Updated: Jun 29, 2019
Bangor in Agra
27th October 2018
After a few hours sleep and our first breakfast in India, team Bangor hit the town to buy our teaching clothes. The girls were spoiled for choice with an unbelievable array of colours and styles to choose from, but eventually everyone emerged with a selection of kurtas (tunics), leggings, trousers and dupattas (scarves). Meanwhile, the male contingent of the team enjoyed an authentic street shopping experience which equipped with a rainbow of kurtas and light coloured trousers.
A visit to the Gandhi Smitri museum provided a restful end to the afternoon, with historical inspiration provided by Mr Moreland. Following a feast of chicken curry, paneer, daal, rice and naan, we collapsed into bed for a very welcome early night.
A very early start on Saturday morning proved entirely worthwhile when we experienced one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the white marble of the Taj Mahal, followed by a sunset visit to the ancient sandstone of Agra Fort.
28th October 2018
Everything began overwhelmingly; absorbing the contrasting Indian culture but momentarily anticipating our teaching “fate” minutes before our first lesson of teaching.
To my surprise, all nerves were immediately alleviated walking in to the beautiful smiles. We were all greeted in English as we set to commence our lesson. Throughout the lesson, there was a key moment where I gave Asha, the smallest girl in our class, a golden sticker to commend her work and she cherished it. Normally, this act would be so insignificant at home.
Focusing on emotions and helping develop confidence through speaking has been very eye opening for me and furthermore, rewarding. Not only am I able to establish an involvement in creating opportunities for these children through English language but I’m learning important life lessons on the way.
The Value of Education
30th October 2018
Today the enthusiastic energy flooded the classroom as we entered; the children’s faces were full of delight and happiness when we introduced games such as Buzzy Bees. Excitement filled the air as we started to teach the children directions through song – ‘Where is Mister Monkey?’ Voices were raised and nervous vibes were muted as the children proudly sang this in small groups in front of their peers. Watching their progress in confidence and learning definitely put a smile on our faces. Teaching these ever so grateful children has positively changed my outlook on education!
As our teaching experience at Kaplani neared conclusion, the reality sank in. We would no longer have the pleasure of observing what pure joy and excitement looked like, or the sheer hunger and desire to learn. As we finished our last game of Buzzy Bees we were approached and surrounded, receiving the most powerful group hugs ever and being called Mulla Bulla (my brother). Bouncing around like popcorn kernels in a frying pan, we enjoyed the final moments. As we walked away I realised the genuine power and value of education through the smiling faces of the kids and it has provided me with a memory I will surely never forget.
Gareth and Rebecca
Surender and MGVS
1st November 2018
Today we had the pleasure of meeting a noble man called Surender Singh who works for Saphara’s partner, MGVS. It was fascinating to hear about his life growing up in a less economically developed country and the different careers he has experienced. It is interesting how learning the English language, which we take for granted, can impact someone’s life dramatically and change it for the better.
We also got the opportunity to trek part of the Himalayan foothills. As much as it was extremely challenging, it was amazing to take in such beautiful scenery.
Emotions were triggered as we discovered that two of the pupils we had taught in Kaplani lived in one of the houses we passed which had such limited living conditions. It struck a chord with us as we realised that the distance we walked today is the distance the children walk everyday to school and back.
Ellen and Ollie
A Safe Haven
2nd October 2018
Our first day at SNEHA started in a racing Vikram convoy to greet the keen children of SNEHA Academy. Once we made it through the winding streets in the scorching heat of Dehradun we were ready for our first day of teaching at SNEHA. We were greeted with a military standard assembly full of joyful hymns executed by the most enthusiastic children of all ages we have ever seen in our lives. A life changing assembly. When they started singing “Jesus’ love is very wonderful” it reminded us of home teaching the children in my Sunday school class. After every individual pupil finished greeting us with ‘good morning mam/sir’ we got a personal tour of the school in the middle of the hot and loud city of Dehradun. It felt like a safe haven.
Going into our first lesson we were nervous about meeting our class of 50 children. When we entered the classroom, we were greeted with “Good Morning sir, Good Morning mam”. This put us straight at ease. Splitting into our small groups it was amazing to see the eagerness of the children to learn compared to the attitude we have towards school. The children will never fail to surprise you with their range of abilities leaving you in constant awe at their amazing countless talents. After a successful 3 periods of laughs and learning from each other, we have never been more excited for another day of teaching at SNEHA Academy tomorrow. We are truly grateful for this amazing opportunity. God bless.
