Belfast Team 2014

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

A Bit Like Mario

6th July 2014

After a day of traveling we finally reached Delhi – the first major shock we experienced was the difference in the climate as the weather is hot, humid and dry in different areas. To make it more special it was Connor’s 18th birthday! On our first night in the humid city we were fortunate to receive an invitation to have dinner at the house of the Irish Ambassador in India, Mr Feilim McLaughlin, who served us dinner made up of a mixture of Irish and Indian dishes. We got to taste our first little bit of Indian culture alongside a touch of home. After dinner, Connor received an unexpected birthday present from the Ambassador and his family – a journal with a touching personal message wishing him a happy birthday. After dinner we were introduced to Ranjam, their pet monkey, who guards the garden from the other wild monkeys. The second major difference from home was the noise on the roads due to the constant blasting of the horns from the cars and the ‘free for all‘ driving weaving in and out of the lanes!

“It’s like a real life Mario kart game.”– Laura Crozier.

Before dinner we went to ‘Fabindia’ where we purchased our Indian clothes. The inside of the shop was beautiful and all the different colours were amazing. Wearing Indian clothes is one way that Saphara shows respect to the people we work with and so we all bought a number of outfits to wear over the next two weeks.

On Saturday we made our way to the city of Agra. After a three and a half hour bus journey we stopped at an amazing hotel for refreshments before going to the world famous Taj Mahal. It was an unbelievable experience for us all and most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit one of the most famous monuments ever. Having said that, Christine revealed that she has now been there 31 times! Due to the scorching heat and thousands of people each one of us found it difficult to cope with the environment, however we embraced the sweat. Finally, we visited Agra fort, which has seen hundreds of years of Moghul rule from Akbar the great to Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal.

We are having a brilliant time and we are making the most out of the opportunity we have received and we can’t wait to experience the rest of our journey with purpose.


An Education

7th July 2014

After 3 days of getting barely any rest, today was the day we got to sleep in until 7!!!!!!!

Usually this would be horrible but it was beautiful to all of us as we would be getting more than 4 hours! Finally it was time to put all our teaching practice into action for the kids of Kaplani High School. I (Danielle) got 2nd year which had an age range of 11–15. The kids who were 15 may not have been able to attend school due to illnesses, poverty and perhaps having to mind younger siblings so they were kept behind a few years. Overall their English was okay but it was a struggle trying to explain certain things to them. Nonetheless, they were so enthusiastic and LOVED all the games. We taught them prepositions, geography and arts and crafts.

I (Megan) had the 3rd years, which was easier than the other groups as they already had a good grasp of English – however they were also very enthusiastic and wanted to play every game. The difference between the classrooms over here and those at home is huge and it really puts into perspective the poverty they live in.

All the walls were very bare and there was hardly any colour, they had no games and the clothes they wore had to do them every day for full school career.

Beforehand we were all so nervous because we wanted to make sure the lessons were as fun as possible but also to make sure to show them that they are worthy of education. After a few minutes with our classes we felt completely comfortable and were almost having as much fun as the kids. As we write this blog, everyone is preparing themselves and their resources for even better lessons tomorrow and we are just so, so excited to get back to Kaplani and teach the wonderful children.

Although we are missing all our families, everyone is being so supportive and we just want to keep having fun with all the children.

– Megan and Danielle


Overcoming the Obstacles

8th July 2014

Today, compared to yesterday was less stressful.

Our stomachs weren’t churning at the thought of being good enough, as we had a lot of amazing support and fundraising from home we wanted to do the best we could. In our class 8, we are as enthusiastic as possible, praising them at every opportunity and making them feel special and wanted. Our first class today was Geography; we were teaching the pupils about direction, north, south, east and west. They all made individual compasses with paper plates, pins and arrows made of card. They all enjoyed decorating them and loved the pompoms and feathers. Their faces lit up – the more colourful the better. One of the boys at the back particularly put a smile on my face. As he scribbles meticulously he made a motor sound like a low hum and once he was finished her sat up looked at his masterpiece and went ‘mmmhmmm‘ in pride. This was my highlight of today.

– Maura

For our English lesson today we created an obstacle race for the children. As we had the youngest children with twenty in the class it was definitely the most exciting thing we have done with them, they couldn’t even stand still! John and Connor were demonstrating the race for them and there was a tunnel at the very start. However, they couldn’t fit and the children struggled to understand the word ‘through’. I, therefore, volunteered myself to go through it and it was definitely not as big as I thought and got stuck. At least it gave the children a laugh! The teaching was just incredible, there are only three girls in our class and today each one said ‘you are my best friend’ – they are just the cutest wee things ever.

