Belfast Magherafelt Team 2017

We Are Here

30th June 2017

We are writing to you from a very humid and wet Delhi, not quite the weather we thought we were going to get. However we haven’t let this dampen our spirits.

After arriving late last night, we were relieved to have a lie in and a late breakfast this morning (not many of us are used to such little sleep, particularly the early starts since finishing our exams!)

Our convoy of taxis lined the streets of Delhi to transport us to the first stop on today’s tour– Fab India. The boys were just as bad as the girls and spent 1 hour and 30 minutes shopping for our traditional Indian garments, hardly surprising given the range of colours on offer to us.

After lunch, we had the privilege of spending highly reflective time at the Museum where Gandhi was assassinated, giving us a further insight into the story of the Indian nation.

Today we had her first glimpse of the reality of life for many people here. Despite being made aware of this before our arrival, this still shocked us and reminded us that we are here on a journey with purpose.

Clare and Oran



1st July 2017

An early start this morning… we were woken at half 5 to get the bus to Agra for our exciting adventure to the Taj Mahal. Our 4 hour bus journey started off quiet and sombre but this was short lived as the cards came out and game faces were put on (money put on table!).

After a quick stop for some refreshments we arrived at the Taj Mahal for this once in a lifetime experience of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Little did we know we would be the celebrity attraction as floods of people stopped to take our picture! The Taj Mahal far surpassed our expectations and the rich history surrounding it was as amazing as the attraction itself.

Whilst bathing in the Indian culture, we were also bathing in pools of our own sweat with temperatures reaching over 35 ̊C and the humidity making it seem so much more! We had great relief when were reunited with our air conditioned bus and enjoyed a delicious meal at the Trident Hotel. Note to all…chillies and green beans are not to be mixed up!!

Back to Delhi now after a long 5 hour bus journey, to pack for our move to the Mussoorie and get ourselves ready for another early start in the morning.

Ciara and Conall


On the Road Again

2nd July 2017

We only thought yesterday was an early start until we had a 4.30 wake–up call facing us this morning. Nevertheless, we powered through, had our breakfast and set off promptly at 5.15 to catch our 6 hour train journey to Dehradun.

Picture a Translink train…this was not it. However, our trustee cards and good humour saw us through– not to mention a few naps along the way. When we arrived in Dehradun we were treated to a taste of home in the shape of the golden arches of McDonalds!

From there we set off to Mussoorie. The winding roads took us higher and higher into the Himalayas, until we reached our destination above the clouds!

Our teaching preparations began and the creative juices started to flow. Clearly classes 9 and 10 will be treated to the best lessons…

Katie (Class 9) and Bríd (Class 10)

Lesson Planning
Lesson Planning


An Amazing First Day Teaching

3rd July 2017

We are writing today as young professionals!

Today was the first day of teaching for us all in Kaplani High School. We were feeling anxious beforehand but as soon as we attended the assembly this put us at ease because we were privileged to see how much it meant to the children evidenced by the smiles on their faces.

The first lesson of the day was an English lesson where the pupils distinguished between positive and negative words. We built upon these positive adjectives by asking the pupils to describe themselves. Despite the language barrier it was clear to us the extent at which engaging in this activity heightened their self–esteem.

The second lesson of the day was science which the students were very excited about it. As soon as they saw the beakers and stopwatches their faces lit up. The young people gave many suggestions and predictions about the experiment we demonstrated and were very enthusiastic about everything that was going on in the classroom and took great care in presenting their work. Lastly, we delivered a maths lesson to our classes. This consisted of some running competitions to teach pupils the concept of recording time. Priyanka in class 7 really got into the spirit and would’ve given Usain Bolt a run for his money (no pun intended).

It was humbling to share in the daily experience of the pupils here in Kaplani. The lunch routine of the pupils and was a stark reminder that for many this would be their only substantial meal of the day.

After an exhausting day it’s off for some more lesson planning for tomorrow.

Padraig and Maria


Teaching in the Fog

4th July 2017

Today was our second day in Kaplani after a long but fun evening of planning today’s classes. The trip here was as thrilling as yesterday but a lot foggier.

