Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interview with new GPM volunteer, Fanny Briceno

Gabriel Project Mumbai recently welcomed a new volunteer, Fanny Briceno, a 23-year old Houston resident who enjoys cooking, traveling the world and experiencing new cultures. In this interview, Fanny calls her experience at GPM “life changing”, and adds that “Seeing the kids smile will break whatever barrier you have in your heart.”. Read the rest of the interview here:

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself

I was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and at the age of 13, I moved to Houston, TX. I attended college in Appleton, WI at Lawrence University and graduated with a double major in Government and Philosophy. I intend to go to Law School in the near future.

I was not that religious growing up in Honduras and there was only one Synagogue in the country. Once in college, I joined Hillel and was determined to become a better Jew. I decided to start with Tikun Olam right after graduating college and started planning a volunteer trip to India!

I enjoy cooking and before wanting to become a lawyer, I contemplated the idea of becoming a chef. I enjoy molecular gastronomy...which is science in food!!

I enjoy traveling and learning about new cultures. I have been to Jordan, Egypt, Ireland, France, UK, Italy and Honduras. Throughout all my travels, I try to become part of the community and live how they live. I like a combination of "touristy" and "local" traveling experiences!

Q: So when did you arrive in India?

I arrived in India in June. I went to Ahmedabad, Guyarat and started working for a local NGO in Ahmedabad. But my work revolved around reports, fundraising and brainstorming and I needed a more hands-on experience, so I decided to join the Gabriel Project Mumbai after reading a newsletter that my Houston Rabbi posted on my Facebook. I moved to Mumbai in July!

Q: What has your experience on GPM been like so far?

My experience on GPM has been absolutely life changing so far. Time is passing by too fast! I go to the slums everyday and the first thing I see is the beautiful mountains in the distance. The greenery is breathtaking. Once in the heart of the slums, as we approach the classroom, the children start yelling "Hi teacher" and their bright, white smiles hit me! We then proceed to teach them English through games and fun interactive activities.

GPM also provided a tour of South Mumbai and it combined the tour with Jewish sites. It was absolutely phenomenal! It was great to see the Jewish history in India and also see the other parts of this multicultural nation. Like when we were at Victoria Terminal (CST), we saw British, Muslim and Indian influences in the architectural design!

Q: What would you recommend to people considering coming on GPM?

I would suggest packing light because everything in India is so awesome that one wants to take it all home!! I wish I had brought a lot of things that would help the kids here. Crayons, toys, learning books that we take for granted in the US, things that we might just toss in the US are very much needed here. Yeah we can buy it here, but thinking about all the "unused" things I have at home, makes me sad that I didn’t bring them. I also recommend people to bring an open mind and an open heart. Seeing the kids smile will break whatever barrier you have in your heart, but you won’t get any sort of meaningful experience with a closed mind!

Q: What are your plans after India?

After India, I am planning on go to Law School in the East Coast in August of 2013. I realize that after law school, I will be dedicated to my career and hopefully build a family of my own. So when I get back I would just like to be with my mom, help her at home and treat her to fancy Indian food! I need to start cooking here to get some practice!

Q: How have your family and friends reacted to tales of your experiences?

My family and friends have been deeply moved by the stories I share about GPM and the slums. They know it is a tough life and they have become more appreciative of the things they have. They have also been motivated to do some charity of their own by giving money or time. I am so delighted to know that through my work at GPM, I am also helping a third party somewhere because my work here is more than the children I directly help, I hopefully will inspire more people to do similar projects!

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