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Reflections on the Trip

Monday 25 July 2016

 I hope you have enjoyed reading our blog which we began on the 7th July as we departed from Dublin Airport. The two pilots on our outward flight to Dubai had their photographs taken with us on that occasion. The Captain said to me that the trip to India would be a fantastic opportunity for our young people. As I write my final reflection I have to say that the 2016 Down Team trip was fantastic for me also. I have had a great team of co–leaders with me, David, Emma Rose, Gráinne, and Joanne. They worked tirelessly to care for the team and to inspire them to be the best teachers that they could be. We had great moments of hilarity together and supported each other when we individually began to flag. I would like to thank them for their support and friendship.

To the Down Team I would like to say congratulations for being ‘the best’ in every way. This particularly showed itself when we had the disappointment of not going to Sneha School, Dehradun, for one of our scheduled days. Diarmuid so encouraged us when he proclaimed that ‘out of disappointment comes opportunity’. The whole team did wonderful and important work in all of the three schools we visited. The quality of teaching and display work met the highest standard set in my nine years of coming to India with Saphara.

Thank you to the whole team for being so easy to lead and for your willingness to help on so many occasions. Thank you for your honest and open sharing at reflections. You all know that I would like each of you to continue to reflect on your journey and allow it to transform your days and years ahead.



From the beginning of the trip I knew that emotions would be a big part of our journey, I was sad, happy, nervous and anxious through the trip. On the first day of teaching I didn’t know what to expect as I had never done anything like it before but when I was leaving I was happy as I knew that I had given it my best shot on that day and knew that I would be able to look back at it and do better for the next. When we were leaving Kaplani I didn’t quite know how to feel as I was happy with the work I had done but sad I had to leave them.

When we were teaching in Sneha I had similar feelings as before because of the fact that it was a new school with different pupils and I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of the day  felt conformable around them and didn’t feel any pressure. I was heartbroken to find out that we wouldn’t be teaching them again on after two days, but Dominic was looking at the glass half full and saw  this as an opportunity to do something great for the school rather than doing nothing about it.

I really felt that I made a huge impact on the children that I taught as they always seemed so happy for us to come to their schools and letting us take over the classroom for a few days. Thank you to everyone who helped support me and helped to make this a ‘journey with purpose’.

Dillon Morgan St Patrick’s


Before coming on this trip I never pictured that India would have had as big an impact on me as it has had. I thought that I would just be teaching English in three schools but I didn’t consider what this experience would teach me about the world and also about myself. The pupils at Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA have left a lasting impression on me. Every child that I had the pleasure of meeting showed happiness, respect and enthusiasm in everything they did, inside and outside of the classroom. I hope that I can try to be more like them in everything I do and be more appreciative of everything that I have.

Seeing the poverty in India was a huge shock, it was far worse than anything I imagined. However, the great work that Saphara has been involved with has demonstrated that change is possible and that even one person can make a huge difference. Overall, I have had the most amazing trip, I have now got great memories of India, with the students at each school and also with the rest of the Down team who have been amazing teachers and friends on this journey.

Brona Starkey Assumption


I had heard from people on previous Saphara teams that this was a life changing experience; however I only fully grasped the impact that it would have on me when I began teaching in the first of the three schools. I have learnt so much from this trip and the impact that it has had on me is profound. It was a privilege to teach in all of the schools and I absolutely loved getting to know the pupils on a more individual level. Although we have taught valuable lessons and skills to the children of Kaplani, Donk and Sneha, they have also taught me so much. The children in all schools possessed admirable qualities such as enthusiasm, joyfulness and respect for both their teachers and fellow students. Their attitude and they way in which they view and value their education is definitely something that I will take from this trip and learn from.

When we arrived in Delhi the poverty became immediately apparent. I was particularly struck by the stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor. Later in the trip we experienced firsthand the harsh realities that students at Sneha face when visiting the marginalised community. This was an eye opening experience which has changed my perceptive on things.

Lastly, I just want to thank the teachers for giving up their summer to give us this amazing opportunity. This has been an incredible experience for me and I couldn’t have shared it with a better bunch of people!

