26 May Woodstock seeped into my soul
April Howell came to Woodstock for 6 weeks to assist with the back-end transition to a new content management system. As part of a year old visit around the world, she stayed with old friends Neva and Ian Whiteman and volunteered at the Development Office and briefly at Arunima, A project for Autism. An Australian by birth and upbringing, April made a tremendous impact on the Development team and the Woodstock community, impressing one and all with her technical skills, work ethic and cheery presence. In early April, she left to go back to her old job in Sydney at one of the world’s leading insurance providers. Here, in her own words, was what volunteering at Woodstock meant to her.
After steering a plough and two bullocks up and down the field, I gaze up at the gorgeous sunny day. I see two terraces above me; the village is alive with women and children feeding livestock, planting for the new season, or carrying huge bales of hay or bags of cow dung on their heads to nearby farms. Mumbling in Hindi and cow bells are heard as the Woodstock kids take it in turns to try their hand at ploughing the sheer physical requirement of the task surprises the kids and they have a new-found appreciation for the villagers who perform these tasks every day, just to survive.
This is an extract from my journal on the fourth day of being a chaperone at Woodstock School Year 9 camp in Gaird village in the foothills of the Himalayas. My name is April Howell and I am a world traveller but Woodstock and Mussoorie have seeped into my soul like no other place I have been to.
When my next-door neighbours in Australia left to work at Woodstock nearly two years ago they suggested I come and visit them in India. Neva and Ian Whiteman love their new life and through their weekly blogs I could feel how different and amazing it was.
I took up the invitation and to be honest did not think much of it. I am from a small coastal town just north of Sydney, Australia. Twelve months ago after completing a graduate diploma I took leave without pay to travel the world. My trip to India was just an add-on to the rest of my travels. Now as I pack to leave this beautiful part of the world, I think back and know nothing could have prepared me for the life-changing experiences and life-long friendships I have made in the short amount of time I have spent in the Woodstock community.
I have been able to experience an Indian wedding in a remote farming town named Bijnor where a westerner walking down the main road seemed to be more of a spectacle than the wedding ceremony itself! Hiking most weekends with a group of Woodstock staff members allowed us to witness breathtaking views of the Himalayas (Flag Hill and Pepperpot being my personal favourites). Also, taking on the Grade 5 and 6 weekly soccer coaching was awesome, as was volunteering my time in the Development Office.
Each day alumni visit the school and the Development Office reliving their time spent at Woodstock as a student or teacher. It was an honour to hear their stories and see what Woodstock still means to them and how they want to stay in contact for the rest of their lives. It is so true that Woodstock gets into your soul. These visitors from all around the world allowed me to get to know the history and people that make Woodstock the unique and special place it is.
I would recommend volunteering at Woodstock to everyone. It is a chance to experience real Indian culture and to meet and live with a diverse, multicultural range of people that shape the Woodstock community. I will take home memories that will last a lifetime.
Woodstock welcomes a few specialist volunteers every year to assist with specific school projects in the academic, residential and administrative departments of the school. If you would like to volunteer your time and energy at Woodstock School, please read more here.