Charlie and Amy
Teaching in SNEHA
3rd October 2018
The day started as per usual with a Vikram ride. Had we been asked on Wednesday if it was possible to have a more exciting car journey than that of Dehradun to Mussorie we would have firmly said no however, as it turns out if you take the doors, one wheel and any form of suspension off a car, things could get far more uncomfortable. The Vikram left us off at the end of a bridge built over a river, the banks of which marked the boundaries of the marginalised community from which the majority of the SNEHA students we teach, come from. Upon arrival, we were informed that one of the women we were visiting had given birth to a son four hours before our arrival. Six people lived in this small dwelling on the edge of the river. No electricity, no running water and only a ‘makeshift’ fire to keep them warm. Living conditions in the community are among the worst in the world yet such joy from a new–born baby could lift spirits and put a smile on these people’s faces.
After this visit we proceeded to SNEHA Academy to begin our three lessons for the day. Students greeted us with the biggest smiles and laughter as they always do. We taught three lessons today, almost back to back, with a brief recess for Mr. Ronjoy Rao (the school Director) to give an emotional testimony about the recent flood that devastated their school community and grounds. After two lessons of craft which energised the children, we got the opportunity to get Henna work done by the women of the local community, a skill they have learned at SNEHA to help support them and give them employment. Boys got their name in Hindi and girls got elaborate patterns. They were beautiful. Today was an emotionally challenging, yet immensely rewarding experience that we will never forget and though tomorrow may be our last day at SNEHA, we thoroughly look forward to teaching these children for the last time.
Caitlin and Lewis
Songs and Stories
4th October 2018
Today was our last day at SNEHA, our last day of teaching during the trip, and so for our last day we needed to do something big! So, to begin our day we got breakfast and headed off on the bumpy Vikram. When we got to the school, we had the pleasure to enjoy some singing and dancing, performed by SNEHA’s own students. Their performances were amazing, funny and heart–warming. We performed as well, in hopes of them being able to be taught the song and perform it in future, the song was called “If I were a butterfly”. The students really enjoyed the song, and we really enjoyed performing for them.
After this morning’s assembly, in our two classes, class one and class two, we put together performances of our own to show what the children have learnt while we were there. The performances were based on the two books each class were reading, “Monkey puzzle” and “Walking through the jungle”. The performances required the classes to be split in to groups and encouraging each child in the group to read a line or two from the books. The children were extremely pleased with what they had been able to accomplish within 3 days of having us there. The teachers were over–joyed when they had seen what the children could also accomplish.
Dylan and Victoria
6th October 2018
Well I’m in India! That’s a sentence I never thought I would say. When I arrived in New Delhi the traffic, sights and smells where overwhelming. It was crazy and booming with life. Over these ten days I have realised how lucky I am. One thing that has stayed with me through the trip was on my first day, not even 20 minutes out of the airport, a tiny little girl of around five years old knocked on my window. She was in dirty clothing; her face was innocent yet her eyes were desperate. She was begging. I knew there were many poor children in India, but I never would have expected this. However, this trip has given me a chance to help these children get something that nobody can take away from them. Education. During my time at Kaplani, I witnessed assembly. Although these children came from backgrounds with no electricity, running water and were living in the marginalised community. Certainly not the ideal conditions for a child studying. Nonetheless, we could still see their dedication and determination to arrive at school and the simple joy being able to attend school brought to them. And every child smiled. This overwhelmed me. In both SNEHA and Kaplani I thought before I came, I would teach a class for a few days and leave, not being affected as it was not a long time with the kids. I was wrong, in the best possible way. I spent time with the children, sang and danced with them, saw how far they have to walk through the Himalayas just so they could get to school. I’ve done that walk and at one point I was nearly defeated. I’ve learnt about some of the issues these kids face and I’ve shed tears over leaving. Not only has this been a mesmerising and eye–opening journey, but a two–way learning path between myself and the children. I believe I have grown physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually from this life changing experience. Every child I have taught has been a star that shines and with Saphara’s help I know they can shine brighter every day. And for that I am grateful.
