Down Team 2015

Taxis, Teaching and Temples

17th July 2015

What a difference a night’s sleep makes! An 11 hour sleep made the travelling of the day before seem like a distant memory for the whole team. After a solid breakfast we bounced into the taxis and headed to our first teaching destination– Anurag.

After another chaotic drive through the mayhem of Delhi rush hour, we arrived in great spirits. As we were led down a narrow Street, with poverty clear to see, none of us knew what to expect…As we arrived at the school we were greeted by the world’s cutest children, all dressed smartly, applauding our arrival, which left many of us with tears of joy in our eyes. We were treated with a great display of Indian culture with prayer and dances performed brilliantly by the students.

We then split up into our teaching groups, with two of us paired with 8 children, aged between 8 and 11. We spent over an hour playing icebreaker games and getting the kids to do a profile of themselves called “All About Me”. I think we speak for all of us when we say that the students were a pleasure to teach and impressed us with their level of English.

After a rendition of the traditional Anurag song ‘Walk in the Light’ and a delicious pizza lunch, we left and headed to Hamuyams tomb, which we learned was partly the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Our first taste of monsoon rain failed to dampen spirits, in fact it was a welcome relief from the heat.

We really enjoyed our first teaching experience and everyone is excited for what is to come. Early night tonight for our trip to the Taj Mahal tomorrow. Sending our love to all at home, don’t miss us too much…We are having a fantastic time.

Conal and Emma xoxoxoxo



18th July 2015

It was an early start for the Saphamily as we were woken at 5:15am. After stocking up with bananas at breakfast we boarded our lovely air conditioned (but bumpy) coach. It was a four hour drive to Agra, where the journey was complimented by everyone’s lovely singing and even a solo from Maebh. What a brilliant rendition of Hairspray!

We arrived to a beautiful hotel called The Trident, where we chilled with some soft drinks and muffins, before heading to the Taj Mahal: an awesome sight that took everyone’s breath away. We were led through the heat by our lovely tour guide Deepak. The once in a lifetime experience was worth all the heat(and the sweat patches).

We then headed back to the Trident for a spectacular all you can eat three course buffet. Even though the chef reassured us the curry was ‘mild’ after everyone’s first bite flames seemed to be appearing. These spice induced flames were soon extinguished by the amazing cake provided for Aileen’s 18th birthday and spirits were lifted with the joyful singing of Happy Birthday.

We then headed to Agra Fort with Deepak, which was a lot cooler in temperature. An amazing piece of architecture, it also had hidden wonders, such as whispering walls and mind trick windows. We even got asked to take photos with Indian children (celebrity alert). We then headed home where we stopped at Costa Coffee and Pizza Hut, for some chill time(a blast from the west).

We also noticed the large crowds which Dominic explained was as a result of Festival Day to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

After a day of lovely food and gorgeous sights, we couldn’t help but reflect on the striking contrast in extreme wealth and extreme poverty in this amazing country.

Up early tomorrow for a six hour train journey to Mussorie, where we will prepare for our first full day of teaching on Monday. Everyone is in high spirits, and can’t wait to get started! Don’t miss us too much!

Aileen and Harry xoxoxoxo


Journey’s Purpose

19th July 2015

Today started with another early start at 4:45 to begin our journey to Mussorie. We all got loaded into our taxis for our short trip to the train station, after a short wait we got on to our air conditioned carriage and all got comfy for a long nap. The six hour train journey involved beautiful views and some lesson planning for Kaplani tomorrow. The other passengers were very interested in our trip and Daniel and Matthew even managed to convince a young man, Adi to visit northern Ireland when he is in Europe next year.

When we arrived in Dehradun we all had our first experience travelling by vikram, an authentic Indian mode of transport which was thrilling and exciting.We then met up with members of the East Belfast team over lunch who gave us great advice for our time in Kaplani. It was amazing to see how they had fallen in love with Kaplani and it’s pupils in such a short time.

After this we were driven by taxi up to Mussorie on what can simply be described as the most breathtaking road anyone had ever travelled on as we twisted high into the clouds.This evening we got settled at the new hotel and finished up teaching planning for our first day in Kaplani which everyone is ecstatic for.

Sending lots of love home,

Matthew and Hannah D


The Start of the Beginning

20th July 2015

Today started with a virtual lie in for the Saphamily, not having to rise until the late hour of 07:15. With everyone bursting with an odd mix of excitement and nerves, we jumped in our taxis to head off on a winding mountain road to Kaplani high school.