Can’t wait to teach again tomorrow, I want to stay here forever!

– Hannah Gibson


Speaking Up

9th July 2014

This morning a few members of the team felt a bit under the weather and thought the best thing to do would be to sit out of today’s teaching day.

This meant the challenge for teaching became harder and we all had to pull together. Our class of 4th years is the smallest with only 9 students, but in no way does that reflect their enthusiasm –if anything they are the loudest! In preparation for the culture exchange concert tomorrow, the children taught us a Hindi prayer song (sung at morning assembly everyday) and in return we taught them a pop song and an Irish classic with added actions.

Today was by far the busiest day, but was still one of the most enjoyable. Being our third day teaching at Kaplani High School, we have formed a special bond with all the kids, both in our class and out of it. But for both of us one girl has deeply moved us, a girl who started the week off being very shy and timid. She was so insecure maybe because she suffers from severe back pain; she whispered instead of speaking up, and was afraid to make eye contact with any of us. Gradually throughout the week, she has made the most progress, she is so happy and is one of the most enthusiastic in the class.

When we gave her special consideration when teaching and incorporated her in all of the lessons, we saw a great improvement in her self–esteem, confidence and attitude in the classroom and on the playground.

To finish our teaching day we had an arts and crafts lesson. In this we attempted to make a 3D map of India with various resources, one of which being glitter –we really didn’t think this through! By the end of our lesson we were covered in glitter head to toe but still enjoyed every minute of it!

Owen & Lucy


Sky is Blue

10th July 2014

Thankfully everyone is feeling much better today and we were all able to attend our fourth and final day teaching at Kaplani.

We can’t believe that it’s the last day already, none of us want to leave these amazing children now that we’ve come to know them so well! I would love to stay here and do this week all over again. They’ve all come out of their shells so much since day one. Our last few classes have been very fun and creative, we’re all covered in glitter and paint because all of the children are so hyper! Today we’re all performing songs to the whole school for a cultural exchange concert and every single child is so enthusiastic about singing, they completely give it their all. Some of us have received the cutest cards ever. One to Hannah Brady says, “Rose is red, sky is blue, oh my dear I miss you” and another to Joe reads, “Some friends are like flowers and come and go but best friends stay in your heart forever” (you know something is emotional when Joe starts crying!) As sad as it is to leave Kaplani, we are so excited to go to Donk tomorrow and meet all the young children.

“Some friends are like flowers and come and go but best friends stay in your heart forever”

Today Christine, Surender, Owen, Lucy, Jordan and I (Rachel) were given the opportunity to visit the primary school down the road. It is a very tiny primary school with 45 pupils in one classroom. Christine and Surender are now working on supplying the primary school with midday meals so by the time the other teams come to Kaplani the primary school will have food at lunchtime which is fantastic. We introduced ourselves in Hindi and the children replied in English as the level of English is very high which is brilliant! Maybe next year Saphara teams will be able to teach there too!

Our final event at Kaplani school was a performance of Indian and Irish songs and dances – the highlight being each class’s performance of English songs. Class 6 and their Saphara teachers even performed ‘We shall Overcome‘ in both Hindi and English!

The saddest part of the day was saying goodbye to all these wonderful children – we will keep you in our hearts forever!

James and Rachel



11th July 2014

Today we trekked to Donk primary school, I think this was the day everyone was particularly excited for – seeing Donk Primary school which is funded completely by Saphara and our fundraising.

I (Tomas) really enjoyed working with my group of three young adorable boys as I had worked with the oldest class in Kaplani and had really enjoyed my time there. So it was amazing to be allowed to experience the enthusiasm from the younger children at Donk. We were teaching the clock in our class and I was amazed at how fast the children were able to pick up the concept of time. Throughout the short while we taught at Donk, We all couldn’t help smiling because of how cheery and enthusiastic the children were.

My highlight of the day was when one of the small boys took my hand and held my finger for the walk back to his house.