Amber Hind, Bangor Academy
I wish to base my reflection on my true feelings and emotions on this journey of a lifetime. I have learned many characteristics about myself that I did not know especially in the way I react and feel, most of which are positive. I have learnt this through my interaction with the self–proclaimed ‘cheps’ and members of the team, as well as my experience teaching the children in Kaplani and SNEHA. Firstly, my time with some of my close friends like my “twin brother” Oliver, my trusted companion Dylan and my many new best friends from the other schools have taught me the true meaning of friendship and happiness. Personally, seeing my friend Dylan come out of his shell and being himself in the group has inspired me to do the same and to surround myself with people who make me feel happy. The late–night chats with the boys made me laugh and gave me a real sense of belonging within the group. My experience with teaching has giving me the confidence to lead and speak up in public, interacting with the children and being privileged to teach them families and animal sounds made me smile. However, it’s not what I taught them over this trip that is significant, it is what they have taught me. The children I taught like Ahkmir and Summit in Kaplani put in perspective what true resilience and drive is. Learning that they walked two hours to school and still embraced school life is really inspiring. In conclusion I was surprised to feel more happiness than sorrow.
Benjamin Collyer, St. Columbanus College
My trip to India with Saphara has changed my perspective on life. I was sceptical but excited about the trip, not knowing what I was going to experience or witness, but it was emotional, and worth every penny of my fund–raising, and every ounce of effort I exuded on the trip. The first few days were a chance to get to get to know each other a lot better, and to immerse ourselves in the Indian culture. I’m surprised how close I have become to so many people in such a small period of time, and I would hope and think we would stay friends for life. I think we were all taken aback by the culture – the busy streets, the animals on the side of the road, and the constant busy traffic. The teaching was really when the worthwhile and life–changing work started. The children were so happy to be in school, which was infectious for us as teachers. Some kids had to walk 2 hours up a nearby mountain to get to school, which was an inspiration in itself. Although the lesson planning was draining and took much effort, it was all worthwhile when the kids were able to complete the work, enhancing their English, and gaining confidence in the process. Even if I’ve helped one child on this trip, it has been an overwhelming success. I would recommend this experience to anyone if you want to experience a different culture, have a good laugh, and change lives.
Harry Ellesmere, Bangor Grammar School
During my time in India I have come to realise that it will change the way that I look at the world around me. Seeing the children so happy and eager to learn will be with me always. They showed how proud they were of their uniform, always immaculately dressed and ready for the day. The way the children smiled and laughed when I was teaching them will forever make me smile with happiness and accomplishment.
Victoria Smith, Bangor Academy
Before coming on this trip, I was sort of a quiet person on a journey of gaining confidence in myself. At the start of the trip, I was nervous about how I was going to connect with the other Saphara team members. As the days proceeded, I gained more and more confidence in myself because I got to know my friends even more. From my experience of teaching, I have become more confident in leading and speaking. I really enjoyed teaching at Kaplani and SNEHA, teaching them about their journey to school and about animals. It wasn’t always about what the students learned from me, sometimes I learned something from the students, such as their attitude towards learning. A couple of students I taught walk for more than 2 hours a day just to get to school and still have the enthusiasm to learn every day. On the last days at both schools it was really hard and sad to leave but I am happy to know that we left making a difference to these kids’ lives. Overall, I can say that I am thankful for being a part of this team, to teach these intelligent and warm–hearted kids, knowing we have made a difference, and I am happy to say I have become more confident in myself during this journey, because of one amazing team and two amazing schools.
Dylan J Denvir, St. Columbanus College
The most significant feature of this trip was the opportunity to experience where my fundraising was really going. Through this, not only have I been able to establish a greater relationship with the Saphara charity but also with the amazing pupils selected. I’ve gained a far greater understanding of the materially–deprived families within India. Although this was a small sample, it proved as a census and certainly put my daily lack of appreciation into perspective. Many people informed me prior that this trip would be a once in a lifetime experience, which it definitely turned out to be. I feel far more informed about politics and culture in India. Contrasting to this, my everyday routine seems so oblivious to the greater issues across the world. For me this trip has was an invaluable experience.