Our first encounter with a few of the children was passing them by on their long road side walk to school. This for many was an hour and a half trek. Upon arrival we were met with many of our enthusiastic students. They then rushed off to morning assembly, which was military styled, student led, and included a rousing rendition of the Indian national anthem. This formal assembly, however, was no reflection of the fun–loving nature of the students, whose seemingly insatiable appetite to learn was heartening for all members of the Down Team.

Once assembly had concluded , we jumped straight into teaching. The content of the classes focused primarily around Personal Development and emotions, and English language, with a bit of arts and crafts thrown in to help with English conversation. Fortunately, the Kaplani pupils lived up to their excellent reputation and were not only brilliant and receptive, but were kind, patient and individually gifted, with talents ranging from language to beatboxing!

Some highlights included a huge game of the Hokey Pokey in the playground at breaktime with the girls from Classes 6 and 7, and Aisling and Tara being taught traditional Indian dancing. Conal, Toni and Hannah Mc were also invited into a different class to do some extra art. It was amazing to see how important a simple gesture of kindness towards the students was, not only to them but also to us. It was an inspiring and humbling experience to finally meet the young people who have been waiting for a year to meet us.

Despite our reluctance, we finished up at Kaplani for the day before heading on a gentle walk/uphill trek to the thriving town of Mussorie, where we were the centre of attention, attracting looks and gestures from all angles. However, it was good training for our trek to Donk Primary on Friday!

We returned to the hotel to have a lovely dinner of butter chicken and rice, and a shared reflection time. As we write this blog, other members of the team are making friendship bracelets for the Kaplani pupils tomorrow. We are buzzing for another day of teaching and are really enjoying the experience of India!

Hope no one at home is missing us too much as we change the lives of children in Mussoorie!

Toni and Tara xo


The Welcome Gets Warmer

21st July 2015

Hi guys! Day 2 of teaching in Kaplani is over and emotions are currently running high as we are growing closer to the children and the Saphara Team.

On arrival at Kaplani we were greeted with smiling faces and open arms. During morning assembly we sang our rendition of the classic ‘Our God Is So Big’. With some reluctant bodies (and some over enthusiastic bodies) we mastered the art of simultaneously dancing and singing. My Saphara teaching group has fortunately had the opportunity to be teaching class 6, the youngest class in Kaplani. Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate to the younger students as they have very limited English. However, as we broke into smaller teaching groups (groups of 5) myself and Emma successfully taught the young girls and boys how to structure sentences based on their daily routine. For example, on the first day they were taught ‘I am walking’, today I taught them how to extend their conversation, ‘I am walking to school’. Seeing their faces light up as they could use the key words independently was extremely rewarding.

Another memorable moment for the Saphara team was when Harry, Ross and Matthew had their first experience of playing a form of rugby with the some of the boys from a mixture of the classes. It was a different experience completely, the mixture of the high altitude and heat made it all the more enjoyable even if it gave the kids the upper hand.Tonight we had another eventful evening as we took part in the famous Saphara scavenger hunt. Riddles and rhymes were used to trick our minds, but all in all it turned out to be one of the more eventful and exciting nights of in–house fun.

Beth and Thomas


Choir Practice

22nd July 2015

Our penultimate day at Kaplani began with another early start as we prepared to teach the children about dealing with their feelings, and adverbs – something we’d almost forgotten ourselves!

We received another warm welcome at assembly and this time were able to join in with the Indian national anthem which we obviously nailed (at least we thought so). This set us up for our choir practice after lunch uniting the Saphara team and the children of Kaplani in song. We were amazed that some of the children were able to memorise the lyrics to the hymn in English despite being such young second language speakers! I (Maebh) belted it out to applause.

At afternoon lessons we began preparing our presentations for Thursday’s showcase of our classes’ work. Myself (Conor), Hannah D and Lauren did a great job of teaching Class 8 “Once I caught a fish alive” while Brad helped Class 9 come up with some humour for their assembly.

After leaving Kaplani at 2pm, we had lunch and then set off on our afternoon walk to Mussoorie. The town was alive with Indian tourists retreating from the heat of Delhi, and we are excited to be returning for some shopping on Friday.

Returning to the hotel exhausted, we had dinner followed by our evening activities. To help the Saphamily bond we were asked to share an embarrassing moment from our lives, and Ross was eager to tell us about the time he ran into a car chasing the school bus!

We can’t believe we’re coming to our final day at Kaplani, and are preparing for an emotional goodbye tomorrow!

Conor and Maebh


Goodbye Kaplani

23rd July 2015

So today started with another early rise, preparing ourselves for an emotional day ahead.

For our last day, each class had to perform a presentation to the rest of the school consisting of creative ways to show all of their hard work throughout the past few days. Every pupil put their heart and soul into their performance, whether it be a quiet girl from class 6 who finally spoke English in front of the whole school, to pupils in class 10 (the oldest class, who weren’t a bit embarrassed) singing their hearts out for their final Saphara visit as they will be moving on to college.