We felt a lot more comfortable and less anxious going into the classes today. This was helped by us knowing the pupils we were preparing for last night. Building on the work we started yesterday, today’s English lesson consisted of grammar, punctuation and connectives. In class 9, Neeraj came on leaps and bounds from yesterday’s lesson showing a lot more understanding in group discussions and when I spoke to him 1 on 1. This made me feel incredibly fulfilled and satisfied as I watched him come into his own in the class.

Today’s science lesson was a lot more hands on as we put the planning from yesterday into action and carried out the practical experiment. Pupils were fascinated by the equipment such as stopwatches, beakers and fizzy tablets; they watched in awe as they observed the rates of reaction. The older classes were also treated to the use of the lab and spirit burners to experiment with. They were very competent with the use of all the equipment and got a lot out of this lesson.

In maths, we continued to take a range of measurements from the pupil including their weight and pulse before and after exercise. Our aim is to build a pupil profile using their information, giving them something to proudly display in their assembly and in their classrooms.

Tonight we are looking forward to more lesson planning, pizza and a walk to Mussoorie to soak up the buzz of the town.

Conor and John


Reflecting Our Impact

4th July 2017

After reflecting on the impact we are making on the pupils in Kaplani we wanted to share some of these thoughts with you here on our blog today:

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.”

The target of our PD lessons is to help pupils to understand their own importance and self–worth. Coupled with the English lessons we have been teaching them positive adjectives to describe themselves, which is especially important for the girls who have grown up in a society which teaches them that they are inferior to men. The response of pupils to our praise or something as simple as a sticker puts into perspective our efforts of fundraising, which at times we complained was cumbersome. We have the privilege of observing the pupils coming more and more out of their shell each day and realising that they are brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous– something you cannot put a price on.

“We are all meant to shine as children do… as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

Before we embarked on our Saphara journey we were told of the poor quality of education which some of the pupils faced because of poverty, particularly the girls. Through our teaching the pupils have grown in confidence and have engaged in every activity we have asked of them with great enthusiasm. Our emphasis on group teaching has given each and every pupil in our classes a voice. Not only have we enriched their school experience, but they likewise have greatly enriched ours in more ways than we could have possibly thought. We too have grown in confidence as teachers and have developed some of our own Hindi along the way.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

From our experience here in Kaplani we can see the profound impact that the work of Saphara has on each and every pupil in the school. Our fundraising has meant that each child gets a warm midday meal, which for some could be the only meal they have that day. Currently there is building work going on to provide further education and opportunities for the pupils, which is the equivalent of our lower and upper sixth years in school. The fears felt while doing our abseil pale in comparison to the overwhelming feeling of pride, as we experience first–hand our efforts being put in to action.

Aliesha and Ronan H


Last Day in Kaplani

5th July 2017

Today we bid farewell to the pupils we have become so fond of in Kaplani High School. As the saying goes…’time flies when you’re having fun!’

Last night’s planning consisted of preparations for the final celebration of pupil work. We were so proud of the work they had completed this week and the improvement they have made in such a short space of time. In recognition of this, we marked each piece to give them positive feedback and made thank you cards to reward their efforts.

This morning we took our positions in line at our final school assembly and then off to our classrooms to finalise any unfinished work and rehearse for the final presentation after recess. The fun and games we had at recess were tinged with sadness as it sunk in that our time with our pupils was drawing to a close.

After lunch, all classes gathered in Class 9 along with the staff of Kaplani and our own teachers. Each class took it in turn to showcase the things they had learned. Class 6 started with a presentation of English and their punk, punk, punctuation rap…not sure Eminem would feature it on his next album, however! Class 7 followed with the ‘WOW’ words they had learned and their own unique adaptation of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It.’ Next up was Class 8, the largest class in the school. Each pupil shared one of their own measurements taken in Maths and took us through a selection of the apparatus they used in their science experiments. Class 9 shared their acrostic poems compiled with ‘WOW’ words they used to describe themselves. Finally, Class 10 presented their conclusions from their science experiments.

