During her visit, she experienced indescribable poverty as she visited huge slums where many struggled to survive. Yet in the midst of such heartbreaking deprivation there was hope – a local Christian charity who empowered women and children through education.
She met women struggling to provide for their families, whose greatest desire was to send their children to school. As a mother, teacher and human being, she was deeply moved by their plight. On returning to her school, Methodist College in Belfast, she spoke to her final year students of her experiences. Their response was unanimous – “We need to do something for these children – help them to get an education so they can escape from poverty.” Then one girl, Claire, spoke up saying,
So began the trips to India, which gave final year students the opportunity to work with an educational programme for children living in abject poverty. While the visits benefitted the Indian children and provided important funding for their education, it was the impact on the Northern Irish young people that took Christine by surprise. Spending time in a different culture with its many issues and difficulties, Christine began to reflect on Northern Ireland’s own challenges as it tried to build a peaceful and just society. More than that, she became fascinated by the issues of poverty, justice and faith in the wider world and decided to take action.
Inspired by the life–changing encounters between the Indian and Northern Irish young people, Christine resigned from her teaching post in July 2008 to set up Saphara as a UK–registered charity. She recruited Catholic and Protestant schools who shared her vision of inspiring students to become local and global citizens by coming on Saphara’s ‘Journey with Purpose’.
Since that time, Saphara has grown to run an number of annual trips with the goal of teaching English to students in deprived communities. Moreover, in addition to our education initiatives, we are working to empower girls and women of all ages, to improve the general welfare of our communities and to build long lasting ties with NGOs and other partners in India.
The Saphara teams and their encounters with the Indian communities remains at the heart of our work. Through working together we believe that we can create long–lasting change. In the words of mother Theresa, ‘I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together, we can do great things.’