Talk Back India 2017

International Placement 2017, New Delhi, India

The School of Early Childhood at George Brown College offers a variety of global placements supported by the program or through individual arrangements.  The School has a long standing partnership in Jamaica and China and more recently in India.  The placement takes place in partnership with the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, India.   TISS is an internationally recognized institution with expertise in social justice, rural development, education and social work.  George Brown students and faculty receive program and community level support ensuring the students have rich opportunities to extend their learning in New Delhi.  George Brown College is the only college in Canada that has a formal partnership with TISS.

Early childhood students have successfully completed placements at an outdoor play organization, a local child care centre, a program for children with special needs and an orphanage.  Each program has offered new learning in partnership development, pedagogy and practice and a deeper understanding of how children and families are supported in the urban Indian context.  The students also travel to the famous Taj Mahal in Agra and often travel to rural schools to understand the different community needs.  With a population of over 1.2 billion, India offers a rich diversity in history, culture, religion and language.  It is also a country which offers learning opportunities with other experts in early childhood education and family support preparing George Brown students for the global community. 

This placement offers you a chance to experience international travel with peers with faculty support from George Brown College. 

This year the placement takes place in February 2017 working with the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS) In Mumbai, and Ritinjali, New Delhi, India.

In 2017 ECE team has been joined by the students from Child and Youth program as well as from the Nursing program.  The voices of the students participating in the Project India, New Delhi 2017, will shed more light on the nature of this year project. We hope that you will enjoy reading about the experiences of the 10 participating students.


Letters from the students:

Andrew Nathan

Andrew Nathan talk back india

Hey Canada, I have been nominated by my peers to be the first to write about our time here for Talk Back India and oh what a week it has been!

We arrived in New Delhi late Saturday night and were met by new sights, smells…and a few of our hosts from the Ritinjali organization who helped us get to our guest house just in time for most of us to pass out for the evening.

The following morning we decided to do a little bit of exploring starting with the local mall, which was so fancy it could easily give the Eaton Centre a run for its money, and culminating with a trip to the towering India gate, a huge stone monument standing over 125 feet tall that commemorates the lives of Indian soldiers that died fighting for the British army during World War 1.

After we navigated the crowds of merchants and visitors of India gate we began arranging transport back to our neighbourhood in search of dinner, this however can often be a trying task in itself as the prevalent auto rickshaws will offer you the cheapest ride but only if you can bargain the drivers down to a reasonable price. Succeeding in bargaining with the drivers doesn’t always feel like a triumph either as the vehicles are essentially door-less motorized scooters with a wide back bench that swerve through unnervingly narrow spaces with what seems like little or no regard for other motorists, pedestrians or their own passengers.

We did survive however and got to enjoy our first dinner in India, which like all of our dinners has been delicious. I had some second thoughts about a mostly vegetarian diet but the various dishes have all been amazing. India is truly a culinary adventure and my inner foodie can’t wait to try the various regions cuisines.

It wasn’t until Monday that we got to meet again with our partners at Ritinjali and learn about them as well as our roles within our centres. We met the Director of Ritinjali Dilreen Kaur and were better acquainted with our centre coordinators Shruti Patil, Janusa Sangma, Rajni Joshi and Priyanuj Choudhury, who would be helping each of us in our placements for the duration of our stay.

Following our meeting we split into a few groups and headed out to our various centres, we also began to feel the weight of the conditions that many of the children and families we would be working with endure on a day-to-day basis. Ritinjali operates different programs mostly in the slums of New Delhi and walking through them for the first time was definitely difficult, seeing makeshift structures that housed several people and hearing from the Ritinjali staff how there was no running water and barely electricity in many areas, however just when I personally felt at my lowest we met our amazing children and saw our centres. After seeing all those tiny smiling faces all I could think about was getting to work.

I’m so glad to be on this amazing trip and can’t wait to continue to explore all of India’s sights, sounds, food and everything it has to offer as well as giving it back everything I have to offer in return. See you on the other side Canada.

Andrew Nathan

Kayla Ritchie

Kayla Ritchie talk back India

My name is Kayla Ritchie.

