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Final Reflections from the Down Team

Sunday 23 July 2017

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Saphara experience as it provided me with a different perspective on the world! 

Matthew Carrick, St Patrick’s Grammar

I am so grateful to Saphara for giving me this opportunity to gain a new world perspective. My eyes have been opened to so many issues surrounding poverty and education and it has inspired me to use my life to make a difference in the work, no matter how small that difference might be.

Chloe McCullough, Assumption Grammar

My ‘journey with purpose’ has left me feeling fulfilled, yet striving all the more to fulfil others. I have gained a new perspective on a wide variety of issues, such as girls empowerment and the building of resilience in those who are under–privileged. Saphara has given me the chance to gain a holistic view of India’s extremes and inspired me to work for change.

Clodagh Stitt, Assumption Grammar

Without a doubt, I can say that this trip has been the most incredible adventure of my life! I have never felt more at peace and yet at the same time I have never worked harder after seeing how much of a difference the work of Saphara has on the lives of the children from marginalised communities around the Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA schools. Each child that I got to work with has left a massive impression on me and I go home knowing that those impressions and memories will never leave me.

Aoife Taggart, Assumption Grammar

If I am going to be totally honest, I was petrified about going away with Saphara, I felt it was a burden, but man was I wrong! Saphara has made me see the world in an entirely different way and has given me memories that will inspire me to achieve my goals in the future. However, Saphara has also acted as a family away from home and I know that wherever I am in the world I will always be privileged to say I have not 1, but 2 amazing families supporting me.

Adam Bell, St Patrick’s Grammar

When I embarked on this ‘journey with purpose’ two and a half weeks ago I had absolutely no idea how much of an impact it would have on me. I can honestly say that it has been an experience of a lifetime, and it, hands down, has to be the best few weeks of my life. The bonds that were made with the children of both the Kaplani and SNEHA schools, as well every minute spent in front of a class teaching have been a truly unforgettable and amazing experience, which I will cherish forever. I believe I will take many things home with me, such as the remarkable resilience of the pupils of SNEHA. What has made the trip even more incredible has to be the fact that I was lucky enough to spend it with 19 of the best people I have ever met and the memories will never be forgotten.

Katy Fitzpatrick, Assumption Grammar

Before coming on this trip I was so scared and anxious about what the 16 days would entail and how we would all get on as a group. I can now say that the past 2 and ½ weeks have been the most amazing days ever. India has opened my eyes and broadened my perspective on the world. The relationships created at both Kaplani and SNEHA will forever be in my heart and something I will always reflect on. The kids have also allowed me to challenge my attitudes towards things – learning from their resilience and their commitment to their education. The past 16 days have been spent with the most incredible people, with whom I know I have friends for life.

Shannon Conway, Down High

My first impressions of India (after the heat!) were the vibrant colours, smells and sights, which together made the country immediately outstanding! I will never forget how hard working the people in poverty are and their desire to keep on working through everything. The children that we encountered both in the mountains and in the city, and also the adults we met who supported them, such as Dr Reeta and Surender, are the most inspiring people I have ever met. It was amazing to hear how they sacrificed so much for the benefit of the communities we worked in. My journey with purpose has been tough, inspiring and joyful and I would drop everything to go back any minute – this has been the experience of a lifetime.

Emily Adams, Down High

I am so thankful that I was able to be part of Saphara, for such a life changing journey with purpose. We didn’t only get the chance to teach amazing children, but also to learn from their strength, enthusiasm and joyfulness. There are no words to describe how amazing it is to walk into a class of beaming kids who have walked miles in monsoon rain just to be able to go to school. Meeting these children, as well as people like Dr Reeta and Surender, who have given up so much to help their communities, was truly inspiring. I am so grateful to have had the experience with such an amazing team of students and leaders.

Victoria Clarke, Down High

It is absolutely unbelievable how quickly our 16 days in India have passed. There are no words to explain how fulfilling and unforgettable it has been, from the moment we left Belfast on the 6th July. Seeing the poverty in India has opened my eyes massively and I can truthfully say it has changed the way I look at the world. Seeing the hardworking ethos each and every child has is extremely touching. At Kaplani, SNEHA and Donk, seeing their smiling faces as you walk into the classroom is indescribable. Also, meeting Dr Reeta and Surender has been such a pleasure and to hear their story has been extremely touching. I have shared many laughs with the team and I am happy to say I have made 19 new best friends for life. Thank you Saphara for my journey with a purpose.

Niamh Poland, Assumption Grammar

One quote that I kept getting in my head throughout this trip is, “in your entire lifetime if you save or better someone’s life, your birth as a human being, your life is a success.” Our main aim as a team was to make a small difference to the lives of those who are less fortunate than us. Our team of 20 young people worked cohesively and strived towards this at all times. I can genuinely say that we have all bonded as a team and supported each other through the slightly tougher times. However, what is even more inspiring is the stories of the children themselves. Their positive attitude and enthusiasm towards learning is extremely humbling. This had an impact on all of us as we contemplated how fortunate we are to have such easy access to education and other life–changing opportunities. I would like to thank Saphara for this experience which has definitely altered my own attitude and levels of gratitude for the better.

Gabrielle Ross, Down High

I’m just a little speechless! From a quiet street in Downpatrick to the hustle and bustle of Dehradun, the beautiful mountains of Mussoorie and the blaring horns and many tuk tuks of Delhi, you cannot come home the same person. I am so thankful to have encountered such a life changing trip. I simply cannot convey how seeing the poverty in India has totally changed my view of the world and how it has highlighted how materialistic we are in comparison to the people of India. Seeing how much each child values school and is willing to learn, turning up each day with a beaming smile warmed my heart. Getting to meet living legends like Surender and Dr Reeta was such a pleasure. I want to thank my 19 new best friends for making my Saphara journey so special.