I (Connor) really enjoyed my class – a 35 minute obstacle race which was brilliant. On the trek I enjoyed listening to Surender – the charity director who runs the school – as he was wise and had many stories to tell. He was like a mystic mountain man but well dressed. The trek on the way back was very hard as it was all uphill and at 7000 feet we could really feel it. Tomas got leeched – quickly sorted out by Christine – the reason I think I didn’t get leeched is that they slipped off my sweat. Enjoying Indian lifestyle but a sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and chunky chips and maybe a chocolate brownie with ice cream for dessert would be appreciated. Having a good time and excited for the rest of the trip.

Tomas and Connor


A Teacher’s Reflection

12th July 2014

I was thinking this morning how quickly time passes by. It is hard to believe that last September we interviewed and chose a group of young people to take part in the Saphara programme. Today we are nine days into our ‘Journey with purpose’ with only a week to go. However, what an amazing nine days it has been. Everyday has been so different with highlights and challenges but each second a rewarding experience for the young people and teachers.

I feel so blessed to be involved with the Saphara trip to India for a second year. It has been a great opportunity to come back and see for myself the difference Saphara has made to the local communities. Last year the provision for lunches for Kaplani pupils was only an idea in the pipeline.

This year I experienced pupils rushing past me at the bell to join the lunch queue. I watched each pupil receive a generous quantity of nutritious food, equally divided between girls and boys.

On the walk to Donk Christine introduced a young lady, Sangeeta, to the team that Saphara was supporting at university. I was with Belfast team last year when this girl was offered a Saphara scholarship. It was lovely to see her again and to know how well she is getting on. She looked so happy and it is good to know that she now has a bright future ahead. On route to Donk I also spotted a house I remembered so well from last year – it had had been partially demolished by the heavy floods. The family were still living in one corner of the house. I remember thinking how on earth a family with young children could live like this high in the Himalayas especially when the monsoon rain hit. Christine stopped the trip and went to talk to the family. She was able to tell the family that Saphara would help to rebuild their home. It was wonderful to see this home totally renovated and the family come out and wave to us and smile as we walked by.

Donk primary school is a very special place. The school had been repainted since my trip last year and a new shelter provided for the local woman to cook the midday meals. Again it was fabulous to see so many little tots thoroughly enjoying a nutritious meal.

The 2014 Belfast team have all arrived in India with the same mind–set. They all want to work as a united team and make a real difference. As teachers we set an outline of each lesson but it has been up to each teaching group to make the lessons their own. They must devise suitable teaching strategies and develop appropriate resources. I have been astonished at how well each group has coped with this difficult challenge. Each evening the team spent a few hours developing lesson plans. They have been so creative and have used their initiative to ensure lessons are fun and exciting to engage pupils while also achieving the set learning intentions.

I have watched all members of the team teach lessons. I felt so proud of how well they have taught and how much they cared for the young pupils. I looked at the faces of the young pupils in each lesson.

Their smiles, laughter and excitement lifted my heart.

The Saphara team have made a lasting connection with the hearts and minds of the school children. They have made them happy and valued. This indeed is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

Each and every young person in the Saphara team is a key to the group’s success. I feel as if they are my own children. In fact I have being nicknamed ‘Mother Hen’ … cheers Conor Elliot!! I could not be more happy or proud to see their development into amazing young adults over the last nine days.

Tomorrow we set out for the next part of our journey. We head back to Dehradun and will begin teaching in SNEHA. I look forward to experiencing this last week with the brilliant Belfast team.

Andrea Mulholland, teacher, Dominican College Fortwilliam


A Message from Paul

13th July 2014

“Be the change you want to see in the world…Get up on your feet, He is calling you.”

These are not the words one would associate with a young 17 year old, but in fact were delivered only a few hours ago by two amazing students, Joe Toner and Laura Crozier.

I would like to begin my reflection by thanking Christine for giving me the opportunity to be part of this special journey. I am also thankful for the support of both Mark and Andrea (the other teachers on the trip). Best wishes to Andrea Cuthbert– we wish you could be with us! I would also like to assure all parents that your young people are very safe, healthy and happy as they embrace this life–changing experience. You should all be extremely proud of the fantastic young adults your children have become.

After a few days of cultural adjustment and appreciation, taking in the majestic Taj Mahal in the intense heat and humidity of Agra, it was down to business in the idyllic surroundings of the Himalayas in Kaplani High School. The boys and girls from Belfast quickly established a wonderful rapport with the underprivileged kids of the local area, and both learned so much from each other.