Lois Tate Down High


This is an experience like no other; India has changed and developed me as an individual. I have loved teaching at the three different schools, Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA and for certain, the children that I have had the pleasure of meeting have had more of an impact on me than I will ever have had on them.

Every day of the trip brought new challenges which I enjoyed working through with the best team I could’ve asked for. I know the things I have experienced in the last 16 days, I will never have the chance to experience ever again but that is why Saphara is truly special. I would like to thank my team, the teachers involved and Saphara for giving me this opportunity.

Rebecca McLoughlin Down High


I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of my Saphara journey. The amazing enthusiasm, impeccable manners and sheer pride the students showed when displaying their work are only some of the millions of things I could list about what made my trip so special. I can whole–heartedly say that the days I have spent teaching in Kaplani, Donk and Sneha will hold some of the most cherished memories from my life.

Throughout the whole trip my emotions have fluctuated from day to day. The contrasts that are glaringly obvious in the India society are just non–existent at home. The extreme poverty and deprivation of many families became apparent within our first thirty minutes in the country and to be an on–looker to this throughout the whole trip was incredibly difficult but I feel through this and many other aspects of the trip I have become a stronger person.

I could not have imagined a more supportive, accepting and kind team to have ventured on this journey with and I know the friendships I have made will last a very long time. I would like to thank each and every individual on the 2016 Down Team especially the five teachers for their continuous hard work and for this incredible experience.

Lara McKenna Assumption


Saphara really has been some of most important days of my life so far. As soon as I landed in Delhi airport I knew that this was no ordinary trip; the immense poverty was immediately obvious and this only served as a motivator for the team to give their very best in teaching later on in the week. I really have never seen any group of individuals who have so little in terms of possessions but have so much in terms of manners, enthusiasm, happiness and eagerness to learn. I think everyone on the team has learnt so much from the kids at Sneha and Kaplani and it could be seen from the daily reflections that big changes were going on in everyone’s attitudes to the world we live in.

I loved forming relationships especially with the kids in my class at Kaplani and it really was hard to say goodbye. However despite having to leave, as Dominic puts it, “the other half of the team”, when leaving each school we always had the support of one another. Everyone on the Saphara team has been incredible and it has been fantastic getting to know every single individual.

The big realisation from this trip for me was that we are so sheltered from real poverty where we live; without going out of our way we barely see it. However this experience wasn’t just about going to witness poverty, it was about going and trying to make a real difference by inspiring the young generations by showing them through words and actions that they are valued and that they have huge potential. I really feel blessed to have been part of this work and I would recommend that no one misses the opportunity to do something like this in their lives.

Michael Harper Down High


Saphara has been an experience that I feel will change us all as people. From the first experience of Delhi I was truly shocked by the sheer poverty that there is in the world. Some people may think that they know of poverty but when you experience it yourself it has a profound and life changing effect on your life. I know for a fact that I will look at the world from a very different angle now as I have seen that back home we focus on such trivial things when in reality there is so much more that we could spend our time doing.

I could not write my final reflection without mentioning the rest of the team. Simply they have been amazing. Each and every one of them has put their all into absolutely everything that we have done in India. I honestly couldn’t have wished for a better group of people to go through this with. I know for a fact that I have made lifelong friendships and I am extremely proud to have played a part in what these amazing people have done. Each individual is honestly exceptional in their own right and I cannot wait to see what amazing things that many of them are destined to do in the future.

Finally, it is only right that the final word that I write on this blog page is dedicated to the children which we had the pleasure of teaching in India. I came out here with the impression that I would teach them…and that did happen don’t worry but in all honesty I feel that I have learned more from the kids than I could possibly have taught them. Their enthusiasm and love for education has been something which will live on in the memory. The kids at the schools are honestly some of the most inspirational people that I have ever met and I will never forget them.

Saphara is a fantastic organisation that I am very proud to have been part of and from what I have experienced over the past two weeks I can one hundred percent say that education is the way forward for these kids and thank you so much for the chance to experience truly remarkable trip with truly remarkable people.