Alice Lennon, Down High

I have never been more open or comfortable with a group of people in my life. The Saphara family is an experience where you make new friends, family and memories. The work Saphara does is amazing and I’m glad to have been a part of it. Teaching children who are all so special, coming from underprivileged areas has been amazing. People say this is a “once in a life time experience” – however, having seen how the money raised is used by Saphara, I tell you, I’ll be back! Saphara is honestly a journey full of hope, care, love and of course, a purpose.

Fiona Savage, St Patrick’s Grammar

Words cannot describe our journey with purpose. Amazing, eye–opening, life–changing and totally unforgettable. It has made me realise how many people are struggling terribly every day for things we take for granted, such as food, water and education. We have seen first–hand the effects of girl’s empowerment and where our fundraising has gone. As for the 20 pupils who left sixteen days ago, we are not a team but a family.

Roisin Goodman, Assumption Grammar

I can honestly say that this journey with purpose has completely exceeded all my expectations. Every single moment has been unforgettable, from teaching the most incredible, loving and enthusiastic pupils in SNEHA and Kaplani, to meeting the truly inspiring Dr Reeta and Surender. We have seen how education can have such a huge impact on some of the poorest communities of India, but the children taught us much more than we could ever teach them. The journey wouldn’t have been the same without the 19 brothers and sisters gained along the way.

Anna Hogg, Down High

My Saphara experience has opened my eyes to the extreme wealth and poverty that exists within India. I have seen slums 200 meters from a 5–star hotel in Agra, where the super–rich live one street away from the people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. This trip has motivated me not to ignore poverty regardless of how close I am to it and I am thankful to all the members of the Saphara team that have allowed me to realise this.

Matthew Leneghan, St Patrick’s Grammar

This journey across India has been amazing. I’m so glad I was able to meet lots of new people and teach the most enthusiastic and eager children I have ever had the privilege of getting to know.

Marc Savage, Down High


It’s hard to describe the difficulties faced by the children living in incredible urban and rural poverty. However even more difficult to describe is the sheer refusal to give up without a fight which was evident in the children in all of the schools I was privileged to visit, in the adults who help these children, and particularly in those staff who were originally part of those marginalised communities and who, through the opportunity that education provides, are now working in support of those very same communities.
Equally impressive was the work of our own students on the Down team who were able to find incredible reserves of energy, compassion, team spirit, and love for each and every individual they encountered.  They are a fantastic bunch and their empathy and ability to reflect and grow makes them a credit to their families and schools.

Emer Campbell, teacher from St Patrick’s Grammar

Saphara 2017 proved another amazing experience. Having been on the trip before, it is always so special for me to meet up with people in India who feel like friends after all the years. From the drivers who take us to school each day, or around the madness of Delhi traffic, to the staff in both Sneha and Kaplani schools and MGVS. We are met with smiles and genuine warmth from everyone we encounter and the work Saphara does in India never ceases to amaze me.
As for our own team, our young people rose to every challenge thrown at them and then some! They were resilient beyond belief, found humour in every situation and enveloped each other with love, care and compassion.
Thank you to all the team leaders and especially Catherine McKillop for her leadership. Thank you Saphara. Thank you India.

Hilary McGuire, teacher from Down High

I joined the team just a month before departure, and consider myself so privileged to have done so.  The last few weeks have been incredible – my heart is so full. Returning to SNEHA and seeing familiar faces was a total joy, but so too was being adopted by 20 seventeen year olds into their Saphara family.  Coming home is hard; as I write this I’m looking out at a beach filled with children splashing and giggling, and yet I have tears in my eyes knowing that this is so far removed from life for my Indian friends.  But I’m reminded that even though my perspectives change, I have a God who remains the same yesterday, today and forever; and he holds me, the Down team, our Indian friends, and indeed the greater picture of the whole world in His hands.  May He take and use us as He sees fit.

Jill Mulligan, Saphara

Saphara is about empowering individuals to effect change. While this is a high ideal it can in fact happen on many levels. The Down 2017 team did not just visit India but set out on a journey, open to be transformed as individuals. It was an amazing privilege to be alongside a great bunch of young people from Assumption, Down High and Red High as they rose to and surpassed all the challenges set before them. Their contribution to the work of Sneha, MGVS and Saphara was outstanding. I was blessed to be a small part of the team that facilitated this.

Dominic Breen, Saphara and retired teacher from Assumption Grammar

“My heart is full of thankfulness”. Never has the opening line to this gorgeous hymn been more true to me. The Saphara Down team 2017 have been simply amazing.
Two memories stand out from this trip: firstly, after a week of heavy rain and mist, when the clouds finally cleared at Kaplani and we were treated to the stunning mountain scenery. This is a view I will never tire of.
However, one that tops this is meeting some of the past–pupils of SNEHA school who are now working as classroom assistants in the morning and then studying with the Open University in the evening, some to become teachers, with the desire to inspire young people as they have been inspired. These young ladies are a wonderful testimony to what one person can achieve when they are shown compassion and nurtured. It is wonderful to see the funds raised by Saphara and its supporters making such a tangible difference.

Catherine McKillop (team leader), Saphara 


Posted in Down Team 2017
on Sunday 23 July 2017