The sheer delight and happiness that the young Belfast team brought to the lives of the Kaplani kids was clear to be seen from the holding of hands, the never–ending laughter and of course the beaming smiles on the faces of the kids as they skipped around the playground and sang and danced their way through class together.

As I watched the dream–team of James, Grainne, Chris, Maura and Megan deliver a lesson of a standard high enough to put my own job at risk I had to escape the room for air. As I gazed across the mountain range, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. I spotted a man donning my own club football jersey, The Loup. It appears this jersey had been donated by a young student from my own club a few years ago! As the week went on, the relationships between our kids and those from Kaplani became closer and the profound impact that the inspirational pupils of Kaplani High School has had on our young people proved to be immense as we said our emotional goodbyes– (for now!)

Our journey by foot to Donk Primary School gave everyone an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful Himalayan landscape, yet offered a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced daily by the families of the same smiling children we formed such close bonds with in Kaplani. Life is tough for these kind–hearted people. As some “fortunate” children skip gleefully across rugged mountainous terrain for miles to and from Kaplani HS, our journey is only otherwise interrupted by a herd of mountain goats being shepherded bare–foot by a boy and girl, barely 14 years old in ragged clothes, with faces longing for an escape. Ten minutes in this environment is enough to conclude that education is the only hope for young people in India. The tired faces of the adults in this area as a result of years of toil without reward are only brought to life when they speak of their hopes for their children now that they are attending either Donk Primary School or Kaplani High School. Without this opportunity, they know all–too–well the arduous life that lies in wait for their young ones. Without Saphara, the reality is that neither school would be possible. This journey also afforded me some time with Surender the MGVS (local partner charity of Saphara) representative for the area.

Surender is an incredible man of integrity and character, who outlined the many fruits of Saphara’s labour in this area beyond education, such as water supply, toilets, and disability support to name a few.

This morning, before we made our way back to Dehradun our young people took part in a reflection service where we were blown away by their humility, deep thought and profound words. These young people have shone from the moment they touched down in Delhi and it is to them I would like to pay my final tribute. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to work with every one of them. We have shared laughs, tears, sickness and memories that will last a lifetime. They all bring something unique to this journey. I know that this is only the beginning of the wonderful impact these special young people will make on our world, and if I have been able to raise a smile, comfort or help any of them on their way then it has only been my privilege. Every single one is amazing and a credit to themselves, their families and Saphara. May this exciting journey continue…

Paul McVey, Teacher, St. Malachy’s College, Belfast



14th July 2014

Today was our first day teaching at SNEHA which was very exciting for us all as we had heard so much about this special school – it certainly lived up to all high expectations!

For the first time, we got Vikrams and it was hilarious – of course we had our Vikrams racing each other, just like Mario kart. When we arrived at the school the kids were in the midst of their assembly. SNEHA’s assembly was completely different in comparison to Kaplani – we did not expect there to be that many kids! The structure was also much more formal but that would be expected in a school of 1200 pupils. Before we started teaching, we had the privilege to briefly meet an inspirational woman Dr Reeta who founded SNEHA. She prepared us for the day we had in front of us and the rest of our time in India and through one day of teaching we all vividly recognise the amazing work she has done and we are intrigued to find out more about her before we leave. We both are teaching two Primary One classes (40 in each class) and they are all just so adorable! As soon as we walked into the classroom we were immediately welcomed by handshakes, “hello mam’s!” and most importantly huge smiles!

We have travelled so far, physically and educationally, from Kaplani and Donk high in the Himalayas to our first day of teaching in SNEHA School in Dehradun. Again we were so privileged to be welcomed by the entire student and teacher body. What an amazing school! Like Katie said we taught the reeeeeeeeaaaaaallly cute Class 1a and Class 1b and we all had our own little moments with them. We focused on teaching them the primary book “Walking through the Jungle”. When we split the class into smaller groups and Amita and I took around 10 boys and girls – one of whom plonked her tiny self on my knee to get stuck right in.

They were SO enthusiastic to be the loudest and proudest animal from the book! We had to laugh at the classroom riots over the stickers too. At one point we had to take them away so our class would listen to us! After our lessons with both Class 1s, we delved into conversation with the older (but just as mischievous) teens of the school and had around 4 pupils to 2 Sapharians. We loved it as we got onto a more personal level with these older SNEHA students and were able to have a bit of craic! 20 minutes in most conversation groups had mixed into one or two big groups and were showing off by singing – sometimes rapping – in both languages and dancing! It was amazing!