Jordan Haslett Down High


Back in October when I was chosen to be on the Saphara team I couldn’t have imagined this trip would affect me this much. It has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least but I can honestly say it has completely changed my whole outlook on life. The children we have met at Kaplani, Donk and Sneha are so intensely happy and willing to learn, even living in this extreme poverty. I will forever cherish the memories I have of these amazing children. I have learnt so much more from them than they could ever learn from me.

Saphara is an amazing organisation which shows that education is the root of change and we can really make a difference to the lives of these children if we teach them and show them that they are important, which is what we have all strived to do over the last 16 days. India has been a huge culture shock, from our first day here to our last, but seeing this poverty just encouraged us to put even more into our lessons.

My Saphara team has been incredible with their constant encouragement, support and kindness throughout the whole journey. Each individual on the team gave one hundred percent in everything they did and I have learnt a lot from them. I want to thank my team who I know I have made lifelong friendships with, and the teachers who have provided us with this incredible opportunity. This is the experience of a lifetime and I have shared the best time of my life with this team, so I would sincerely encourage everyone to get an opportunity to do something like this because you definitely won’t regret it.

Orlaith Gormley Assumption


Saphara has been a truly life–changing experience that has definitely broadened my horizons and developed me as a person. I have been immensely inspired by all of the kids we had the pleasure of teaching at Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA as well as numerous other key figures we have met during the trip, such as Dr Reeta. Travelling to the marginalised community to witness the conditions some of these kids live in was a humbling and eye–opening experience. Their enthusiasm, positive energy and incredible attitude encouraged each and everyone one of us to give our maximum effort in the lessons and planning. Their unique personalities will always remain with me.

I had the opportunity to come on this trip with a few best friends, but I will leave with many more. Everyone in the team became a unit on day one and worked exceptionally well together, never failing to provide each other with encouragement, support and a lot of laughs as well. I would like to thank you all for making this trip so enjoyable. I would also like to thank the teachers for giving up their time, allowing us to complete this incredible journey and develop as people. Finally, Saphara is an organisation that carries out incredible work that has a positive impact on the kids’ education and consequently provides them with a better future. I would strongly encourage anyone considering applying to be a part of a Saphara team to go for it, it will be the experience of a life time. 

Dylan Fitzpatrick Down High


The past two weeks have flown by with our time on Saphara, we’ve packed so much into each day on the trip and no minute has gone to waste. Be it at Delhi, visiting the Taj Mahal and embracing the culture and history of India, to teaching at Kaplani, Donk and Sneha. I feel over the trip that we were given a great opportunity to help others, and also, to learn a little bit more about ourselves. This hasn’t been easy though, as very often (especially in Delhi) we were often faced with the two paradoxes of extreme wealth, and extreme poverty. However the trip in itself has been life changing as I’ve seen many of the people who initially joined up for Saphara flourish in working with children, to looking out for one another as if a big family.

Teaching in Kaplani was the highlight of my trip. It had its ups and downs, but it left me feeling both stressed about planning the lessons and attempting to carry them out working within the class groups we were in, with the addition of trying to improvise on the few occasions things didn’t go to plan in the classroom. It gave me a very balanced experience of teaching and has inspired me to consider it for later life.

Saphara has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us on the trip, and I would encourage others to join and help wherever they can as Saphara doesn’t just give money to these children, it gives the skills to help people fend for themselves. As the saying goes “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for life.”

Cameron Herron St Patrick’s


All the people on the team and back home know that I could write an essay about my time with Saphara. It has been an absolutely incredible experience and I want to thank all of the teachers, Dominic and Christine for giving me the opportunity to embark on this adventure of a lifetime. I will cherish every moment I taught in the classrooms of Kaplani, Donk and Sneha but my most memorable experience was playing cricket with the Kaplani pupils during recess, I have never witnessed such talent in my sporting career.

Saphara has been a long 16 days that flew by so quickly. I was lucky enough to come to India with some of my best friends but I can honestly say I am leaving with 20 who are all such amazing and influential people. Everything that we have witnessed is indescribable and cannot be put into words and that is why the trip has made such a profound impact on all of us. I could not recommend applying for Saphara enough; it will change your outlook on life.

