When I decided to take a gap year, I wanted to travel to a place I had never been to before. At the same time, I aspired to do something substantial – something that would leave a mark in my life and that of another’s. However, the latter was a slightly harder dream to achieve; how was I supposed to positively impact someone else’s life at the age of 18? How could I, a student who’d barely started college, potentially improve the world if I didn’t even have a real job yet? Given the circumstances I was in, my dream seemed impossible to attain, but an experience with a classroom full of 8-year olds at a local Indian school gave me hope.
My first Clap Talk happened 2 weeks after traveling around Mumbai, India. Based on a friend’s recommendation, I visited Clap Global’s website and signed up for an experience that went on to become one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done. It was a conversation with 8-year olds who have barely been outside India, so when I initially asked these children about the Philippines, none of them had a clue where it was or who was from there. Still, the 30 pairs of eyes remained curious to what they were about to learn.
I told them about the bizarre street food my country has to offer, its unique way of selling Taho (Sweet Silken Tofu) around villages, and the unending amount of beaches you can visit. The little people in front of me remained enthusiastic throughout the talk. They laughed at my jokes, dropped their jaws when I showed them photos of the sunsets I had captured, and they made me feel part of their little community. Also, I learned more about a foreign country in an hour than I ever learned in school – these children gave me the real Indian experience. The fact that I was learning about it from people who were 10 years younger than me was absolutely incredible.
Then, I realized that I was actually helping my little Indian listeners become more open-minded about the world. By simply sharing stories about another country, I helped deepen their understanding of others. That though there are people who are from different countries, cultures and religions, people are still people. I wanted them to understand that, and seeing how we got along despite cultural differences, I think they did. Because of this, I wanted to do more Clap Talks.
On my 7th Clap Talk (yes!) I got the chance to talk to young adults. In other words, I was able to share about troubling, yet important issues in my country. The talk started off with normal, fun facts such as quirky Filipino gestures and colorful traditions, and like my younger listeners in the past, the elder students were amused and wore infectious smiles. This time, though, I brought up the Philippine War on Drugs and the religious-civil war happening in the southern region of my country – two tremendously tragic events.
I told them about the merciless manslaughter my nation is experiencing. I showed them photos of people lying dead on the streets because of mere criminal suspicions. I explained to these students how drug abusers and innocent people alike were not given court trials as long as the police thought they were guilty. The kids? They were confused. The passion I felt while talking about the issue radiated among these students.
The transition from a colorful Philippines to a dark, brutal one was reflected in their faces. Their eyes shifted from amazement to anguish. The frustration in their knitted eyebrows grew more intense as I went on, because these pure children probably did not think humans could do such inhumane things.
What moved me the most was when they started asking questions. 13-year olds asked me, “Why aren’t they just sent to rehabs?”, “Why aren’t they sent to court first?”, or “What happens to their families?” The sad part is that even I do not know the answers to these questions, yet it touched me how the suffering of people from a completely different country bothered their hearts. To know that you did not have to be Indian, but you just had to be human in order earn their sympathy, was a beautiful thought.
The more Clap Talks I gave, the more I believed that I was actually leaving a mark in people’s lives, as they were surely leaving marks in mine. For instance, I will never forget this boy who knew nothing about the Philippines except our dessert called halo-halo, and I will surely never forget that India’s national animal is the tiger. Like I said, it was the real Indian experience. In the end, I felt fulfilled because I achieved more than what I initially planned: not only did I travel to a place I had never been before, but I traveled in it through the eyes of Indian kids, who, I think I helped turn into more open-minded and global citizens.
I truly think that if students continue to experience Clap Talks, their global cultural understanding will deepen and they will grow into intelligent and accepting adults. If the youth is taught right, then the future will be how it should be – discrimination and racism will go extinct, there will be less wars and more harmony because the tolerant youth turned adults will see us all as the same.