Conall and Emma played the tin whistle beautifully, giving the Kaplani children a taste of our Irish culture. We were thanked by the Principal and made our way back to our classrooms to spend our final few minutes with the classes we had got to know and love. We gave each pupil a small token of our appreciation for allowing us to share in their school life this week. They showered us with hugs and cards. It is amazing how they have enriched our lives in more ways we ever could have imagined.

Our next challenge awaits…a two hour trek to Donk in the morning!

Aoife and Liam


We Survived!

7th July 2017

Today was the day we faced our dreaded fears; a two hour trek through the leech infested, muddy, slippery, rocky terrain, taking us 3000 ft deep within the Himalayas to get to Donk…

Okay–maybe we were slightly exaggerating!

We awoke this morning, mosquito sprayed up, covered every inch of our skin to protect us from the leeches and set off with a combination of nerves and excitement, as we looked forward to teaching the precious pupils of Donk.

We were treated to our very own tour guide, Surender, a local legend around this area. He shared with us invaluable insight and history into the way of life around the village of Donk. Complimenting this was the opportunity to meet some of the local people who were willing to share their stories on how the work of Saphara has enabled them to live a more sustainable and prosperous life. Even at that we were still taken aback by the simplicity of their homes and their daily lifestyle.

Never far from our minds were the pupils of Kaplani. Along the way we passed some of their homes for example Priyanka (Class 7) and Preeti (Class 10). The stark contrast of their pristine outward appearance compared to the harsh reality of their home life hit us even more. Their motivation and enthusiasm for learning, evidenced by their everyday journey, has made us even more appreciative of the readily available and opportunistic education system we have at home.

Last night while preparing for our teaching, we were advised that the primary school pupils may not have the ability to engage due to their limited English. However, we gave it our all and brought Elmer and his friends to life within the small confines of their classroom. Never in our wildest imagination did we think that we would have had the response that we did as the pupils leapt from their seats with excitement. This filled us with pride and a great sense of accomplishment knowing that we had made a difference in each child’s day.

Upon leaving, we watched their faces light up as they received gifts we had carefully picked out for them and each child was given a picture of themselves, sent by the women’s team who visited in April. We were honoured to present all eleven children with new shoes and a brand new uniform, something we place such little value on at home.

After soaking in the amazing sights of the Himalayas surrounding us, and actually making it back up to the top, we returned to the hotel for a well–earned rest. Tonight marked the beginning of our Global Awareness Weekend, where we engaged in a slightly competitive round of The Trading Game. Unfortunately some of our enthusiasm was deemed as inappropriate resulting in a few deductions (not that we are holding a grudge!) We finished with The Starfish Story to further enforce the ethos of Saphara– helping one child at a time. As we so thoughtfully concluded “One pebble in the ocean makes a thousand ripples”…we definitely came up with that one on our own!

Signing off to tend to our blistered feet,

Anna and Annie


Global Awareness Weekend

8th July 2017

We’ve had a very different day here today in Mussoorie.

We were treated to a lie in this morning before continuing with our Global Awareness Weekend. This started with a talk from Surender, who featured on our blog yesterday. He gave us an insight into his life journey; from his very humble beginnings, to his high paid government job until finally he found his true vocation as a director of MGVS. It was abundantly clear from his genuine nature that there is no one better qualified or more worthy for such a position. During this talk, he expanded on our knowledge of the plight of the people with whom he works, such as how the poor sanitation and lack of basic resources have had such devastating effects on poverty stricken communities. Having been fortunate on his journey to be introduced to Christine, a special pairing was formed which allowed the dreams of Saphara and Surender to be realised through the transformative work they do to eradicate the injustices faced by many.

Surender emphasised his focus on changing the mind sets of people here, especially men’s attitudes towards the position of women in society. Through such an inspirational speech he continued to change our self–centred, Western, materialistic attitudes which permeates the idea ‘money makes the world go round.’

