The school teams always promise us a busy summer, with around 80 Northern Irish kids descending on India in the space of a month. Each trip lasts for two weeks with the pupils travelling between New Delhi, Dehradun and Mussoorie. The emphasis of their work is based around education and they will be preparing and teaching lessons to children of all ages, from some of the most deprived communities. Their time in India is both challenging and rewarding and on this page we want to give you a taste of their experiences using excerpts from our last ten years of blogs.
Journey with Awe – The beginning of the trip is inevitably a time of discovery, surprise and little sleep – “…our first impressions were of extreme heat, a cacophony of noises and strange smells.” After a little time to explore Delhi, the first stop on our Indian adventure is Agra and the “…awesome in the true sense of the word” Taj Mahal.
Journey with Anticipation – The train to Dehradun and subsequent taxi ride to Mussoorie surpasses every expectation. We begin work in Kaplani, a quiet but eager school where can almost work with each child individually. Their eagerness is evident from “the enjoyment that they get from the lessons…we cannot stress enough how incredible the children are in everything they do.”
“We are so high in the Himalayas that if you stand on tiptoe you can touch the sky!”
Journey with Awareness – The end of the first week is marked by the Global Awareness weekend, “when we took a break in between our teaching blocks to look at issues surrounding poverty and injustice in India.” This includes a trek to Donk Primary School, “the school on the hill.” The walk there is tough, especially when you think, “the small children do this every day, some in sandals with worn–away heels.” The weekend is a chance to reflect, recharge and get ready for the week ahead.
Journey with Confidence – We head back down the hill to Dehradun, the land of Vikrams – “imagine a blue box making the sound of 1000 tractors”, busy streets and SNEHA school. The whole atmosphere is different “– getting used to 50 kids in a class after 15 is quite a challenge!” and the children are more, “streetwise – their confidence shines through.” The highlight of the trip is often hearing “the inspirational” Dr Reeta explaining how SNEHA came to be, through a massive leap of her own faith.
Journey with Purpose – Visiting the communities themselves can be difficult. “It was quite hard to take it all in at first; all the smells, sounds and sights were breathtaking but not in a good way… and knowing this is where the children we teach come from is hard to accept”. However, most people come away with a sense of Saphara’s true purpose, to make a difference to the lives of hundreds through education.
Journey with Reflection
“What a shock and yet an incredible experience for my eyes, nose and heart.”
“Good people exist in the world. In its simplest form, Saphara’s purpose is to show us this.”
“It was reported whilst we were in India that over 1 in 5 Indians live below the poverty line, which in India is measured at living at below 25 rupees a day (25 pence or 40 cents). Immense as this is, it appears that the situation is improving, my understanding is that a decade ago the number of Indians living below the poverty line was closed to 1 in 3. Therefore, it seems even more vital that we continue to support the vital work we saw in India, in order to ensure that extreme poverty is challenged and hope is given to the lives of many more children.””
Down School Teacher 2013 Blog
The area around Dehradun contains a number of private schools, which gives the region a good reputation for quality education. However, these schools are available only to those who can afford them. In the most rural areas and urban slum communities, poverty and social stigmas continue to plague the prospects of those who need education most.This is a balance Saphara is trying to redress.