Class 6 did a very entertaining song called ‘I like to eat mangoes in the morning’, created by our own team members Emma, Beth, Aileen, Julia and Ross.Class 7 did their own version of the well known campfire classic, ‘Boom Chicka Boom’ and even though they may have been a little confused by the adverb ‘slowly’, they still did an amazing job.Class 8 performed an amusing rendition of, ‘once I Caught A Fish Alive’ accompanied by their teachers.Class 9 performed ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ using lots of different emotions they had learned throughout the week.Class 10 performed for their last time a role play that they made up with the assistance of their teachers, finished with a final thank you to the staff of Kaplani and the whole Saphara Team.

After the emotional goodbyes, we left Kaplani for our final time. After lunch we headed out on our daily hike, we were quite happy to stop and explore the local chemist which sold everything from crisps to umbrellas and shoes.

After our dinner, we ended the night with a reflection on all of our experiences so far and our realisations at how much this trip has affected us individually. To end the night on a less serious note we had a sing–off led by Catherine and now we are all heading to bed to prepare for our trek to Donk tomorrow

Lots of love, Aisling and Hannah Mcxoxo


Namaste at Donk

24th July 2015

Adrenalin was high as we ate our breakfast and packed our lunch before we set off on our 2 hour trek through the Himalayan foothills, at a height of 7,000 feet above sea level, to Donk Primary school this morning.

The taxis left us at the top of our path allowing us take in the spectacular view of Dehradun. After applying our suncream for the first time in a few days Surrender led us on our way. The whole way down we heard lots of interesting stories from Surrender about many different people who have benefited in different ways from the work of Saphara.

One story that was particularly inspiring was meeting two Kaplani graduates who lived in Patrani, a small village on the way to Donk, who are now at college doing a B.A in political science in Mussorie. This gives us incredible hope for the future of the current students who we had the pleasure of teaching.

Along route as well as taking in the surreal scenery we passed many houses of the students in both Donk and Kaplani. As we arrived at Donk spirits lifted as we spied a very comfortable wall to catch our breath and rehydrate before our short lesson. In comparison to Kaplani it was a much more rural and smaller school with a total of only 20 students.

Their tiny faces (and we mean really tiny!) lit up as we entered their classrooms..and ours did too! We we were greeted with shouts of ‘Namaste’. For such little people they were all such enthusiastic characters and although our time was short it was such a wonderful experience. Following our lessons we were able to eat our lunch while they enjoyed their midday meal supplied by Saphara. After this we played outside until the rain came on and we moved inside to sing songs and dance with the children.

Similarly to Kaplani we enjoyed their short assembly and afterwards presented the children with small gifts to encourage them in their learning. After a true Irish goodbye which involved numerous hugs and pictures we reluctantly set off on our journey home.

Not long into the journey home our suncream was washed off by the typical monsoon rain but no one complained as sweatmarks and rain slowly merged into one (thankfully). The journey home was a long uphill struggle but with Surrender’s stories and Dominic’s encouragement we made it to the top. The journey was made extra special as we saw some of our students from Kaplani as they made their journey home. This put our journey into perspective as although we struggled through it once this is another part of the daily routine for many of these children.

When we arrived back to the hotel the race was on to get first shower and we enjoyed some well deserved rest. After this we had our usual dinner followed by an interesting trade game to kick–start our global awareness weekend which got everyone reflecting on global issues of today. We had a short reflection led by Michael that was kept short and sweet to allow everyone to get an early night for the weekend ahead.

Its fair to say everyone really enjoyed their day as the short time we spent with the children was amazing.We only wish we could have stayed longer. We are all looking forward to our final week (and tomorrow morning’s extra hour in bed). Hope we aren’t missed too much,

Lauren and Julia xxx


Accident of Birth?

25th July 2015

As I sat out on the balcony this morning, listening to the birds and enjoying the spectacular view that fades in and out in the mountain mists, the recurring thought that came to me is how easy it would have been to have had a different birth place.

It is a thought that has started to permeate the group in the last 10 days as we witness so many facets of India in juxtaposition everywhere we turn. The extreme wealth and extreme poverty jostling for space in New Delhi; the remnants of an old regime lining up beside a new emerging spirit where women are beginning to keep their own name in marriage; the peaceful acceptance and respect of religious diversity against the world backdrop of suspicion, animosity and hatred; the corruption of government in the shadows of the honesty and transparency of NGOs like MGVS.

