Cirecie West-Olatunji

Cirecie West-Olatunji, Associate Professor, Mental Health Track Coordinator Counselor Education at the University of Florida and ACA Governing Council Representatitve, is leading a People to People Disaster Mental Health Delegation to India. She will be sending us regular updates during her trip.

  • People To People Delegation To India, Day 7

    Nov 29, 2010
    11/22/2010 Day 7, Agra This was such an exciting day and it began before daybreak. Our alarms were set for 5:15a.m. so that we could gather at six o’clock in the lobby of the hotel to be shuttled to the East Gate entrance of the Taj Mahal. As sleepily we stood in line, it was clear that we (along with many other international visitors) were anxiously awaiting the opening of the gates. We had been told that there were very strict guidelines for the objects that could be brought into the gates: no sharp objects, food, beverages, electronic equipment (other than phone or regular camera). Camcorders were allowed at a fee but they could only be brought so many yards of the Taj. While we were standing in line, someone called to me to hurry and move, I turned around – just in time to sidestep a cow that was weaving between the tourists in queue.
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  • People To People Delegation To India, Day 6

    Nov 29, 2010
    11/21/2010 Day 6, On the Road to Agra Today, we started by gathering our belongings and checked out of the hotel in preparation for our trip to Agra. After driving about two hours, we stopped at a roadside establishment to stretch our legs. This was, of course, an opportunity to buy more souvenirs at their gift shop. It was crowded with tourists from all over the world.
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  • People To People Delegation To India, Day 5

    Nov 22, 2010
    11/20/2010 Jaipur-Day 5 November 20,th 2010 dawned bright and cheerful in Jaipur for the Disaster Mental Health team. We were asked to assemble early so that we could beat the crowd waiting for the special ride up to the Amber Fort. And very special it was!! We paired up in two’s to perch majestically on the back of a stately elephant, whose face was decorated with beautiful pastel chalk. As the elderly mahout guided the elephant, we enjoyed the spectacular views of the walled fort snaking its way amidst green landscape as we watched the sunrise behind the ramparts. The gyrating movement was unnerving in the beginning, but we were sad that it ended so soon, just as we were getting comfortable with the rocking sensations.
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  • People to People Delegation To India, Day 4

    Nov 22, 2010
    11/19/2010 Day 4, Jaipur At 9 a.m. this morning, the delegation of mental health counselors traveling with People to People, visited DISHA, an NGO established in 1995 to address the needs of children with mental, physical and neurological challenges. After watching a Powerpoint presentation given by the teachers at DISHA, we toured the facility, and then had a question and answer session. People to People mental health delegates introduced themselves and talked about their professional backgrounds and interests in learning from the model provided by DISHA for helping children with mental, physical, and neurological challenges. We were also privileged to meet the founder of DISHA, Mrs. Gauri.
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  • People To People Delegation To India, Day 3

    Nov 18, 2010
    Day 3, 11/18/2010-Delhi Today was a day for cultural excursions. We began with a tour of the city of Delhi to get a sense of the historical changes from Old Delhi to New Delhi. We learned that, over time, Delhi has been rebuilt 8 times. The Moguls (from Persia) were influential in changing much of the culture as well as the British. In the area of the city that has been influenced by the British, there are lavish buildings, wide avenues, and carefully manicured lawns. In this section of the city, we found the embassies as well as current government buildings. In particular, our guide pointed out where President Obama and the First Lady were received when they visit India recently. We also visited the burial memorial for Mahatma Gandhi where the eternal flame burns in his honor. The grounds were very peaceful with beautiful floral arrangements and lots of green grass. We toured Humayan’s Tomb built in the 16th C. There was beautiful stone and tile works that represented the influence of the Moguls.
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