Rather, our experience and the people of India have taught us, “It is more important to be a person of value than a person of success” as was highlighted at one of the assemblies we attended at Kaplani.

Stepping into Surender’s shoes, our groups were tasked with prioritising the essential requirements needing addressed by MGVS. This was much harder than anticipated and helped us to appreciate the thorough work carried out by Surender and his team to identify and address the individual needs of each community they work with.

Our final activity saw embrace our Hollywood acting roles as we performed ‘River Babies’ to further understand the need to tackle both the source and short term effects of poverty. We’re sure that some of our budding actors won’t have to wait as long as Leonardo Di Caprio for their Oscar! Underneath the humour and wide variety of accents, we dug even deeper to comprehend the amazing ‘Journey with Purpose’ that we are currently on.

For a taste of home we set off through the vibrant, buzzing streets of Mussoorie to indulge in Dominos. It’s DVD and duvet night tonight and we cosy down to watch Slumdog Millionaire before making our way back to Dehradun tomorrow.

Emma Y and Rebekah


The Happening

9th July 2017

As the sun shone down on Mussoorie this morning, we had one of the most moving and spiritual experiences of our entire Saphara journey. We finished our Global Awareness Weekend with ‘The Happening’. This highly anticipated event saw each member of our team take turns to share a poem, prayer or song of great meaning which resonated with our life changing encounters here in India. We were all very touched by the vulnerability and courage of our peers to open their hearts and enlighten us with their profound words. The Happening will forever live on within each one of us and will be a source of inspiration and solace as we embark on the next chapters of our lives.

We have arrived safely in Dehradun. This afternoon we are busy lesson planning and learning some new dance steps as we eagerly await the smiling faces of the SNEHA children tomorrow.

B&M Team



10th July 2017

After a beautiful breakfast at our hotel we boarded the vikrams for our first experience of travelling like locals. Our short journey culminated with us being dropped us off at the imposing gates of SNEHA school; a haven and sanctuary for the 1100 students it serves in the marginalised communities of Dehradun. We were overwhelmed by the welcome we received and the friendliness of both students and staff alike.

It was heart–warming to see so clearly how each SNEHA pupil is enveloped in love from the moment they step through the gates each morning. Just like at Kaplani the day started off with an assembly, led this morning by the fantastic Saphara student team. Their enthusiasm was a great tonic to our tired minds and bodies and after learning a few new songs and once again adding to our dancing repertoires (!) we were excited to meet our new classes.

Classes at SNEHA today were focused on teaching three stories; Class 1–“Walking through the Jungle”, Class 2–“Giraffes can’t dance” and Class 3–“Monkey Puzzle”. These stories were used to further students’ understanding of adjectives and verbs along with teaching them key vocabulary.

We had great fun acting out the parts (particularly Oisin!) and we were very impressed by the level of English and the communication skills of the students we taught.

After recess and the much welcomed fizzy drinks and biscuits very thoughtfully provided by Dr Reeta Rao (founder of SNEHA School whose story we eagerly await hearing tomorrow), we had conversation classes with classes 9 and 10. This was a fabulous opportunity to work on a one –to–one basis with older students.

Our work will help prepare them for life after school where their mastery of the English language will be instrumental in securing them a good job, which in turn will have a transformative effect on their life chances and the opportunities that will be afforded to their families.

Our afternoon was focused on lesson planning for tomorrow before enjoying the delicious pizzas on offer in the hotel (some of us may also have indulged in room service too!). We are excited for another day teaching tomorrow at SNEHA and the learning opportunities it will afford us.

Oisin and Aaron


A Vision to the Bridge

11th July 2017

Today we deviated from our usual routine. We got up, dressed, fed and watered, hopped into our vikrams and rather than basking in the novelty of the sights and sounds of Dehradun (or for some catching an extra 40 winks!) we stopped off at an area of the community known as ‘The Bridge’.

