Thursday, 25 April 2013


The crayons are packed away, the books donated, the yellow shirts washed for the last time and the volunteers all back home:  The six week trial of Book Bus India is over. We have come a long way since the first day when we nervously climbed in the jeep not knowing what to expect, driving to school along unfamiliar roads with a bag full of books and minds full of curiosity.  That day we received the warmest welcome imaginable and from then on, every day, we eagerly jumped in the jeeps, looking forward to what the day would bring: it might be a game of volleyball, a jeep stuck in the sand, 100 bear headbands or another rendition of the banana song!
The final banana song!

A big thank you to ALL at Mandore Guest House for making our stay so pleasant, answering all our questions, looking after us, feeding us fantastic food and making us feel at home.

Thank you to all at Mandore Guest House
A special thank you to Surendra, who in his capacity as honorary project manager, did us proud, without his contribution this pilot would never have succeeded.  And thanks to Sanjay for his all his help, photos, driving and for putting up with all the crazy people in yellow shirts for singing in his jeep!

14 volunteers, 10 of them past”Book Bussers” came out to join the project in Rajasthan, their stays ranging from 2 to 6 weeks .  I think I can say that every one of them, myself included, has had a fantastic  experience here, both at school and away from it.  I would like to thank every one of them for their commitment and contribution to the project, their dedication and hard work and their unfailing senses of humour which made every day successful and also great fun.

We have been made to feel welcome wherever we go.  We have experienced dancing, drumming, the colourful festival of Holi, the local markets, cows everywhere, stand offs with camels, the impressive fort, the interesting Indian use of the roundabout and too many other things to mention. We have explored the blue streets  of Jodhpur, the Thar desert at Jaisalmer, the temples at Ossian and the lake palace at Udaipur. We have been given flower garlands, scarves, copious amounts of chai, speeches, pink hair and genuine smiles.

At school the children are ever eager, keen and a pleasure to teach. The teachers are dedicated and interested to learn. The communities are welcoming and grateful.
I think we can safely say the 6 weeks were a great success, full of unforgettable memories, for all those involved. The teachers, pupils and volunteers alike have had their eyes opened to new experiences and new ways of learning.  It has been a genuine cultural exchange with every party benefiting from the coming together. We have learnt about Indian customs, education, costumes and culture and the children have learnt in English about colours, numbers and opposites, to name just a few.

When the long term project in October begins many more children, schools and communities can benefit from the Book Bus visits: the books, the activities, the exposure to English and the joyful, interactive way of learning.  And hopefully many more volunteers will come to Mandore, to work with these eager students, gain an insight into their way of life and to experience the hospitality and warmth of the people of Rajasthan.
Kelly April 2013.




Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Sixth Week - Part Two!

The second half of the final week was just as much fun but quite different. Thursday was a national holiday so all the volunteers took the opportunity to make one final trip to Jodhpur for sightseeing and shopping. Many scarves, lots of fabric, saris, teas and spices were bought but by early afternoon we were all back at the Guest house to escape the heat.

So many colourful things to buy!
The impressive Jodhpur Fort

During the final week we have been distributing bookshelves and books to all the 5 schools we have been working with. Surendra organized custom made shelves with plenty of room for more donations in future. We have given the schools a mixture of English and Hindi books. Some are Indian stories and some from UK and we have distributed all the books we have used over the past 6 weeks. Hopefully the teachers and the pupils will be able to make use of the new libraries in their schools. Sanjay and I took Thursday’s school their books on Wednesday to ensure they wouldn’t miss out. All the teachers seem really grateful for the donations.

Book Donations

On Wednesdays we have been working with all the classes from 1 to 8 and it has been amazing to see how much their confidence has grown, they are happy to see us come and eagerly await their turn, wondering what things are inside the BookBus bags! Some of the pupils in class 7 and 8 are exceptionally bright and it was great to see their excitement when they understood the exercise of a code challenge, where A=1 B=2 etc, at first puzzled, when it clicked you could see their sense of achievement. Wednesday’s school is a Sanskrit school, which means that as well as learning Hindi and English the pupils also learn Sanskrit from an early age, a subject which is usually reserved for high school children.

On Friday Sanjay decided to take us on a “cross country” ride to school. A kind of route that has no “real” roads and shows you exactly dry how the landscape is, how the people live and farm there. It was all great fun, especially when we got the 2 jeeps stuck in deep sand! A lot of pushing and dry branches under the wheels and we were out but not before we all got a sand bath! The highlight of the ride was seeing a huge orange and yellow rattlesnake slither across our path like lightening; too fast for cameras but a great sighting.


The children at Friday’s school made sure we had a fantastic last day. They are always so full of energy, keen to learn and happy to take part in anything. The teachers really got stuck in with the colouring and the activities too.
Pipe cleaners were all out by Friday but the children here got windmills which are always a hit wherever they are made. The last books were distributed, the final worksheets filled in and the last renditions of favourite songs were sung and then it was time to leave. It was a very fond but sad farewell with many smiles and waves and a promise of more times together in the near future.

Kelly April 2013

Sixth and Final Week - Part One!

The final week of the Bookbus India pilot project has come and gone and so much has happened, it's going to take 2 blogs to write about it all.


This one is about the final Monday and Tuesday, both days we were treated to spectacular farewells. This week our topic was action words, with the youngest ones we read Jazzy in the Jungle and made hidden monkeys. With the middle kids we did fill in the blanks for action words, read about what rabbit could see and hear, played verb bingo (which was massively popular) and made rabbit finger puppets. Then with the older ones more words, advanced worksheets and bingo and reading of the gingerbread man. As a final treat all the pupils made pipe cleaner glasses....another big hit with the children, parents and teachers alike! And a good way to use up the massive amount of pipe cleaners brought out from UK!

