We Created Rain

Last week, we noticed a missing link from overall circulation of the Shikshangram campus; there were no stairs or pathway connecting the main building to the girl’s residence. However, a cow path has been created on the slope from constant usage, indicating an opportunity for design. We then asked the children to draw out what they imagine could happen in between the boys residence and the girls residence, we were shock by the colourful and creative drawing given back to us. We closely examined the drawings and discussed different possibilities amount our team and with the orphanage staff. We finally decided to create a stair on the slope with a mosaic platform in the middle and a tree at the center of that platform. The finished design was finalized on Monday of the last week, on the same day construction started. To our complete amazement, the whole project was done in 4 days.

The India Design Abroad course flew by very quickly. It felt like yesterday, when I was at the orientation thinking to myself, how on earth will I be able to handle such an abstract project, and terrified at the fact that this is for real. We would have to build what we design. What if it doesn’t work? What will we do about the structural problems? Are we going to have enough time? What if I under perform and slow down the whole team? I was very uncomfortable.

But Aaron, ISAC’s COO and a very wise man whom I have grew to respected and loved; said to us: “Uncomfortable, is a good place to be, learn to choose freely.” Those words stuck with we for the rest of the weeks, I kept thinking about it. What does it mean to choose freely? What does it have a choice? How much courage and faith does it take to make a choice? What does it mean be free? How does being free different from being self-centerness and egocentric? If everyone chooses freely, can anyone freely choose? What if choices contradict, then who decides who gets to choose?

On the day of our final the presentation, Raksha, ISAC’s program manger, briefly spoke to the children at the orphanage home. Then turned to us and said, “we will make rain”. I was confused but unimpressed, I thought it would be something similar to African rain dance, where people would gather, jumps around dance in circle, in hope of creating rainfall.

But I was wrong, it really did rain. The children began by tapping one finger against their palm; there was a weak but steady tapping sound in the room, as if the rain had just started hitting the ground. Then they changed to two fingers, the sound of the rain got louder and heavier. The intensity slowly increases, finally reaching a heavy down pour. I was amazed, touched and embarrassed, all at the same time, it was beautiful and wonderful. As the wobbling tears began to fall, I finally began to understand what does it mean by chose freely. It is to break free from preconception, to believe in the unbelievable, to think the unthinkable and to reach the unreachable. It is to understand the fear of unknown and to acknowledge the possibility of creativity.


Drawing from the kids



The Big Old Tree

The big old tree seems to be the most prominent thing I remember, from our first day of revisiting the Shikshangram Shelter for Homeless children, as a newly formed group of five. We asked the children to show us five of their favorite places within the school compound, they quickly led me to the presence of a big old tree. At the bottom, they asked if I can pull down a strand leaves hanging just above my head, I did as I was told. Then taking the leaves from my hand, they began chewing it and signaled me to do the same, I did as I was told. The leaves had a fruity sour taste, a little bit like grape skin. I was still trying to capture the memory of having eaten a strand of leaves off the tree. Yet another “wild” experience was handed over to me, a handful of berry like fruits, that were wrapped in milky white sap. These ones tasted sugary sweet, like honey. Soon, the lunch bell rang, everyone start making their way back to the main building. I looked back, and thought I saw what the children see, a shelter from the burning sun; a playground of monkey bars, watch tower and a secret hide out; an all-you-can eat fruit and snack platter; and a tree. I was both fascinated and amazed by the way they had loved a tree and the way a tree has loved them.






H E N R Y   Z H A N G

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Major: Environmental Design

I am currently finishing my 3rd year of study at OCAD. I have always believed in the power of inspiration and the strength of our human spirit. Therefore throughout the years of my study at OCAD or in my personal life, I have always tried to find meaning in what I do and how it will make a difference. I have always been genuinely interested in people, specifically in the realm of spiritual wellness: How do people feel about themselves? Why do people feel that way? What incites passion in them about who they are and how they feel? What do they believe in?

I am immensely excited to learn and explore the historically and culturally rich country of India. I look forward to the people I will meet and stories I will discover and be apart of. I hope my background and experience will add values to the team and ultimately contribute to the overall result.

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