We continued our Global Awareness Weekend with a workshop led by Surender Singh, the coordinator of MGVS (founded in 1981). He spoke briefly about his own upbringing as part of the Garwalhi people, his father returning from the army at two month intervals to bring something as simple but as precious as an axe which allowed Surender, as the eldest of 6, to provide income through chopping wood.

We heard then of the work of MGVS, and how with the support of Saphara and others they have developed a role in community and partnership with 710 families in 14 different villages. As Surender explained and highlighted through various group activities with us, the aim of MGVS is not charity but empowerment. He illustrated this at one point with an anecdote about a water pipeline they had installed in Petrani which had recently developed a fault. Rather than send someone to fix the fault MGVS volunteered to train some local villagers. However the people took their own initiative, checked the line and fixed the fault themselves. As Surender pointed out this is where the true success of all ‘charity’ lies, not in handouts but in self sustainability.

Dominic highlighted how much we too can learn from MGVS, especially in their attitude to community and community voice. How often do we assume, in all areas of life, that we know what is good for others, rather than asking them what they really want?

We continued with a very impressive and highly entertaining dramatisation of ‘Water Babies’ by Daniel, Ross, Tara and Maebh. This focused our attention on the contrast in the motivation and intentions of those who become involved in charity work.

While there is no doubt there is much we can do to help those who are marginalised in India, the truth is the last 10 days have shown us how much we too have to learn from this fascinating country. As I write this the students are busy tidying their rooms (i.e. bombsites – although they assure me it could be worse, as parts of the floor are still actually VISIBLE) and packing their rucksacks for our relocation to Dehradun tomorrow.

An accident of birth? I don’t believe so, I do believe the world lives in inequality and that is where our greatest challenge lies. Do we stay cocooned in our own bubble or reach out in partnership to give and receive in equal measure?

Our journey with purpose continues…



The Beginning of the End

27th July 2015

Another early start for Saphara as we ate our last breakfast in Hotel Gateway in Mussorie. After 7 nights of cool comfort in the mountain air, it was time to head back down to the heat of Dehradun.

But before we left we had a very important reflection called ‘The Happening’, which tied up our Global Awareness Weekend. Everyone brought a poem, quote, verse or their own personal reflection which related to the work we have been doing and will continue to do with. Hannah handed out inspiration cards she had brought with her for everyone on the team. We listened to various pieces from a variety of sources including Ghandi, John Lennon and Mother Theresa. The content focused on issues such as education, empowerment and women’s rights. It was a lovely way to spend our Sunday morning, listening to others’ thoughts and being able to relate to them.

We then headed down to Dehradun in our trusted taxis and returned to Inderlok Hotel, where we had met the Belfast team the previous week. After room allocation and settling down we headed to McDonald’s and then to a Coffee shop which had a hidden book shop at the back where everyone browsed and chilled.

Then a bit of down time before some intense lesson planning for our first day at Sneha tomorrow. Our themes are Rumble in the Jungle and Going on a Bear Hunt. We spent the afternoon cutting out resources and practicing our dramatisations of the books – jungle masks and puppets included!

After dinner in the hotel, we did a table quiz led by Hilary and had a great time.. although there were some very strange answers!

We are so excited to start teaching in Sneha, and although missing everyone, wish we had more time. Only 4 sleeps left!

Aileen and Brad xxxx



28th July 2015

Today was an exciting day as we began our teaching at SNEHA. We started with an early morning ride in the vikram through the busy streets of Dehradun and even met some of the students from Sneha on our journey. When we arrived at the school we were blown away by the immense volume of students present. This amazement was cemented when the assembly started and the full volume of SNEHA was revealed. Over 1,000 students ranging from nursery school age all the way up to eighteen year olds who all stood proud in the blazing heat of the courtyard. The assembley was undertaken with almost military precision which was then shattered when Nadesh began to sing the Hokey Pokey and every student and teacher joined in with 100% enthusiasm.

Straight after assembly we rushed to our first class and arrived to staggering numbers of up to 49 pupils in one class! Although this sounds quite daunting everyone seemed to come out of their classes with a positive attitude. The highlight of the day for us however was going around the classes at breaktime and chatting to the older kids for the first time. We were amazed at their level of English and were impressed that they could even tell us that Conal looked like a famous Australian cricket player. We enjoyed getting to know them so much that we lost track of time and had to run to our next class, however the pupils didn’t seem to mind and still greeted us with the same amount of enthusiasm as they had during our first class in the morning.

After class at SNEHA we again mounted the vikram for the return journey and headed for McDonald’s for lunch. After finishing our meal there we went to the local coffee shop/bookstore for a sit down, a chat about our first day at SNEHA and a few competitive card games. Finally after a short trip to the sweet shop we got back to.the hotel for a 30 minute sleep then back up once again for lesson planning.