Dr Reeta informed us that this area alone housed 10,000 people, many of whom attend SNEHA school. We saw children emerge from all corners who were ready to set off for their day at school. The contrast of their pristine uniforms from their surroundings reminds us of the purpose of our hard work in using education to change people’s lives. The children we saw were proudly marked out as belonging to a school of love, hope and prosperity.

After a challenging morning, we had to prepare ourselves to make a difference in the lives of the children in our care. Their smiles as they skipped through the school gates ignited within us our passion for doing what we are doing. Today we engaged in a carousel activity, focusing on learning verbs and phonics through fun and exciting games. The memory game got particularly competitive…not that any of us would be familiar with such a trait!

Having had such an amazing and inspirational talk from Surender in Kaplani, we were honoured to have time today with Dr Reeta, another pillar of the Saphara community. She so poignantly explained her story and the history of SNEHA– which we found out means love. The strong Christian faith of her and her husband, Harry, formed the foundation on which this school was built. Initially, they worked within the community, tending to their medical needs, before identifying that the source of the issue was their lack of education. They set about raising funds to buy land and build a school, which opened in 1994 with only 4 rooms. Gradually they continued to expand to match the growing need of the community which they so lovingly and passionately tend to. Today it proudly stands with 34 beautiful classrooms, which acts as a beacon of hope for the community. We listened with awe as she explained her opposition to begging, rather wanting to encourage the children to achieve their full potential and strive for a life free from the shackles of poverty through their education. We were uplifted by her sheer resilience in the face of the hardships the community, which she so effortlessly commits to.

It was an honour and a privilege to be in the presence of the modern–day Mother Teresa. It has brought to life for us the work of God through the many people we have encountered along our Spahara journey. As we so affectionately sing to Class 1…Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye class (blog!!)

Bríd, Aliesha, Clare, Conor and Emma Y (Class 1)


24 Hours of Rain

12th July 2017

We’re used to that in sunny Ireland, right? Actually, wrong. Torrential rain meant that there was a severe weather warning issued and all schools were advised to close. Dr Reeta opted against this because for many of the children it was safer for them in school than at home.

As the day progressed the rain became heavier and heavier and we witnessed first–hand the detrimental effects of the monsoon season, as the primary school behind SNEHA was flooded with water levels reaching up to their knees. However, provisions were made so that each child was safe in the care of SNEHA.

Under the careful watch of Dr Reeta the teaching day went ahead as normal. We did not let the rain dampen our spirits, despite it trying to dampen our resources as we made our way between the staff room and our classrooms! On today’s agenda was arts and crafts. We further brought to life the characters we have been teaching the pupils. Class 1 made snakes, Class 2 made Gerald the Giraffe and Class 3 made a range of animal masks which they found in their book ‘Monkey Puzzles’.

The noise from the rain became a blur and was replaced with the excitement and laughter of the pupils as they engaged in their activity. With our conversation classes, we continued to be impressed by their level of English and their love and appreciation for their studies.

Within SNEHA, Saphara funds a ‘Girl’s Resilience Programme’. Today we got to see the amazing work of some the women from the local community who have made a range of products such as table mats, bags, coasters and teddy bears. It gave us great pleasure to support this as the money from the sale of these items goes directly to the women who make them. Another strand of the programme is training the senior school girls to develop a range of skills in an effort to help them earn an income in the future. We excitedly made our way into one of the classrooms to receive Henna tattoos. We were astounded by intricate detail and care taken by the girls to share with us a small part of their Indian culture.

We’re signing off for dinner and look forward to the final celebration ceremony with our classes in SNEHA tomorrow.

Emma L and Conall


Our Final Day in SNEHA

13th July 2017

Our final teaching day has been and gone.

Today we set off with great anticipation for the celebration and combination of the Irish and Indian cultures. We were treated to Bollywood dancing from the nursery pupils and a number of classes taught by the Saphara Student team presented their work from the past two weeks. The Belfast and Magherafelt girls kicked off our display by singing ‘Give me Love’, Emma L played a selection of songs on the tin whistle, Conall gave us his rendition of ‘The Ballad of the Unchartered Sailor’ on the tin whistle and accompanied Aliesha’s Irish Dancing with a reel. Finally, Bríd and Annie sang ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ which they had so beautifully shared at The Happening. The celebration concluded with some traditional Indian dancing, performed for us by the senior school girls.