Charles F Mackinnon, Bangor Grammar School
From the moment we set off the plane in India, until the last couple of days of our trip; it has been a trip like no other. The culture in India is both mesmerising and hard hitting at the same time. Some of the sights we have seen on this trip have been enlightening and inspiring, such as seeing the children of Kaplani and Sneha smile. However, some of the sights we have seen have left us shell shocked and emotional, such as visiting the marginalised community and seeing their living conditions. Overall, this trip has been filled with laughs, new lifelong friends have been made and memories have been made that shall never be forgotten. The children I have taught the last two weeks have learned English but they have also been a teacher towards me and taught me how to appreciate what I have. I am so grateful to the children who have changed me as a person. I am also very grateful to the Saphara leaders, Christine, Jo, Paula and all the teachers on the trip for giving me this opportunity and for taking such good care of me while I’ve been away. This is a trip that I will explain to my future children and grandchildren.
Ellen Egan, St Columbanus College
My trip to India has been full of so many different types of emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, excitement and many of these emotions were all experienced on the same day and even in the same hour. I felt angry that these amazing children that we were meeting had to live in such challenging conditions as I knew by seeing them and getting to spend time with them that they deserved so much more. There were many times when I felt useless and wanted to give up, but I thought about how eager they were to come and learn and how happy that we, the Saphara team, made them while we were teaching. Quickly, I felt reassured and wanted to give them the best opportunity that I could give them. Often, I compared my 4–year–old brother’s life to many of the children that I saw at Kaplani and Sneha and couldn’t bear the thought of him having to endure the same difficulties. I will take away from this trip that I have to be more open to change and that I should never take anything in my life for granted. I will never forget this opportunity that I have been given to witness and be a change in the lives of all of these children. Gandhi said, ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world’ and I believe that we have.
Caitlin Nicholl, Bangor Academy
Upon arriving in New Delhi airport, I was expecting what everyone had been telling me to expect, a culture shock. My Dad said that when he went to India, he was overwhelmed by the culture pretty soon after arriving, but for me not so much. As I walked through the streets trying to ignore beggars, or speeding past unstable vikrams, I wouldn’t say I was underwhelmed because it was definitely chaos, but I wasn’t seeing anything that I hadn’t expected to see. However, what caught me off guard was our last day of teaching in SNEHA Doon Academy. Obviously, I had built a rapport with the kids I was teaching and I was trying to get over the fact that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the living conditions of the children’s homes in the marginalised community and to be honest, I was feeling quite heartless for not getting upset or shocked when I did see their homes. But I met a young lad that I had the pleasure of teaching named Jitender, only in his early days of life, no more than 7 years old. After our last lesson in which we recited the book we were reading, “Monkey Puzzle,” I said goodbye to Jitender and the last memory I have of him is his warm smile that stretched from ear to ear as I left the classroom. All at once the trip made sense to me. A million emotions washed over me like a tsunami. I had given this child a smile. One of the greatest gifts of all, a gift which Jitender probably doesn’t get every day. I wanted to cry but didn’t want to be disrespectful, but I hope Jitender knows that I wish him all the best with the long and windy road of life and that I’m proud to have left my mark on his life, and consequently the world.
Oliver Havlin, St. Columbanus College
India is a truly addictive country. The busyness, the chaos and the excitement of India is palpable every second of every day. This place ceases to be a country but is a living thing; everything feels alive. The city streets are like a beating heart filled with energy. Nothing can prepare you for this place, there is nowhere like it anywhere on earth, no story can capture the busyness of Delhi or the beauty and majesty of Mussoorie. Teaching the students of Kaplani and Sneha schools has been the most rewarding experience of my life to date and a memory that will last a lifetime. I can confidently say that some of the happiest and most challenging moments of my life have happened on this trip. The joy I felt teaching students at Kaplani is indescribable and so too is the sadness I felt leaving that place; I have laughed and cried in the space of an hour and I am a better person for it. I owe so much to the children I worked with – they were as much teachers as me – and if I could show half the resilience, determination and passion they did I would be happy. I am forever grateful to them for what they have taught me. This trip has completely changed my outlook on every aspect of my life and I hope I can carry the values I’ve seen here for the rest of my life and pass on what I’ve learnt to others.