However after all this work we were rewarded with a nice dinner in ‘Salt and Cravings’. Our adventures continued as we got stuck for about half an hour after we had paid our bill. Full scale monsoon rains had created a proper river down the edge of the road. However eventually it eased and after a leap of faith and some wet sandals we got back to the hotel. At the moment we are going over the assembly we have prepared for tomorrow. Hopefully it will live up to SNEHA’s high standards!

Love Megs, Daniel and Conal


The Final Frontier

29th July 2015

Our penultimate day in SNEHA began with a hearty breakfast and a bumpy vikram ride to school. It was the turn of the Down Team to lead the morning assembly, which included a short drama, several songs and a quiz led by our dazzling host, Ross. We also marked the death of former Indian president A.P.J Abdul Kalam with a minute’s silence and reflection. Although a Day of Mourning was declared in India, SNEHA remained open. We learned that President Kalam had requested that schools didn’t close in the event of his death, a true testament of the high value he placed on education.

We then walked briskly to our classes, eager to build on the foundations we had laid the previous day. At midday, Saphara students were invited by members of the marginalised community to visit their homes close to the school. We were inspired and humbled by the courtesy with which they welcomed us and the pride which the Sneha students and their families took in their poor standard of accommodation. We couldn’t help but marvel at how SNEHA students turn up to school so enthusiastic and well presented, despite the circumstances in which they live.

Our visit was followed by a meeting with Dr Reeta Rao, founder and director of SNEHA community. Her story is a true testament of her character, building the school up from nothing, purely for the benefit of others. Following our afternoon lessons, we reluctantly left SNEHA and headed for lunch and a very quick spot of gift shopping (hope you like the soap mum! – RC).

Dinner was followed with a bit of amateur book binding – in other words, making memory books with coloured paper (very professional). Tears were shed during evening reflection as we looked back with fondness at our time in India. It’s hard to accept that our time in India is almost at an end. However, the time we have spent here has been phenomenal and we look forward to sharing our experiences with the people at home.

Miss you all lots and see you soon Connolly and Connolly



30th July 2015

The day started on a low as we ate our last breakfast in the hotel. Reality was sinking in that our trip is nearly over. Once breakfast and last minute packing had finished we headed off to not only our last day in SNEHA, but our last day of teaching on our Saphara journey.

When we arrived at SNEHA we were greeted with a warm sense of belonging as they invited us to sing during assembly. After another beautiful assembly we were treated to some traditional Indian dancing preformed by both the older and younger pupils. Once the dancing was complete everyone headed off to class in great spirits.

The first two classes were everyday English lessons which went well for all teachers on the team. Once they were over we had a short break before joining Dr Reeta Rao and other SNEHA staff for an opening ceremony of two new classrooms. Dominic and Hilary were given the honour of cutting the ribbon, signalling another completed Saphara funded building project at SNEHA School.

Our last English lesson was a bit different than usual. As it was our last opportunity to spend time with all the small yet ambitious students, we decided that the whole team would spend their last hour with the children rotating in a carousel of activities. This carousel consisted of three different activities including singing, a learning activity and a game to end. This fun filled idea from Hilary was a success and everyone including the SNEHA staff and Saphara teachers enjoyed the experience. It’s safe to say our last class at SNEHA ended on a high with fun and laughter throughout.

The last class was sad but the Saphara team were quickly brightened up again as the conversation lessons began. Everyone was relaxed and exchanging ambitions and dreams, ranging from software engineers to fashion designers. Brad especially enjoyed speaking to a few of the boys as they shared hobbies and general banter. Conversation classes came to an end and everyone said their goodbyes. The girls and boys of the team then enjoyed the privilege of getting henna done by some very talented girls; the boys enjoyed getting their names in Hindi on their arms, while the girls loved each indiviual and unique design painted on their hand.

SNEHA was amazing with many inspiring people ranging from Dr Reeta Roa to Nadesh, who not only inspire the students in their care but also every member of the Saphara team. The vikrams arrived, farewells were said and the team left SNEHA all with intentions of hoping to return in the future.

After a quick lunch the Saphamily was full of energy and ready to head off on our last vikram ride to the station to board our train for a six hour journey back to Delhi. Our journey home has started and we will see you soon, safe and sound.

Lots of love, Toni xo


Time to Say Goodbye

31st July 2015

For the last time we woke up and consumed the usual hearty breakfast of toast and bananas as we prepared for the long journey back home.

After cramming our rucksacks we gathered for final reflections of our favourite moments from the trip. The reflection was full of some fond, some funny, and some poignant memories. From proud teaching moments in Kaplani and SNEHA, to Conor’s memories of the lunch in the Trident hotel (nothing less for Conor) at the start of the trip.