Many of the parents and community members showed up for the final day and we also had some special visitors from the Ministry of Education, who were interested in seeing what the Book Bus has been doing. Here, schools are divided into blocks; the Mandore block has more than 240 schools and some of the top people in charge of this block came to visit us on both Monday and Tuesday. They were impressed with the pupil’s enthusiasm, the volunteers’ commitment and the joyful interactive way we were teaching. We have Surendra to thank for introducing our programme to the Ministry before we even arrived, for explaining the mission behind our project and for organising their visits. It is always good to work hand in hand with the local authorities and it is so much easier for them to understand our work when they see it first hand.

The weather is really heating up here now, the past week the temperatures are reaching 40 in the afternoon and afternoon naps are becoming more common!. The landscape is becoming dryer and dustier every week so it’s always great to come home to Mandore Guest house with its green gardens, cool drinks and shady sitting areas.

After teaching at Monday’s school we were presented with flower garlands and beautiful, colourful scarves by the teachers, pupils and members of the PTA. Lots of speeches were made and although it was very sad to say goodbye, we all left on a high note with the children running behind the jeeps waving and smiling. They kept saying see you next week but we had to explain see you in October instead.

Monday School

Tuesday School
At Tuesday’s school they hooked up a PA system to the battery on a tractor, ingenious and amazing! Again flower garlands and speeches all round. We were very impressed with the head teachers speech in English, which included all our names and the pupils performed some marching and other exercises that they do in physical education and practice for national holidays and important occasions. Once again it was very hard to say goodbye, we have really seen the pupils and teachers embrace what we are doing and they are already looking forward to our return, as are we.

Headteacher of Tuesday School, Surendra and Kelly.
The last Volunteer Crew.

Kelly April 2013

Thursday, 11 April 2013

5 weeks down....1 to go!

The fifth week of Book Bus India is now finished. The 5 weeks we have spent at school have given us a real insight into the education system in rural Rajasthan. This week a long term, 6 month project beginning in October has been confirmed, so we will be using the knowledge and skills learnt to help us prepare an interesting and beneficial program.

During the course of the 5 weeks we have seen a huge increase in the confidence and creativity of the pupils of all ages. What was at the beginning alien to them has now become a highlight of their week. They look forward to the visit of the Book Bus and to the books, activities and crafts that we bring along. We always try to give the children a worksheet that can then act as a kind of revision guide. It is amazing how many pupils bring back the worksheets, week after week, to proudly show us. So we distributed plastic document wallets this week for them to keep their papers in, a big hit.

Each week we have been working with a particular theme, this week opposites for the older classes. We began with flash cards in a big group and then broke down into small groups for the reading and activities. We read goldilocks and then played matching games with the children having to find the opposite paired words, eg hot and cold, fast and slow. It is very rewarding to see how much of the vocabulary from the previous weeks they have been remembering and the big posters we have been making to put up in the classrooms during teaching are still up on the walls. The enthusiasm is growing every week and these children really have a desire to learn.

Going on a Bear Hunt.....
With the younger classes we read “Hello, Goodbye” continuing the opposite theme and then the old favourite “We are going on a bear hunt.” It is just as popular here as everywhere else. We waded through rivers, stumbled over tree roots and tiptoed into caves to find the bear, which interestingly in Hindi is Balu (Jungle Book name inspiration spotted!) And the other cool fact of the day, the Hindi word for forest is jungle!! Headbands made their first appearance of the project and were an instant crowd pleaser.

Bear Headbands - A crowd pleaser! 
The teachers, whom at first seemed almost shy of us are now fully into the swing of the project and actively participate in our reading and activities. They are really interested in looking through the books, making the crafts and observing our teaching. They are keen to see the ways in which we bring the books to life and appreciate the benefits of small group work. Many of the teachers, who are expected to teach English, only have a basic understanding of the language themselves. So they are keen to learn and to practice their conversation skills.

Teachers are really interested in our work and love
helping out their pupils.
This coming week we are distributing books and book shelves to the 5 schools and we will have to say bye to all our new friends. It is hard to believe that we are entering the final week of the project, but it is great to know that in October the Book Bus will be active in India once again.

Kelly 7th April 2013

Monday, 1 April 2013

My Book Bus India Experience.

Jean has just finished four weeks as a volunteer on the Book Bus India Project. Read what she says about her experience at school.

“Ma’am, ma’am,yeh?” asks a child holding a crayon and wanting to know if it’s the right one.  It’s a question we’ve grown accustomed to in the last four weeks as children seek confirmation that what they are doing is right.  After a tentative start, our mimes, songs and visual aids have scaled the language barrier.  Our routines are now so familiar that many children dive into activities such as wordsearches, or labelling a diagram of the body without much prompting.Listening to their chatter as they help each other complete tasks is a joy; and very rewarding to notice that they are remembering new words and phrases and making connections with concepts we taught previously.

String has been in great demand to tie to fluttering rainbow fish and twirling snakes, as are urgent requests for smiley faces for work well done.  Teachers, some reticent at first, have joined our activities, translated instructions, and kept our visual aids displayed in their classrooms.In our Monday school, village teenagers turn up and delight in reading alongside their brothers and sisters.  Adults from the village also drop in to classes and smile their approval.  The sense of community is very strong and we are always warmly welcomed.

Teaching is not just one way – we’ve learnt a few everyday phrases, to count to ten in Hindi, and the names of basic colours and animals.I shall probably remember forever that margermunch, our favourite word, means crocodile.   

Jean Ashbury. Volunteer Book Bus India March 2013