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Fr. Nelson's Boys Peel Half a Banana Over Mumbai's Opulent Taj Mahal Hotel and Olympics

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Three+ decades ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the slums of Bombay doing Urban Community Development.

(Click here for Peace Corps Story Jam YouTube narrative from San Francisco's MoJo Theater of this written piece.)

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Sometimes us UCDers would feel that we were not achieving much "community development."

To offset that negative feeling I would undertake seemingly little projects that I hoped helped in some small way.

That's how I met Fr. Nelson's boys who taught me a deeper meaning to Breaking Bread and Urban Community Development... by Peeling Half a Banana a day.

**

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Father Nelson was the assistant priest at Our Ladies Home Orphanage. The elder priest was his superior, but as far as I could tell did next to nothing but stay in his room. Father Nelson was with the kids 24/7.

I asked Father Nelson if he'd be open to having me teach physical training to the boys. I quickly learned that he hoped that after my trainings, he and I would occasionally share a glass of wine to talk about the world. Since his days were filled 24/7 with orphaned boys talk, he worried about developing an orphaned brain.

**

My last days with Fr Nelson's boys went something like this.

During the last weeks of my service, I took large groups of boys on a little tour.

Although the train was less than mile walk from the orphanage, most of the boys had never ridden it. We took the train to Church Gate railroad station and walked to the waterside tourist attraction called the Gateway of India, adjacent to the majestic and famed Taj Mahal Hotel, attacked by terrorist in 2008.

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I got the boys ice cream sandwiches, which I am quite sure was the first they ever had. As we ate the ice cream gathered around an old boat docked near the Gateway of India Arch, I was more surprised to learn that this was the first time the boys had seen the Indian Ocean.

As we started walking back to the train station, we had to pass the Taj Mahal Hotel, so I gave the kids another first. I walked them through a section of the courtyard that cuts through the ritzy hotel.

From flickr.com/photos/67769030@N07/6362182215/: Mumbai, Taj Hotel, Gateway of India
Mumbai, Taj Hotel, Gateway of India
(Image by Arian Zwegers)
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Dwayne served in the Peace Corps in the slums of Mumbai, India, worked several Habitat Projects, and was on the start-up team of the California Conservation Corps. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, has been a builder, teacher, (more...)
 

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