Daya Dan

imageI can’t post pictures of my volunteer work at Daya Dan, the home for disabled children, because the sisters  request that specifically. Not only that, but we aren’t allowed to bring cameras in because it would distract from our true purpose of being there, except on your last day.


I admit that when I first started here I wasn’t sure if I’d like it after my first day.

In fact I’m ashamed to say that I was a little repelled by the situation at first.

The place is in a little alleyway and it’s rundown and mismatched. There isn’t anything new about the place. There aren’t any washing machines. There are no televisions or anything technology-oriented. There are huge murals of Mother Teresa playing with children on the wall. It’s not bright and shiny and clean feeling like I’m used to American preschools feeling.


And these aren’t your typical children. They have issues, all of them. Some emotional, some physical, almost all mental. When you first arrive to volunteer, you have to be a little astonished to see so many wasted children just lying haphazardly all over the uncarpeted floor.

Most of them can’t speak or communicate hardly at all.

Many of them don’t respond when you play with them.

They have all stolen my heart.

In fact my heart is broken knowing that I probably won’t see any of them again once we leave Kolkata. It breaks even more to know that these boys will be institutionalized their whole lives, moving from one group home to the next, until they die.

Especially the little boy I tutor, who lights up so much when he sees me and repeats my name over and over. In fact apparently the only name he ever says to anyone is mine. He is so snuggly, so happy, and so enamored with me. He admires my clothes. He plays with my watch. He laughs when he drops his pencil because he thinks it’s funny. I love him. I don’t know how I’ll say goodbye to him when it’s time for us to leave. I think constantly about who will be his teacher once I leave, and if he’ll get to read as much as he’d like.

I would adopt him. But I know that isn’t possible for our situation right now.

I never expected when I started volunteering here that these boys would teach me so much, that they would be the ones to change me, to help me. I didn’t think such small and weak things of the world could represent such an angelic part of humanity. They each have their own unique and hilarious personalities that have slowly revealed themselves to me over time. I am humbled.

I used to have an inner fear that I would have a child with disabilities and that I would love them a little less because of it. I now know, fortunately, that while having a child with disabilities is definitely WORK, I could love them just as much as a normal child. And that is really a lovely discovery to make.

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 372 awesome articles for us.

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