Since touchdown in India, there have so many indescribable moments shared among the group. We’ve tried to photograph and video them all but there has been so many laughs and cries and just feel–good–in–general memories that we physically can’t.

It’s unfortunate that not everyone can experience what we are, but in saying that we have drunk the most out of every thirsty second (as well as every water bottle in sight) and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the immense support over our Saphara–filled fundraising year. Undoubtedly, witnessing the extremes between the rich and the poor in India have been hard–hitting and emotional, but we have been so fortunate and grateful for being given an amazing team of supportive people, teachers, students and pupils.

Saphara India 2014 will be a journey none of us will forget and certainly one we will live out the rest of our lives talking about.



Can Giraffes Dance?

15th July 2014

We take class 2, who are aged from 7–8 (so around P2). Our first class was with 2b and we read and acted out the book “Giraffes Can’t Dance” the story of Gerald the Giraffe (played by me, Conor) and him learning to dance. It was great fun to get the kids up running around and doing silly things (if a little exhausting) when most of the time they are sitting at a desk, and their faces clearly showed they were enjoying it too! One of my favourite parts if the lesson was when we split out class into smaller groups of around 8. We got to know the kids so much better and really make a connection. Some of them could read all the words with no help!

After teaching class 2a and b we had a conversation class where we got to talk to a small group of class 10 and 11 whose ages ranged from 15 to 17. We started off with getting to know their name and age etc. One of the girls, Lisha we knew quite well already from having her in our conversation class yesterday but the others we had never met before. Our topics for today were daily routine and weather but we got though these quite quickly and began talking about things like music taste their hobbies, future aspirations and relationships. I really enjoyed talking to them as we were a similar age to them and could share similar ideas and interests with them.

After this, some of us got to travel the short distance to the marginalised community. One of the guys from my conversation class JD took me through the marginalised community and it was really shocking. I really can’t explain it properly but there were a few things that really stood out.

I saw the house of JD and his family and that was probably the biggest shock of them all. It was literally a concrete shed about 2–3 square metres across with a wooden shelf, and he said they slept seven there; I can’t even work out how seven people lie down in there. It was so shocking that JD, who looked so clean, was so well spoken and wanted to be a doctor (like scrubs!), came from such a humble background. It really summed up the power of not only SNEHA School but education in general, lifting people from the viscous circle of poverty giving them the confidence to dream big and truly make dreams become reality. Finally it made us appreciate how much we actually have back at home and how small our problems are in comparison.

Our journey so far had been an absolutely amazing and unforgettable experience that will change our outlook on life in general from her on in. We have had a fabulous time teaching at SNEHA School so far and can’t wait for the next 2 days.


PS mum still alive, sorry for not calling… forgot?


In Doing Good

16th July 2014

Galatians 6:9–10

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people.’

This verse has applied directly to our time in India. In this verse there is an essence of blocking out pessimism, the human way of belittling problems to wade our guilt – what difference does one bit of litter make? The fact is that it does make a difference, and we need to get past this form of pessimism to do good work in this world, and Saphara promotes this at its very core. We have all been given the opportunity to do good by working with the kids one–to–one, and any form of pessimism in the conscience that there are so many other kids out there who need that little bit of a lift can be broken by the fact that we have all made the most of the opportunity we have been given with our hard work and enthusiasm.

Let us not lose heart in doing good’

It is immoral to sit comfortable in a mixed plethora of guilt and greed, in the conscience of knowing that in the third world people are working 10x over to reap a fraction of the same lifestyle. As rich people, it is not simply an annual feel–good donation to Comic Relief that is required of us, it is our mandatory duty to work especially hard to improve the lives of those in marginalised communities, as much as time allows us to.

Saphara has given us all the opportunity in India to work hard not for the satisfaction of material gain, but the unequalled satisfaction of improving children’s motivation to become educated and end up with amazing opportunities.

For in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary’

Everybody in the world needs help in some way, whether it be a boost of motivation, life–saving water or help through a bereavement. The amazing thing about Saphara is that we have been given the opportunity to help adults and kids in so many ways, to do good to all people – midday meals at Donk, making sure the Kaplani children know that they’re worth something, and encouraging Surender and Dr. Reeta in their amazing work. One of the most immoral things a human can do is to pass by (metaphorically or physically) a person in need, because they ‘don’t have time’ or ‘can’t be bothered’. This Western attitude needs to change, and Saphara has given us the opportunity to be the beginning of this change in attitude.