Brittany Hogan Down High


It is nearly impossible to describe my journey in India in just a short account as every single second of the trip was such a highlight for me and I could only describe it as the best opportunity I have been given. This trip allowed me to fully look at and actually appreciate teaching and from having the opportunity to teach in three schools during my time in India, Saphara has enabled me to recognise my love for teaching and my love for helping children and from this I really believe I would like to choose this as a future career path and I can only thank Saphara for this.

The adventures that we embarked on were incredible. Although the main focus was on the teaching, having the opportunity to visit the slums was definitely a picture in my head I will never forget. The last school that we taught in (Sneha) was particularly memorable for me as the Saphara team got to see some of the students’ houses which were described as shacks with only one room which would be for a family for 6 or even 8. That particular event hit me especially as although at home we are shown the extreme poverty in countries such as India, it is much more different and real in person walking into their home.

Another thing which I have learnt is that Saphara has enabled me to change myself and help me realise how to make a change and in what ways I would do so. I have honestly met so many amazing people and I have met 20 inspiring friends that have helped me every second on the trip and from being with my team, they have actually made my time so special and I know I will keep in contact with every single member and I honestly feel so lucky to be a part of the team. Lastly, to Dominic, Christine and all the teachers and members that are involved, every Saphara member appreciates how much time and dedication you put into the children’s lives and I personally find it so inspiring to see that and witness how the work every team has done has gone 100% into further enriching and benefitting the children. For anyone considering Saphara, it is the best opportunity you will have and it will put you out of your comfort zone in so many brilliant ways.

Maéve McCaffrey St Patrick’s


Saphara has given me the unique experience of offering an utterly unforgettable trip to an absolutely amazing country, while being able to meet some amazing people and forge lifelong friendships, and (for me) most importantly, has allowed every team member to create real, life–changing impacts of the lives of the children that we have been able to teach. Before coming on this trip I had no idea of the effect that teaching at Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA would have on either us or the children, but now I can undoubtedly say that teaching at these schools was the absolute highlight of the entire trip. I have never experienced anything as rewarding as helping the children build up their understanding of English over the course of the week, and I will treasure memories of each class that we taught for the rest of my life. It was incredibly humbling to witness the manners, enthusiasm and respect of these children and it has definitely given me much to think about when I return home.

I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart, all of the teachers that were involved in making Saphara a continuing success, and particularly Dominic and Christine; seeing first–hand what Saphara has achieved was extraordinarily inspiring, and I feel so lucky to have been part of this experience.

Rory Horder Down High


I can honestly say that applying for Saphara was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had no idea going on this trip would make such an impact on me. Teaching in Kaplani, Donk and Sneha was so rewarding. The enthusiasm and smiles of the children is something I will never forget. Teaching class 10 in Kaplani has to be the highlight of the trip as Rory, Lara and I only had 9 pupils meaning we got to know them all on such a personal level and I have to say they are 100% the brightest and most amazing children I have ever met.

The group of 20 young people, most of which I didn’t know this time last year, have enhanced my experience greatly. The support we all gave to each other was a massive help and I feel so privileged to have met them. We also got loads of support from the teachers who were there with us and I really appreciate it. I would also like to thank everyone involved with keeping Saphara an ongoing charity.

Ellen Murphy Assumption


I can’t express how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to become a part of the Saphara experience. The past 16 days have been incredible thanks to the inspiring people I have been so lucky to meet along the way.

Visiting India was a massive culture shock, but so worthwhile. The children I met at Kaplani, Donk and Sneha taught me so much with their infectious enthusiasm, happiness and love for life. I can honestly say I will never forget them.

The group of young people I was so fortunate to share this experience with made all the tough times easier from leaving the schools to visiting the marginalised communities.

I would like to thank all the teachers who cared for us over the past two weeks. They have been an incredible support to us all and I appreciate all the ongoing work they have been doing since the beginning.