We then piled into the taxis and headed to the breathtaking Lotus Temple. An oasis of calm in the midst of a city that is home to 22 million people. After the obligatory photos (we never seem to tire of photo ops!) we were invited, barefoot, into the impressive temple where we sat in peaceful silence for some personal meditation. For some it was an opportunity to begin to process our many experiences of India. For others a chance to give thanks for all we have to be grateful for, and to pray for a safe trip home.

After lunch we did some last minute gift shopping in the Cottage Emporium. Following the spending of our last rupees we headed to the Imperial Hotel to relax and enjoy some chocolate cake before heading back to collect our bags and head to the airport.

It is extremely difficult to sum up all we have experienced, most especially the huge gap that exists between rich and poor in India. As we are typing this we are waiting to board our flight to Dubai; images of ex–president A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s funeral flash across the TV screen and although exhausted we are reluctant to be leaving a country we have fallen in love with in the last two weeks.

See you very soon!

Hannah M and Matthew xx


Final Reflections

Thomas Rose – Overall this trip has completely changed my view on the outside world and the impact I can have on it. I’ve discovered that it truly is the smallest things in life that give us the biggest amount of pleasure, and that true happiness doesn’t come from the things you own but from what you do with the things you have. The thing for me that I will always remember because it has been imprinted on my mind is that education is the most valuable thing to a person and no one should be be denied it as the amount of doors it opens in terms of opportunities is limitless.

Daniel McClean – The Saphara trip has been breathtaking to say the least. The friendships I’ve made that I can tell will be life long and the fact that I have met some incredibly inspirational people who will inspire me forever. The trip has been eye opening to me and I’ve experienced situations that have been truly extraordinary. This trip has definitely opened my eyes to the true value of education, allowing people to escape poverty and go on to do great things with their lives. It is said that travel is the only thing you can buy that will make oneself richer and I truly do feel that the people I have spent time with on this trip and the people I have met have changed my perspective so heavily that I am truly richer for it.

Tara Connolly – The Saphara trip to India has changed my life. Never before have I both laughed and cried so much in two weeks, all whilst meeting the most amazing and inspiring of people and sharing once–in–a–lifetime experiences with the Saphamily. But aside from all of that, the trip has truly opened my eyes to the key importance of education in the lives of the children and young people I have met along the way. Whether it be in an isolated Himalayan primary school of 20 pupils or a thriving city school of over a thousand, the impact made by education and Saphara is imprinted on the young people, and is a privilege to witness. I have truly been blessed to be a part of such a incredible experience.

Hannah McGeown – Before I came on this trip we were all told that no matter who you are that this journey will impact your life in many ways, I never really believed it until now. The journey is hard to explain, from the exhausting heat to the many different smells to the impact a single child can have on your whole outlook on things you barely took the time to think about. I can say that on this journey, which I was lucky enough to take alongside amazing people, has impacted me for the better. I am very thankful I was picked to go on this journey and I have benefited from it immensely.

Megan Mc Alinden – Never in my life have I experienced something as amazing and properly life changing as this trip has been, I can’t put into words how honoured I am to have been chosen. I have met some amazing people in India: a lot of which would be the children I was teaching and the inspiring people I was introduced to such as Surender and Nadesh. I’ve also loved making new friendships and becoming closer in our team because we were relying on each other to keep us going. Constantly doing things such as walks, and lesson planning ect made the weeks go very quickly, and but the fact that the time went so quickly is my only fault of the trip. Honestly it has been one of the best few weeks of my life and I would so highly recommend it to everyone.

Harry McCormick – I can truly stand by my belief that Saphara has had a profound impact on my life. Never did I imagine that this experience would be as fulfilling and emotional as it has turned out to be and not once have I regretted my decision to apply. The teaching was not only enjoyable but showed us first hand the difference that is being made through education. The people I have met such as Nadesh and Dr Reeta haveI been inspirational and I can also say I learnt just as much from the kids we taught. Saphara has been an unforgettable experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Julia Maginn – Travelling to India with Saphara has been a life changing experience and I’ve been lucky to share it with such a great team. I’ve met so many inspirational people who have made a lasting impression.The time spent teaching in Anurag, Kaplani, Donk and SNEHA opened my eyes to the benefit education can have and how truly important it is. Seeing children come from such poverty but still have a smile on their face and be so enthusiastic to learn made me realise how fortunate I am to have my education. So much has been packed in to only 16 days and my only complaint is that it went too quickly. I feel very fortunate to have been part of such an experience and witness the great work Saphara does.