So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people.’

– Chris


No Sweat

18th July 2014

To start the blog today we, Joe & Ruairí, would like to apologise profusely for the lack of communication home this past fortnight. A message to our parents, we are still alive and kickin’.

Today the day started a bit too early for our liking, awaking at 6 and leaving in the vikrams at 7.30. We arrived early to participate in the school assembly. Hundreds of SNEHA children lined the balconies of the school to sing together. Ourselves along with the student team had to perform a number of songs (though I think that we were outdone by the students). Fortunately the children all knew our song and joined in.

Together we have been teaching classes 1a and 1b this week in SNEHA. It has been an experience teaching these p1 equivalents but was also hugely rewarding. On Thursday we began our lessons teaching the sounds ‘s’ and ‘b’ by using a bah…bah…bah…bag filled with various items beginning with the letters. This was followed by a lesson on the 5 senses. This involved the children drawing and labelling ‘rob’ while they attempted to create a colouring pencil horde. Shouts of “sir sir one more colour’’ and ‘’thank you maam’’ echoed the classroom. This was followed by several rounds of the game mafia in the staffroom before we went to get our henna tattoos (don’t worry parents they aren’t permanent). Many of the girls got full blown hand tattoos which look intricately detailed while the boys were unfortunately only allowed their names on their arm (in Hindi of course). Joe

On Wednesday afternoon, we tearfully planned our final lessons and prepared small gifts for the children. We were relived that we would no longer have to stress over planning lessons but this most definitely signalled for some people that this was the beginning of the end of our journey together.

In the evening, we went of for an Indian–style dinner at a local restaurant, the Mothi Mahal. After our meal, we discovered that Paul, Mark and Andrea had prepared awards for each student. Our personal favourites from the emotional ceremony included:

Joe – The Serial Killer Award – for his central involvement in Mafia and being responsible for over 60 “deaths”.

Ruairí– The Perfect Gentleman Award – for his great sense of Chivalry and gentlemanly actions throughout the trip.

Laura – The NUT Award – for the longest amount of time spent with Nutella on her chin

Connor E – The Mummy’s Boy Award – for his close bond with our Mother Goose, Andrea.

John – The Gok Wan Award – for his unique fashion sense of socks and sandals.

Owen – The Teddy Bear Award – for most free hugs given out

James – The No Sweat Award – for being SO sweaty!

Muara – The “Did she just say that?” Award – for such gems as “Does bread go in the toaster?”

Amita – The SNEHA Pin–up Award – for the most requested mobile number amongst the SNEHA boys

On Friday morning, we delivered our final lessons to the SNEHA children in which they created fans (or flowers as the insisted on calling them) with each of the five senses written on them. We were ecstatic with the joy on the children’s faces as they received the gifts we had prepared and we took the final ten minutes of class to say our final goodbyes. After an exciting and busy two weeks, we had finally completed our last lesson.

In the afternoon, the SNEHA pupils putting us all to shame with a number of dances, both Indian and Western in style, as part of a cultural exchange. A particular highlight was the English teacher, Nadesh, singing to us and leading a fantastic iteration of “Our God is a Great Big God!” Dr Reeta gave a heartfelt speech thanking both us and Saphara for our hard work. We would like to extend this thanks to all those who helped us fundraise over the last year as we have now seen first–hand the difference this money makes to these children. – Ruairi

We are writing this from the train from Dehradun to Delhi (only 5 hours to go) as we prepare ourselves for a jam–packed day and a half before we arrive home. – Joe and Ruairí



The Belfast Team is now back home sleeping comfortably in their own beds. But before we sign off for 2014, here are their reflections on their Saphara experience:

Lucy: I feel privileged to have been chosen for Saphara, the experience was unforgettable. There are no words to describe the whole atmosphere; the sights, the smells and of course the schools! The memories of the smiling faces and enthusiasm of the kids will remain with me forever. I will definitely be more appreciative of everything I have and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go on a ‘journey with purpose’ to do so.

Amita: Going to India with Saphara has been an unforgettable experience. It showed me a part of India I’d never seen before. It not only provided me and the rest of the team with an opportunity to help many children improve their lives through education but it also opened our eyes to the difficulties and hardships they face. Seeing their homes and their struggles has made us all appreciate everything we have in our lives. I am so grateful for this amazing experience and also to my team for making it even more worthwhile.

