We woke up early in the morning with high hopes for teaching in the day ahead – we were all really looking forward to continuing with our craft lessons for ‘Walking Through the Jungle’, ‘Monkey Puzzle’ and ‘The Gruffalo’ for Classes 1–3, and our English conversation classes with pupils in the upper school of SNEHA. Vikrams arrived at 8 o’clock to take us to SNEHA and we set off with expectations for the day ahead.
However, driving through the local community, it became evident that the torrential monsoon rains had caused devastation and a crisis awaited us when we arrived at the gates of the school. The dismay on the faces of gathered pupils and staff members was very clear to see. Dr. Reeta and Ronjoy had already arrived at the school and we witnessed their absolute despair at the shocking scene they had discovered that morning as a result of the overnight rains which caused structural damage to the school walls. Walking up the road to the school made it obvious to us all how serious the damage was – houses were flooded and people were attempting to pour out water from the ground floor using buckets.
Approaching the school filled us all with nervous anxiety as we anticipated what we would see. As we reached the gates of SNEHA, we saw the devastation caused by the river. The wall beside the water tank had collapsed and water from the river beside had flooded the playground of the school. Many of the pupils, past and present, as well as teachers of SNEHA had already gathered and began trudging through the murky brown water, attempting to remove litter from the school. Seeing bits of the brick wall floating among the debris was really difficult, and the worst thing was seeing pigs scavenging through the litter too. This was particularly devastating as Dr. Reeta had begun her school on the streets of the slums with pigs disrupting lessons, and it appeared almost like a full circle had occurred. Downcast emotions filled everyone’s faces and Dr. Reeta looked utterly heartbroken as she witnessed her years of hard work marred by this natural disaster. We could clearly see how panicked the Sneha community was, as they surveyed the extent of water damage and attempted to filter water out of the classrooms.
For both the Down Team and the University Team, the entire situation was devastating to behold. It was shocking to believe that the flooded and rubbish–filled playground had been in use the day before for P.E activities and the uplifting nursery school assembly, and we were all incredibly emotional on our journey back to the hotel, as we hated feeling helpless about this situation that was out of our control.
Unfortunately, our team was only able to stay at SNEHA School briefly as the stagnant water posed risk of disease and Dr. Reeta was concerned about keeping us protected from this. We all felt conflicted, as we desperately wanted to help. However, we recognised that in this situation, the best thing we could do was to follow Dr Reeta’s advice and leave. For all of us, Dr. Reeta remained a figure of strength and hope for SNEHA School and surrounding community. Despite the damage caused to the school, we all knew that Sneha as a community would strive onwards and progress – this would be far from the end of the story of SNEHA’s community and would simply be another obstacle that the community would conquer.
Returning to the hotel was difficult after we learned how badly the flooding water had impacted on the marginalised community from which the children of SNEHA came – houses had been swept away, and others were damaged beyond repair. However, we had reflections about what we saw, and how we felt, and we realised that although we couldn’t help the Sneha community physically, we could help them with our time. So, we rallied together as a team and committed ourselves to actively providing support for SNEHA by creating boxes for resources to send to the school. We did arts and crafts that could be sent on to the pupils to help reignite the sense of community when the school could reopen. Our team donated resources for the classes, toiletries for the children and art material based on the lessons that we missed. While we all felt disheartened that we wouldn’t be able to return to SNEHA School, we were able to feel hopeful that our investment of time creating these resources would be valuable. Owen drew giant posters of the animals from the “Gruffalo” and everyone gathered together to help him colour it in.
After spending a few hours working on the boxes we were to give, we had the privilege of hosting Dr Reeta and three of the girls from SNEHA who had recently completed the Henna Training Programme. Whilst Dr Reeta discussed plans with staff, both the girls and boys had their henna done.
After assessing the day’s work, we headed out for a special 18th birthday meal for Owen at ‘Salt and Cravings’. Although the day had been an emotional rollercoaster, we were glad to find positives at the meal and were still able to enjoy the night. Coming back to the hotel, we spent some time practicing songs for a performance to be given to SNEHA School staff and pupils. Ending the day on such a high note was uplifting for the entire team, and the singing talent of Saphara was ‘fully alive’. The entire atmosphere of the night was filled with hope and positivity and felt like an inspirational closing to our Saphara journey.
Owen and Jenny.Posted in Down Team 2018
on Thursday 12 July 2018