Brad Kirk – Before the trip when asked what it was that we were doing with Saphara, I would tell people that we were going out to teach the children English. Sadly, I only told half the story because we gained from the experience just as much as the children themselves. They opened doors to their future through education and the burning desire to make something of their lives, whilst we got a lesson on the simplicity and deeper meaning of life and the essence of being content with a smile and the company of one another rather than being absorbed in the world of material wealth and social media. Furthermore the connections and bonds made with the team will last a life time and the many, many laughs shared are something to be treasured. It really was a ‘journey with purpose’ and it was an honour to be a part of it.

Ross Connolly – It’s difficult to put into words what a fantastic trip Saphara has been. Prior to the trip I did not anticipate the impact it would have on my entire worldview. The things you see, hear and do are experiences which are unparallelled to anything I could have ever seen myself having the privilege to be a part of. The team formed an instant bond and this only continued to grow as the journey went on. The impact that education is having on the children we met is staggering. It gives them hope, and empowers them to make a good life for themselves, and it was this that truly gave us a sense that what we were doing was totally worthwhile and valuable. Meeting people like Surender Singh and Dr Reeta Rao was incredibly inspirational. These were people who had dedicated their entire lives to the wellbeing of others. I would like to thank everyone who donated and otherwise helped to make this possible, and just again highlight what an absolutely tremendous time I have had.

Conal Murnin – ”Life changing” was a phrase I had heard many times in the run up to our trip to India but I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the profound impact the experience has had on us. I’ve felt utterly inspired by people like Surrender Singh and Dr Reeth Rao who have dedicated whole lives to educating disadvantaged children. The kids themselves were incredible. Despite their situation, their enthusiasm and willingness to learn and engage with us was phenomenal. I’ve also been totally blown away by the strong friendships formed among our team, teachers included, many of which I know will last for life. To share this experience with so many fantastic people was a complete privilege, and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible especially those who supported us from home with donations and prayer. Saphara has had an impact on me that I am sure will last a lifetime and I urge anyone thinking of applying to go for it.

Hannah Davidson – Now at the end of our trip I have realised how much It has impacted me and it has truly been a life changing experience. We have met so many truly inspiring children who are so committed to their education, and so many teachers who are dedicated to allowing those children to have the opportunity to learn.I would like to thank everyone who donated so generously to Saphara every penny really does have such a significant impact on the lives of the people Saphara help. I know that the impact this trip has had on me will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.

Conor Wilson – I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say that our Saphara experience has been nothing short of incredible. I was certainly a bit cynical when I was first told what a life–changing journey ours was set to be, as “life–changing” is a term thrown around so much, but mine has absolutely changed my outlook. We have all become so close as a team, and moreover I could not have imagined just how invested I would become in our lessons for the pupils of Kaplani, Donk and Sneha. The students themselves are phenomenal, and they truly value the education they have been given – seeing where the money goes allows me to assure all of Saphara’s generous supporters that their contributions really are making a difference. Much as I believe there is no more worthy cause than Saphara and its partnerships with Surender Singh and Dr Reeta Rao, I have learned not to pity the people I have met – they have so little yet they are immensely proud of their homes and possessions, and we have much to learn in the West from their worldview. This has truly been an experience that will stay with me forever.

Aileen Gallagher – You never think it’s actually going to happen when people say ‘Saphara will change your life’, and although it sounds like a cliché these are the truest words ever spoken. Saphara is an experience like no other. On no other trip will you experience such fulfillment, meet such amazing people and learn so much. The children I have met and have been lucky enough to teach are incredible. Their enthusiasm to learn, the love that they show and their effort and ambition is indescribable. After Saphara you truly realise education is the key to changing the lives of those trapped in the cycle of poverty. The past 16 days have flown in, but have been the most amazing 16 days and I hope some day I have the opportunity to come back to India. I would like to thank all those who supported me in any way with my fundraising. I saw first hand the different that every penny collected makes. Saphara was an unbelievable trip spent with the most wonderful people; once a saphamily always a saphamily.

Emma Leahy – Being able to travel to India with Saphara has been such a privilege and incredible experience that by simply writing about it does not do it justice. The people and students we met and formed relationships with in Kalplani, Donk and Sneha are the most amazing individuals and have taught me and the rest of the wonderful team so much during our time with them. Their capacity of love for others, their few possessions and education was simply phenomenonal. Every student turned up to school eager to learn, their enthusiasm was incredible and taught me so much about what should be truely valued in life. The Saphara trip has been life changing, filled with memories and experiences that will stay with me for forever.