We taught our final conversation classes, packed up our belongings and bid our emotional goodbyes to the school and the people we have become so attached to. This journey and the people we have been so fortunate to meet have forever imprinted in our hearts the power of hope, determination and love.

Tonight we make our way back to Delhi to start our journey home.

Belfast and Magherafelt team


Final Reflections

14th July 2017

Saphara has been a journey that has changed my outlook on life completely. The dedication and pride the children I taught demonstrated in their education touched me deeply and taught me to appreciate what I have in life. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried but most of all I have made memories which I will cherish forever.

Katie Mann, Dominican College Fortwilliam

This trip has been an incredible experience with amazing people and I would definitely do it all again! My highlight of this trip has been the eagerness of the Indian children to learn and their willingness to be educated. I’ve taught them some English, Maths and Science and they’ve taught me that even when I feel I have nothing I actually do and I should really value everything in my life.

Emma Loughery, Dominican College Fortwilliam

When we think of inspirational people, generally we imagine our heroes–those achieving the unimaginable in the eyes of the world. Little did I know, heroes can be found in the humble slums of Dehradun or trekking the Himalayas daily in the hopes of a brighter future. After these two and a half weeks I can say with absolute certainty that if my Saphara 2017 journey has made me even a fraction as selfless, gracious and passionate as the people I have been able to meet through Saphara then this has undoubtedly been the best possible way I could spend my summer.

Maria Murray, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

This journey has taught me many things about myself. Ultimately it has taught me that I came to India a selfish and proud person; however I am leaving humbled and with a new sense of value and worth.

Conor McAuley, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

What struck me the most was the happiness of the children we met. When we visited the slums my eyes filled with tears as I imagined myself in their shoes for a day. However, a young girl dressed in purple, filthy rags grabbed my attention as she reached out to shake my hand with the biggest smile. She taught me that it is not money that makes the world go round – but positivity and happiness.

Rebekah Weston, Dominican College Fortwilliam

My time in India has been extraordinary! What a “jiffy” two and a half weeks I have had. Learning that education is key and to appreciate everything back home was reinforced by meeting many inspirational people like Dr Reeta Rao and Surender Singh. I will never forget this experience. Thank you Saphara! This journey has marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Clare Mulholland, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

People think Saphara is about Irish students teaching disadvantaged Indian children – but it is actually the other way around. We get to teach them valuable subject such as Maths, English and Science but they teach us the important stuff. Stuff like how to be happy with nothing and how simple acts of kindness can make your whole day. Most importantly these children have taught me that even if you are living in a mud house with eight other people or have to trek two hours through the mountains to get to school you can still do the things you want to in life if you work hard, have a lot of dedication and focus on the things you have rather than the things you don’t have.

Oran McNaughton, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

Saphara has been a life–changing experience for me. Before I left I considered school a chore but after seeing how much the children in the Indian schools we worked in, appreciated their education and how much they valued everything we taught them, I have learned to fully appreciate the privilege of my education.

Ciara McTaggart, Dominican College Fortwilliam

The bonds we built at Kaplani were so evident in the colourful and handmade cards presented to us on our final day of teaching. It really showed me how much of an impact my teaching really had on the kids and how much they appreciate everything that comes to them.

Aliesha McNally, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

The Saphara experience has been one of a kind and I will always look back fondly on it. To see how even stickers made these children’s faces light up shows just how little they have and to me emphasises why we help. I’m overwhelmed by the purpose inherent in this journey we have all been on and am proud to have been involved this year.

Aaron Hughes, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

When I closed my books after my final exam in May little did I know that this would not be the last thing I would be learning this academic year. My highlight of the journey was the significant impact the children have had on me. I’ve learned many lessons from them these past two and a half weeks despite coming out with the expectation that they would only be learning from me. I will forever be grateful for this experience.