Conor H: It’s difficult for me to sum up my experiences on Saphara in so little words, but I’ll try anyway. It was an amazing experience where I met some incredible people, saw some unbelievable sights and made some really close friends. The kids we taught were truly inspirational, all so smart, happy and eager to go to school, despite the challenges they all face, and really showed how education can empower people. But most importantly, I learnt that true happiness does not lie in material goods, but in helping other people.

John: The trip to India was absolutely unbelievable – I was lucky to have the greatest bunch of people away with me as well as leaders who where all exceptional. The trip itself was enlightening and special mention goes to Kaplani where I taught a class of 20 pupils. It was a challenge, but after four days I’d got to know them each by name and as if I’d known them for a lifetime – they were all so bright! The classes in SNEHA they were a delight to teach and so happy and excited to learn, taking your praise as though it was a blessing. The trip was absolutely spectacular on a whole and was one of the best things I have ever done.

Ruairí – I am so thankful for being selected to enjoy such a rich experience with such an amazing group of people. Memories from this trip will stay with me for the rest of my life, as will the countless life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Maura: Words cannot express all the benefits and wealth of experience that we, as young people, have gained on this trip. We’ve been through tears, laughter and sickness and, despite all the early mornings, exhausting heat, the children in our classes were worth all of it and then some. I couldn’t have travelled with a better bunch of people. We have grown so close and I’m thankful to the teachers, Graham and Christine for this amazing experience.

Connor E: Going to India has been a great experience to be part and I have made many great friends. The teaching in the school was amazing as well as being able to see the improvement in the community. Anyone would enjoy this trip and I would recommend it to everyone.

Danielle: Honestly I can’t even put into words how incredible these past couple of weeks have been. When we were leaving the hotel to go to the airport, we met the North West team as they were just checking in for their trip; and they asked us for some useful tips and wanted to know how incredible the trip was but genuinely it was impossible to describe it in a few words. We were helping people everyday, and just seeing the children that we taught grow more and more confident was amazing. However, the best thing was how close the whole team is now, we all get on so well and I am so gutted to be leaving everyone but at the same time so excited to see my family.

Hannah B– I can’t put into words how amazing the past two weeks have been. India has completely exceeded my expectations and I feel so blessed to have been a part of this incredible journey with purpose. One of the best things about the trip was seeing how the small things such as smiling at a child or shaking someone’s hand can really make a world of difference; these two weeks have truly changed my perspective on life. It was such an incredible and unforgettable experience.

Joseph: Being a part of the Belfast Saphara team has been one of my best experiences so far. Having the opportunity to teach remarkable and enthusiastic children from such underprivileged backgrounds along with meeting and becoming friends with such amazing people has changed me as a person. Seeing how fundraising money has helped those in need really puts it all into perspective. I would recommend the trip to anyone.

James: Having the opportunity to be a part of the Belfast Saphara Team 2014 has been the greatest privilege of my life so far. The challenges as well as the highlights have helped me to develop as a person and the enthusiasm of every amazing child I encountered will continue to inspire me long into the future. Supporting charity at home is all well and good but actually being there and witnessing the lives of these people changes you for the better. I have just had the best time ever and have loved every minute of this trip, which was spent with the most incredible bunch of people I know. The memories will stay with me forever!

Gráinne: Being a part of Saphara has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Teaching the children in the three schools was so different to anything I have done before. I have never met such happy and smiley kids before. They were all so keen to learn and just wanted to chat away with them for ages. Working with children who have so little compared to myself has really put my life into perspective. They were so giving and I was especially touched by a present of a little wooden bracelet from Angeli, one of the girls in my Kaplani class. They take nothing for granted and are just so giving – I can now take home with me a far greater appreciation of what I have at home. I don’t think I will ever forget any of them and I will always try to remember what they are going through compared to me, especially those of the marginalised communities, and the fact they never stop smiling.

Katie: The past 16 days have been indescribable. I cannot put into words the experience except for it being the best 16 days of my life. Life changing. The bond you make with the kids, teachers and team in such a short period of time is unforgettable. Saphara has put so much into perspective for me and really opened my eyes to what I want to do in the future. The journey has had so many ups and downs (the poverty was tough) but I couldn’t have spent it with a better team – you are all like my family and we have had such amazing memories. I want to thank again Christine, the teachers and everyone involved in Saphara for this amazing opportunity that I will never forget.

