My first trip to India was in December 2007. I went to Nagpur, in central India, and then on to a mini vacation in Kerala. Buddhist friends of mine , from The National Network of Buddhist Youth, had organized a big youth conference near Nagpur, in Bor Dharan. It was a week-long retreat and there were talks on social justice and on Dr. Ambedkar's philosophy, there was meditation and puja (Buddhist ritual) and in the afternoons there were a variety of activities; art programs, karate practice, commuication exercises and English workshops, which I led.
Many people assume everyone speaks English in India, and it is true that many people do. But those from disadvantaged backgrounds, communities historically-oppressed by the caste system, don't have the same access to quality education as those who come from privilege. One of the ways this manifests is in English fluency. And not being fluent in English limits the economic and educational opportunities of those who are already at a disadvantage. So practical, communicative English workshops address a real need.
I have taught English for more than 20 years, in the U.S. at the middle school level, at the college level and at private language schools. I have taught overseas, 3 years in Indonesia at a language school and a Summer with a weaving cooperative in Guatemala. And I have traveled extensively; working on an archeological dig in France while in high school, studying at a Japanese university in Kyoto, practicing capoeira in Brasil, backpacking across Mexico, studying Buddhism in The UK, and meditating on a mountain in western China. I love teaching English and I love learning about other cultures. I also teach yoga and do many types of dance, including Indian Bhanga-style. And I am passionate about social justice, so participating in this youth conference brought together so many of my interests.
I had no idea that this trip would change the course of my life. I bought a one-time visa and had no intention of returning. But the friends I made quickly became a team with a shared vision. Friends from Nagpur, Delhi, Bodh Gaya and Kerala showed me so much love, they were so welcoming and kind. When they asked me to return and teach more English workshops I didn't know how I would do it, but somehow I knew that it would happen. Jai Bhim International was already in motion.
with gratitude, Dayamudra