Maebh Canavan – A ‘life changing experience’ is a phrase you commonly hear when speaking to Saphara students and only now I am realising I never took the time to digest the true meaning of that phrase. Coming to India with such an enthusiastic team has benefited not only us but hopefully the students at Anurag, Kaplani, Donk and Sneha. Their willingness and eagerness to learn is incredible and has made me realise how much I take for granted. Less truly means more when you see the pride gleaming on the faces of the kids in Donk and the marginalised community when showing us their homes. I have learnt not to pity the people we have encountered as pity will not change the lives of these people but empowerment and resources will. The Saphara team, I hope, have reached out to kids, teaching them that education is everything and determination and imagination can go a long way. Not only has teaching given me immense happiness, but the hilarious memories and friendships formed on this team I will carry home with me forever. Thank you Saphara for opening my eyes to what truly matters and seeing the potential young people have to be able to engage with these incredible children.

Toni Dinu – When asked what Saphara was in the past I often explained wrong. I would tell others Saphara was a team of students travelling to India to teach under privileged children english, but Saphara is much more than that. Saphara is a not only an eye opening journey but a special one. It allows those who have had the privilege of being chosen for the team to inspire the lives of others who have lost ambition, to allow a smile to carry a child along the right path of education and also to alllow themselves to grow within. Many people say Saphara changes the lives of the young people but this I don’t believe. We as the Down Team all applied for Saphara with the right intentions and open hearts. Saphara does not change you but simply helps you see the person you should be. Every child or adult I’ve met on this trip has inspired me, and every friendship I’ve made I will treasure forever. Many might see Saphara as a life changing trip but for me it was the push I needed to realise that the real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations and that we have the ability to overcome that through the power of education. There are no words to describe my time in India and I wouldn’t change one minute of it. Thank you Saphara, the trip may not last forever but the memories and friendships will.

Lauren Rice – It seems like a cliché to say that Saphara changes your life and until coming on the trip I believed it was nothing more than that. Thinking back on what we as a team have experienced in the last 16 days is unforgettable . Whilst teaching the children in Anurag, Kaplani, Donk and Sneha helped encourage their learning and development I think everyone would agree that they equally taught us so much about ourselves and our own lives. Their enthusiasm and excitement about learning has opened my eyes to value what is really important in life. There are many people on the trip who have made a lasting impression on my life and have helped me to see life in a different way. Those children who trek for up to 2 hours every morning just to get to school taught me a lot about the value of education and how we tend to take it for granted. Saphara is an amazing organisation that really does empower the young people it works with, allowing them to believe in a future for themselves. I have been so lucky to experience such wonderful things with such an incredible team of people. Words can’t possibly describe all that we have experienced over the last 16 days but the memories we have and the friendships we have made will last forever. Thank you Saphara.

Beth Toner – When challenged with the question ‘What’s the difference between charity and empowerment?’ I was left wondering in my own thoughts. However I’ve come to realise that there is a significant difference. Why couldn’t we have donated the money we paid for flights, hotels and taxis to those most in need in the marginalised communities? The answer is very simple. Saphara, although it presents itself to be a charity to those less familiar, focuses on empowerment. Empowering the children by showing love and giving them the opportunity for success and empowering teachers who put immense effort into teaching these children. Therefore, the answer I dictated after long deliberation was that a charity provides financial aid to help those who require it which is often effective in the short term but we do not see where the money may go. Empowerment as I stated above allows for long term opportunities; opportunities that we helped create in the last 16 days. I would like to thank everyone who donated and supported me through my journey with purpose.

Aisling McCann – To say that the Saphara trip has changed my life is such an understatement that I know what I write will in no way begin to describe just how amazing it is. It is not something that can be summed up in a few words. It is an incredible, and indescribable experience. From the children I met in Kaplani, Anurag, Donk and SNEHA, who had so little but gave so much to me and the rest of the team through their happiness and enthusiasm towards their education which they value so much, to the rest of the team who have helped me so much and made this trip better than I ever thought it could be. People often ask, ‘Why not just give money to the schools? Why go out and teach them?’ and before this trip I never had an answer to this question, but but now I do. The difference you can make to a child’s life simply by coming to their school and connecting with them is unbelievable and makes a huge impact. I would like to thank everyone who supported me and donated to the charity as it has done so much. I would also like to thank Saphara for allowing me to have this amazing experience that I will never forget.

Matthew Graham – Without doubt this trip has been the greatest experience of my 17 years of life so far. I have been faced with numerous challenges during our time in India which at times were tough to overcome but these were far outweighed by the good times and the visible results of Saphara’s hard work. It is hard to imagine the impact a small team of teachers and pupils can have on the vulnerable communities that we met until you experience it for yourself. The beaming smiles of the children of Kaplani, Donk and Sneha when we arrived in the mornings was something I’d never experienced before and something I will never forget.


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