Rachel: A couple of lines cannot put into action the experience and journey that I have had during these past two weeks. It was definitely a huge culture shock. However, the different things that the kids in each school taught me and the memories I have with them will stay with me forever. Kaplani was definitely my favourite school and 9th class were the best group of kids I have ever met; being able to help change their lives makes me feel really privileged and grateful. Also, the bond and friendship of the team is indescribable and I have made some of the best friends. This journey has helped me put my life into perspective and I appreciate everything that I have compared to how little these kids have. It was the best 16 days in my life so far.

Tomas: It would be impossible to choose a single experience that I had on this trip to be an outright favourite, as the places we visited and the people we met each brought their own unique experiences, challenges and memories, from the connections we made with the children at Kaplani to the enthusiasm of the children in Donk and SNEHA. I was lucky to have such an amazing team and three amazingly sound teachers and Christine with us for most of our trip – I believe the team experience completed the journey and made it the enjoyable experience it was.

Jordan: Words can’t describe how amazing the time I have spent in India was. Meeting inspirational people such as Surender Singh and Dr Reeta have completely changed my view on life and have made me realise how fortunate I am with the lifestyle that I have. Teaching the children in Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA was by far the most exciting thing I have ever done. In a way, I am excited to get home to see my family and friends, but I am also sad as I have made so many friends and connections within the different schools. I will always remember the time I spent in India and will always be extremely grateful for it. It was also great to have three amazing teachers and Christine to guide us along the way and, temporarily, Graham who was an absolute legend and a top lad.

Owen– Two weeks has not long enough with this Belfast Saphara team! Every moment, tear, laugh and smile on this trip I will cherish forever. It is amazing to think how much the team have bonded over the past two weeks, and with the journey finally coming to an end it certainly wont be an end to the friendships and bonds that we’ve made here in India. It was a true pleasure and honour to be able to have some positive impact on the lives of such wonderful and inspiring children at all three schools that we taught in during our stay. I’m so grateful for this amazing experience and would especially like to thank Paul, Mark, Graham, Christine and our Amazing Saphara Mum Andrea!

Megan: There are truly no words to describe this wonderful experience. When I got picked for Saphara a number of people asked me why I was going out, when I told them I was teaching children they laughed and said “what difference will you make?”. That sentence played over and over again in my mind throughout the trip and it was on the last day in Kaplani high school when I realised how much of a difference we actually make as an organisation. The progress the children made from being shy and barely speaking English to being confident and wanting to have full conversations with you was incredible. It shows that even spending a few hours a day with the children made them feel valued and encouraged to go on to achieve greater things in life. This experience was once in a lifetime and I would honestly jump on a plane right now to see the children again. Thank you Saphara for providing me with this amazing opportunity and the memories it entailed.

Laura: This journey has been a lot more surreal than I expected. I was in India. Helping the poorest people I have ever met. And it feels amazing to say that! But not just for my own experience; to be able to look back in later years and say that I came all this way and hopefully changed a few lives for the better with the most amazing team I could have asked for – that feels so good! Currently we are playing our last few games of ‘Jack Change It’ in the airport and as much as we all want back to normality, we also want to chain ourselves to India and all the people we met.

Chris: Saphara has been the best experience of my life, bar none. I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to go to India and immerse myself in a culture so different to our own. My perspective of the world has changed, I have my sights set on a career path and I have a newfound desire to maintain social equality for everyone. The experience has changed my life! Of course I couldn’t have got through it alone, and the Belfast team members are all amazing people and have made it so enjoyable. Christine and the teachers have also been fantastic, and I appreciate everything they did for us.Building relationships with the kids and knowing how much of a difference you make in their lives has inspired me, and the memories will stay with me through the rest of my life.

Hannah Gibson: These past two weeks have literally been the best two weeks of my life and it is entirely impossible to describe my experience in a couple of words. I was nervous at the start but could not have enjoyed myself more; the feeling you get from seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when you walk into a classroom is indescribable. I absolutely loved having such a good relationship with all the children in Class 6 in Kaplani, as they could not have been sweeter kids. They are so appreciative of your time and effort, which I loved giving to them. The kids in Donk and SNEHA were exactly the same and I got as excited as them when we went into the classroom. I am gutted to be leaving India and our team as we are all so close but feel so incredibly privileged to have had this experience.


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