Ciara McMullan Assumption


I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say this has truly been an experience of a lifetime. Being completely immersed in such a diverse culture was just incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share this journey with! It’s hard to believe that within two and a half weeks with a group of teenagers all in constant company there was not one argument the whole time. We have all become such a close support unit for each other and I am confident that during this adventure we have formed friendships that will last a lifetime. This experience has been so eye–opening for me in many aspects; from becoming more thankful for what I have in life and not taking anything for granted, to having the upmost respect for my education and my teachers, considering I now know how much hard work goes into their lessons. I will always cherish the memories of the children from Kaplani, Donk and Sneha as they are easily the most influential factor of this trip. Their intelligence, enthusiasm and perfect manners impacted me beyond what words can describe. I am forever thankful for everyone who made this journey possible both financially and prayerfully and cannot recommend it more to anyone considering applying for next year’s team, it WILL change your life.

Ruth Steenson Down High

Lotus Temple
Lotus Temple


My time in India with the Saphara team can be summarised as unforgettable. Over the past sixteen days we have experienced so much in such a short period of time. We have seen so many amazing buildings such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and The Lotus Temple but we have also seen the slums and visited some childrens’ houses from Sneha. It was very strange seeing a huge contrast in such a small distance. I can honestly say that this experience has been the most incredible journey and it truly is a once and a life time opportunity. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I can guarantee it has made a huge impact on all of our lives. The highlight of my trip was teaching in Kaplani, I was completely blown away by the children’s enthusiasm and joy in the classroom. It has 100% made me appreciate my school. Thank you to everyone who has helped with fundraising and making this journey happen. I am sure that our team has learned as much, if not more than what the children in India learned from us. 

Jessica Crowe St Patrick’s


This two week experience with Saphara has been utterly inspiring; the friends that I’ve made and the bonds that I’ve established will hopefully last forever. My journey with purpose through India has helped to develop me both personally and interpersonally as well as teaching me a lot about the value and importance of education. This experience has opened my eyes as to how education can affect the lives of individuals much like me only in a much different situation. The opportunities I have been given on this trip are endless and I would like to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who has helped to make this once in a lifetime trip a reality for me; namely the amazing teachers who led us and everyone who contributed to my fundraising. Thanks again to everyone.

Diarmuid Curran St Patrick’s


After completing my two week Saphara journey, I can honestly say that applying was one of the best decisions of my life. Through experiencing the Indian culture and having the opportunity to teach at three different schools, my outlook on life has undoubtedly changed. This has been enhanced by being able to do this with 20 other young people, all of whom I would call extremely close friends. This journey has truly opened my eyes as to how those in underprivileged communities really live and I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to make a difference – It truly has been a journey with purpose.

Conor Watterson St Patrick’s


I cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunity I’ve received, not only did we get to see some of India’s beautiful places like the Taj Mahal, but we the definite highlight of the trip was teaching in each school. This was because seeing the happiness on the faces of the children revived us every day no matter how tired. The whole trip was better than I could have ever imagined and I’ve gained so much from the experience. I will admit that the fact we had an amazing team made the trip easier and I consider all them close friends. I would finally just like to add my thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Laura Dagens  Asumption


I can say with 100% honesty that this trip has been an adventure of a lifetime, from the 5:00am wake ups to the numerous treks to the 24 hours of travelling to get home. Being on this trip has definitely had a lifelong effect on me. I now know that not everybody in the world has the same comforts and opportunities as me and because of this I have become more appreciative of the opportunities and things I have in life. The teaching aspect of this trip has also shown me that even after a few days at 2 schools we can make a difference to the Indian children’s ability to speak English, even if that difference was very small. These last 16 days of travelling­­ and teaching have been a blast, and were made even better by the 20 other students on the team, who were so friendly and supportive to me and one another. It was a true pleasure to work with and get to know each and every one of them. The enthusiastic, kind and appreciative nature of the students has been truly refreshing. This kind of attitude has shown me that they truly care about their education no matter what walk of life they come from. To conclude, I would recommend this trip to anyone who wishes to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate as them. I would also like to thank Dominic, the other teachers and the 20 other students on the trip for giving me an experience and adventure of a life time. 

Samuel Halleron St Patrick’s

Posted in Down Team 2016
on Monday 25 July 2016