Since we landed in India, I think I can speak for most of us that it has been a roller coaster of emotions. The second we walked out of the airport, the smells, the noises, the air, everything was different. I was eager to get out and explore and meet the local people I would be spending the majority of my time with. Early Monday morning we went off to Ritinjali’s Second Chance school in an urban slum, where we met the amazing Ritinjali staff that helped us feel at home and give us an idea how the next month would be. Shortly after, we went to our separate locations, but I was lucky enough to be placed just in the basement of the school we were at. I quickly learned that my placement was going to be with women, rather than children. I was placed in a facility with women who were taking an ECE course, just like me. Although this was a surprise that I knew would be a challenge, I knew it would be a great way to give to the community as well as benefit my knowledge and cultural awareness.

The first couple days took a little getting used to because I was so used to teaching children and I never expected that I would be teaching women what I’m still in the middle of learning. I quickly learned that they were so accepting and just so grateful for us to even be there. With their attention and their gratitude, my confidence grew. By the second week, learning from both parties was clearly evident in our strong discussion based classes. It is amazing learning about such a different culture and how we can work together to create teachers who are confident and supportive of one another. I am truly beginning to feel like it is possible to help a generation of children by helping these women understand the importance of play based learning.

After I finish placement, I spend my time at an after school program with children in a community called Dalil Atka. It was obvious that these children did not have much based on their clothing and the community that the program took place in. One thing that was so admirable about these children was their desire to learn from us and to impress us. They were so happy to learn and practice their English… it was truly touching. It was a very eye opening experience to see the types of homes, or lack of homes that these children lived in. It was hard to see and hard to take in but it created a drive in all of us that gave us the passion to try and make a difference in any child’s life. We played shape and colour hopscotch, we played with balls and the children loved to create art. By the end of the week we were beginning to feel part of the community, as we were welcomed everyday by parents, children and stray puppies. The feeling of being at home was starting to come together.

Our first weekend was a chance to really see the parts of Delhi that were rich in history and beautiful architecture. We went on a bus tour that took us to Qutab Minar, Humanyun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Chandni Chowk market. The sights were amazing to see and our tour guide gave us so much insight on the incredible stories and myths behind each monument. It was a lot to see in one day but by the time we were done it was nice to have a bed to come back to after an accomplished day.

Our stay at the guesthouse has been comfortable and enjoyable. Every morning and night we get Indian style meals cooked by the local workers. As someone who has a vegan dietary restriction, they are so understanding and ask me what veggies and type of food I would like to have. They attend to our every need and treat us well. Although the language barrier sometimes gets in the way, overall we all feel like family in our small house.

Already being halfway through this amazing experience, I can say that I don’t think I will be ready to go back to Canada in 2 weeks. I love it here, everyone is so generous, and I really feel like I can make a difference. I thank George Brown College for providing me with this amazing experience.

Kayla Ritchie


Ashlynn Mulligan

Adventure to Taj Mahal, Agra | Ashlynn Mulligan February 23, 2017

Ashlynn Mulligan taj mahal talk back india

Hi my name is Ashlynn Mulligan, I am a student from George Brown college in the Child and Youth program. I am doing my placement in India for a month, this is a journal on my experience at Taj Mahal. On Saturday February 18th we travelled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The bus ride was 3 hours from our accommodations in Delhi. The drive to Agra began at 7am, the whole group was quiet and tired but everyone seemed excited for the adventure that was about to happen. When we arrived at our destination, we waited for our tickets patiently as we watched all the tourists approach the shuttle bus to the Taj Mahal. When everyone was settled with their tickets we hopped on the shuttle bus, I was feeling eager to see the Taj Mahal but amazed at all of the shops and people in Agra. We arrived at the gates where we passed our tickets to security and began our journey. We entered through an area where Taj’s workers were housed in that time period. I was amazed by the beautiful gardens around the worker’s quarters and after a moment our tour guide led us to the Taj Mahal. When I entered through this tunnel full of beautiful designs and art work, a beam of light flashed upon my eyes as I walked even closer, it was Taj Mahal glowing in the sun. As I came out of this tunnel all that I saw was a frontal view of the majestic Taj Mahal in all of its glory, an iconic sight with long pools on either side of the pathway leading to the temple.

As we walked closer to the temple, the whole group was amazed and decided to take pictures as we followed our tour guide. We approached the entrance, passed security, and walked up a narrow stair case where we ended up on this beautiful terrace that over looked all of Taj’s beautiful work during his reign. The place was covered in beautiful white Marble and jewel encrusted master pieces as you entered inside. I approached the tomb of Taj and his wife. The art work and detail was unbelievable. The amount of people that were overjoyed trying to see the tomb in such a huge crowd. As we walked around the temple we approached other rooms with tombs, I was staggered to learn the history of the different rooms we adventured through. We then exited to the back of the temple where I was astounded by the structure and history that lied within the walls, as I walked around the complex looking towards the river that lied behind the Taj Mahal.