Anna Martin, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

I came to India not knowing what to expect. I was unaware of how much my inexperienced teaching could affect the lives of so many children. I was oblivious as to how the things that I thought were so simple, make such a difference to these children. I got first–hand experience of how life can be through conversation classes, as I spoke to so many children who lived in slums. Being part of Saphara really was a life–changing experience.

Padraig Hamilton, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

Before I came on Saphara I had no idea what to expect. I knew about the poverty but I had no idea it was so vast. With Saphara I witnessed urban and rural poverty. Both experiences have changed me for the better. In my opinion the children who come from impoverished backgrounds deserve all the opportunities that we can help provide for them. They are the most hardworking, attentive and interesting kids I have ever met and I hope to continue to do my part to help them flourish in the future.

Conall Finnegan, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

Leading up to our trip I was apprehensive as to how much it would actually affect me. I honestly didn’t believe that these children would have an impact on me. After my first day in Kaplani I realised how wrong I was. These relationships strengthened throughout the week and by Thursday when we had our final lesson and the children presented us with cards they had made for us, it was a truly humbling experience. The past 16 days have been some of the best in my life. Saphara has changed my perspective on the world in ways I never thought possible. I am extremely grateful to Saphara for all I have experienced.

John Walker, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

I always knew that my journey to India would impact me but I never knew just how much it would. I am coming home having gained so much more than I have given through teaching in Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA. I know what I have gained will stay with me the rest of my life.

Bríd McGee, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

Before coming on this journey, I was very apprehensive and nervous as I didn’t know if I would enjoy myself but from day one this trip has been the most incredible journey I’ve ever been on. I thought I was just going out to teach the children but in reality they have taught me so many valuable skills which have shaped me into a better person. I now appreciate the simple things in life, such as family so much more and I will treasure the memories and friendships I have made for the rest of my life.

Aoife Rafferty, Dominican College Fortwilliam

Spending 45 minutes giving out stickers to primary school kids in SNEHA has shown me that joy can be found in the smallest of things if you have the right perspective.

Oisin Donaghy, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

Saphara 2017 – what an experience! From the minute I stepped off the plane I was eager to embrace a culture and a life so different from my own. The houses, the roads, the weather – everything! The guilt hit me straight away. How can these individuals live on the pavement sheltered by only a bare tree, yet I live in luxury? Something I know I will deeply miss is those delicate and delighted faces each time I stepped into the room of Class 8 at Kaplani High School and Class 3 at SNEHA, knowing these children have walked hours to get there. Nothing will ever give me a better feeling. Saphara summed up for me has been the best two and a half weeks of my life. Until next time, India…

Annie Groom, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt

Before the trip, I would have considered myself to be a closed book with little emotion to show. When I finished teaching the students in Kaplani they showered me with hugs and gifts that really showed me the impact that I had on them. I really am going to miss them.

Liam Cosgrave, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

I came to India with an ungrateful attitude. Seeing the children at both Kaplani and SNEHA and their willingness to learn and go to school even when their home life isn’t the best has amazed me. A highlight for me was when I was teaching in Kaplani. At the start of the week there was a girl who was so shy and wouldn’t look at me when I was speaking to her. By the end of the week she was the first to put up her hand an answer. It was wonderful to see how I affected her confidence and how much it has built up my own confidence too.

Emma Young, Dominican College Fortwilliam

I came to India with the intentions of expecting just what it says on the tin – but after experiencing first–hand the massive difference between the rich and the poor and seeing face to face what many families go through every day, I have been impacted a lot. I think it has not just affected me as an individual but the mind–set of our whole group to life.

Ronan Murphy, St. Malachy’s College Belfast

Going in, I never thought I could learn so much about both myself and about life from my encounters with so many special individuals. Throughout the journey it felt almost more like the children were teaching us – rather than us teaching them. I gained a lot over the course of my time spent in India; new attitudes, fresh perspectives and a desire to travel and help those truly in need. Saphara 2017 – a truly gratifying experience and one I will look back on very fondly forever.

Ronan Hughes, St. Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt


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