Lewis Joyce, Bangor Grammar School
This trip to India has opened my eyes to many things; the poverty, the motivation and enthusiasm of pupils who have nothing and my own potential. As we raced down the paths and over the crumbling stones in a scorching heat during our trek it hit me that it doesn’t matter how bad things got or how much I was overthinking, I would persevere. As I walked with some of the boys up a steep, vertical shortcut I knew then that we would make it to the top no matter what and when we did it gave me a sense of enlightenment and accomplishment as well as empowerment. I believe that lesson can be taken on and will be relevant for the rest of my life because no matter what happened I would make it to the top of the mountain and defeat the challenge. Hard work will pay off, I just need to remember the big picture rather than the short–term problems. Throughout this trip I have been surprised by the unpredictable. We have the privilege to give children education when this might be the only structure in their life; this education can and will change their lives in the most amazing way as it opens many doors and when you look at the bigger picture these pupils could become Doctors or legitimate and trustworthy politicians which will save lives and make a massive difference to the community. When I walked into the classroom in Sneha Doon Academy my breath was taken away by the 50 children’s’ gleeful and joyous faces, beneath the few shy exteriors I saw ecstatic and energetic children wanting nothing more than to learn. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And I say in response to this, during the trip, that it if you can change one person’s life then you have already changed the world and I still and will forever stand by this, especially after seeing what I have over the last 10 days.
Rebecca Rankin, Bangor Academy
The list of attributes I have learnt from the beauty of the Indian culture is countless. From appreciating everything I have, to realising the tiny patterns and arts of India which make it all one sophisticated art piece that words cannot describe. One thing I’ll take away from India for the rest of my life is the passion the teachers have for teaching at SNEHA Doon Academy and that one day I will hopefully have the same charisma and passion as them. The true idols and heroes of India. Walking through the pristine corridors of Sneha, there’s a quote I will cherish from the girls’ empowerment program at the school helping young girls reach their full potential; ‘Educate a man, then you’ve educated an individual. Educate a woman then you’ve educated a family.’ A truly life changing experience, thank you Saphara for this opportunity, I’ll treasure it forever.
Charlie Rydzewski, Bangor Grammar School
My trip to India has immensely changed my perspective on the world as I was able to view the poverty gap in India first hand. I met such inspiring people such as Surrender Singh and Dr Reeta Rao, both wanting to make similar differences in two very different communities. Hearing their stories and how far they have come is very motivational to me. As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I was able to make a small change in the lives of a few Indian children by teaching them basic English. This was easily my favourite part of the whole experience because with the help of Joanne, Paula and our teachers, we were able to construct an organised, time beneficial and extremely effective English lesson. In both schools, Kaplani and Sneha, we were successful in giving each individual child a voice through English. This couldn’t have been a more uplifting experience! Overall, I am truly grateful to Saphara for giving me this as I was able to learn a lot about myself as a person with the help of the friends I’ve made, the Indian teachers and the children I taught.
Francesca Steed, St Columbanus College
To me, my trip to India began when Joanne presented the idea of Saphara to my entire year just over a year ago. From there the daunting interview and many break and lunch meetings, as well as the efforts made by my family in fundraising, finally resulted in me at Springhill car park at 3:30am. From that point on, I embarked on a trip with people who I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with, as they allowed me to believe in myself and my ability. However, whilst the amazing Himalayan views and jaw dropping Taj Mahal may have been amazing, it was the teaching that I enjoyed most. Whether it be the 2 boys who walk 2 hours a day to get to Kaplani or the children in Sneha who live in some of the most challenging living conditions. The sheer passion and will to learn has inspired me, and I feel I will return home with a revived drive to achieve my potential as I feel I have learned the true power of education. For this opportunity, I am immensely thankful to Saphara. To conclude, Charlie Chaplain once said, “You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use this power, let us all unite.” I feel that this is the pure embodiment of my time in India. In terms of tangible commodities, the children we taught have little, however, they greatly make up for it in the attitude they bring to life and the rich characters they possess.
Gareth JL Wells, Bangor Grammar School
The most important thing that I have taken away from this trip to India is the friendships that I have made and the confidence that have found in myself. This has allowed me to walk into the classrooms in both Kaplani High School and Sneha with the knowledge that I was capable of leading a small group of children by myself. This is something that I hope to carry on when I get back home and that my confidence will continue to grow. I have also learned to appreciate the school and the education that I have. This is due to seeing the determination and the joy that the children in both of the schools have for learning. This has been a truly life changing experience and I am honoured to be able to make a small difference in one child’s life.
Amy Weir, Bangor Academy