After exploring the Taj Mahal, our tour guide took us back out to the shops where we had about an hour to shop for family and friends. Our guide showed us a shop where they had copied the precious stone designs that are on the temple and made them into vases, plates, and boxes to sell to people passing by. As we began to shop the amount of workers from each shop trying to sell you their items was overwhelming, but in the end I received very good prices. As we gathered all our belongings we headed out to the shuttle bus. Where our bus had picked us up and we headed to lunch. We ate at Punjab Spice where everyone seemed satisfied and full. We headed back on the road towards home where we sat on the bus for four hours due to the traffic. Laughs and awes of the Taj Mahal experiences was a successful one as everyone seemed satisfied with the adventure that took place. We arrived home late but eager to post photos on social media and talk to family and friends.

When walking back towards that gate to leave, there was no words to express what I was feeling. I was just so inspired and Enlighted that I was able to see one of the seven wonders of the world today. I would have never thought of standing on the marble walk away looking at the Taj Mahal ever in my life. I was feeling very grateful and honoured to be able to experience this remarkable adventure with fellow students and professors.

Ashlynn Mulligan



Hua Li

 Hua Li

Hello, I’m Hua Li, a 2nd year student of Early Childhood Education program. My short, one-month placement in India has flown by. I have experienced such an array of challenges and contradictions that have made my fourth placement incredibly awarding and an unforgettable one.

Our India host institution, a Non-Government Organization called Ritinjali for over 19 years has been committed to the education of the marginalized groups. Ritinjali’s headquarters are located in the slum cluster in south of New Delhi. The team is very young and passionate. They extended their warm welcome and acceptance at the orientation, and during our stay.

I was assigned to work with the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) program, which provides women with a one-year training course to support their employment in a childcare sector. Women in India continue to face numerous problems including gender disparity. Creating chances to equip the women with practical skills aims to make significant changes in their lives. I really appreciated Ritinjali’s efforts and dedication to supporting women.

The ECCE setting was definitely a different classroom I had ever been in. The ECCE students have limited English so the communication between us was facilitated by Rajni, a specialist who was a kindergarten educator working in the USA, as well as by Reena, the only teacher in ECCE program. As an English Language Learner, I noticed my language barrier fading quickly. Using simple and clear English to explain ELECT theory and to introduce programming ideas, “talking” to the students with gestures and smiles, learning to pronounce their names properly and greeting them in Hindi every day, contributed to mutual understanding, trust, and respect.

My partner Kayla and I shared with the students the knowledge of five domains, indicators of skills, and strategies of supporting children’s development through well-planned play activities. After our instructors, Ms. Dorota Gill and Mr. Andrew Buntin’s individual presentations, we broke down the specific topics related to Early Literacy and Behaviour Management. We initiated daily learning reviews, programming discussions, story-telling practices, in-class explorations of new materials, and planning of new activities. The ECCE students showed their engagement and application of learnings. Their good command of art and craft techniques were impressive. Although their activity plans were mostly teacher-directed, I was glad to see that the concept of play-based, emergent curriculum was eagerly observed. With demonstrations and explorations of the simple materials I brought over, such as pipe cleaners, pom-poms, paper plates, straws, beads, plastic yarn, dice, etc., their creativity was ignited and lit up the classroom. Meanwhile, their anxiety towards fresh knowledge inspired me.

When the good-bye day approached, we decided to hold a farewell sari party. On March 1, 2017, all the ECCE students put on their beautiful saris and helped me to put my sari on. It was the first time I ever wore a sari. The girls had a child-like joy that reminded me of the careful attention a little girl gives to her doll when dressing her up. We talked, sang, and danced. We enjoyed the tasty food and selfie moments. We exchanged gifts and cards. We hugged and hugged and expressed best wishes to each other. It was such a wonderful day, and I am keeping the friendships deep in my heart.

I would like to mention that I’m very glad that I made the decision to join the 2017 India Project. The experiences in India were overwhelmingly indescribable but made my last semester at George Brown a fascinating one, and contributed to a memorable ending.

Thank you,

Hua Li


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