, training was mandatory for which you had to pay out of pocket. Though not a huge amount, the number of people who willingly paid to get trained to volunteer their time was one I did not expect.
I will be getting back to the topic in a minute so bear with me.
Cauvery river has always been a big part of my childhood. Besides being a major source of water for irrigation for the farmers in the Kongu Nadu region it was intertwined with the regions prospects and bringing joy and sorrow in no small amount. As children we splashed and dipped to our heart's content in its glorious waters and admired it meandearing through the country side. This was about 25 years ago(Note to self: has it been really that long?) to now where kids are advised not to get into the water because it has become so polluted to the extent where numerous skin ailments are common from coming in contact with the water. I have always wondered if there was something that could be done.
So on hearing about the Alice Ferguson Foundation that organizes a Potomac watershed cleanup every year was excited and thought of it as an opportunity to do something about another river in a place I now call home. The tons of trash they collect is truly staggering. I marked my calendar to participate in the cleanup this year but something even closer to home beckoned
The pond and creek near my neighborhood whose runoff eventually reaches the Potomac river, desperately needed a cleanup. Every time we walked past the pond and creek I was struck with a feeling of guilt seeing the trash floating around near the ducks, crane and turtles that lived there. It seemed a big task for just a couple of people but not that big if the whole neighborhood participated. So set a date to do the cleanup and sent an email to the neighborhood list. The response though not overwhelming was not meagre either.
Many of you had asked how we happened to have the camera when the fire broke out in the park land. As we were walking up to take the pictures of the pond before cleanup was when we saw the fire. We cleaned for a little over 2 hours and collected 15 big trash bags. The time allotted was 1 1/2 hours but many of us kept going till it was well past that time. We have a followup set for another day. Here again was an volunteering opportunity that gave immense satisfaction for all who participated.
Here is a the link to the Slide Show.
Do you Volunteer? Would you like to share your experience?
I made this Kurma for a pot luck gathering and it turned out good. When made in large quantities even the well practised recipe sometimes disappoints but this one was an exception. The trick is to make 2 pastes instead of the 1 mixed paste I usually make
Serves : 4
Mixed Vegetable Kurma
1. 2 Cups Chopped Vegetables (Green Beans, Carrots, Potatoes, Peas)
2. 1/2 Red onion chopped
3. 2 Tomatoes chopped
4. seasonings: cumin, fennel seeds and curry leaves
5. a few coriander leaves for garnish
1. 1/2 medium red onion or 15 small onions
2. 3-4 garlic cloves
3. 2 tsp fennel seeds, 4 cloves, a small cinnamon stick
4. 6 green chilies
5. 2 handful coriander leaves
In a drop of oil saute the dry spices, set aside. Add the onion,garlic and saute till translucent. saute the chilies and coriander leaves for half a minute.
Blend to a paste
1. 1/2 tbsp of poppy seeds soaked in water
2. 2 tbsp coconut
Blend the above to a paste and set aside
1. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings and saute the onion till translucent
2. Now add the vegetables and saute for a few seconds
3. Add the chopped tomatoes about half a cup of water and cover the lid and let it
cook till the vegetables are almost cooked.
4. Now add Paste 1 mix well and cook for about 5-6 minutes, add salt and let it boil for a couple of minutes more.
5. Now lower the heat add Paste 2, mix well and let it be in the heat for a couple of minutes.
6. You will see bubbles on the surface. Now turn off the heat and let it rest for about 1/2 hour. Mix well garish with coriander leaves
Tastes even better the next day.