Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Fabulous First Day in Delhi
28th October 2017
After two long flights the team landed in Delhi Airport and were whisked off to our hotel where we were welcomed by garlands placed round our necks. A short sleep gave us enough energy to shop in the amazing Karol Bagh market where we got kitted out in colourful Indian clothes ready for our trip to the Taj Mahal tomorrow.
We went to see the beautiful Gandhi Museum where we strolled in tranquil gardens and reflected on this amazing man and his life.
Back to the hotel for our 1st Indian meal and now off to bed for a welcome sleep before our early start to Agra tomorrow.
We are all doing well and send love to all at home!
The Most Beautiful Building in the World
29th October 2017
Grand marble walls, long bustling queues and awe inspiring views were our initial reactions when we arrived at the Taj Mahal. We were surprised at the scale of the iconic mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife. Once our trusted tour guide brought us through the sea of eager visitors, we caught sight of the vast marble walls of the Taj itself. We found out that some Indian visitors would spend their life savings and put on their best outfit just to visit the building. It was inspiring to see how passionate and enthusiastic the people are about their culture and history. One example was when we had to cover our shoes before we entered the Taj itself, out of respect and preservation.
We headed back to the beautiful Trident hotel for a fabulous lunch, a thank you for all our fundraising efforts for Saphara. At the buffet we had a range of different Indian dishes to choose from, which allowed us to taste a variety of exotic tastes and spices– plus lots of delicious desserts. One highlight was meeting up with teams from Ballymena Academy and Armagh Royal, who are volunteering with a charity in Delhi – a trip originally started by Christine. As a number of us knew students from that team, we were excited to share our experiences in this fascinating new culture.
We then stopped by Agra Fort where we heard of how by Emperor Shah Jahan had been imprisoned by his son with only a small opening through which he could see his grand creation, the Taj Mahal, reminding him of his late wife. The views surrounding the fort were stunning but our attention was quickly turned by the vast amount of wildlife including; monkeys, parrots, chipmunks, kites, dogs, cows, horses and lizards.
Overall, we were grateful that we’ve had this experience before going into the schools as it has allowed us to discover more about India and how passionate the people are about their culture. Seeing the poverty on the streets has only strengthened our drive and determination to help give the children we will teach a feeling of self–worth, hope and empowerment. Our hope is that we can inspire them and strengthen their self–confidence, to help them improve their own lives. .
Michael McKenna & Bethan Millar
A Whole New World
30th October 2017
An early start was on the schedule, at 4.30am we were woken up for a quick breakfast and headed off to New Delhi Train Station. Despite the journey to Dehradun being six hours long, we all made the best of it by sleeping, laughing and beginning our teaching plans. After a quick McDonald’s lunch– India style– we began our ascent into the Himalayas. We were warned not to fall asleep due to potential travel sickness and we were all very glad of this as we were all in awe of the incredible views higher and higher into the mountains. We can all agree that the views from our accommodation are the most breathtaking we have ever seen– literally (because of the altitude) and a huge contrast to the bustling city of Delhi.
A delicious Indian dinner was followed by lesson planning for our first day at Kaplani High school tomorrow. We are all feeling very excited about meeting the children we have heard so much about. We can’t wait to start our teaching!
Kate Campbell & Rachael Hutcheson
31st October 2017
Today was very exciting for all of us as we began teaching at Kaplani High School. No one knew fully what to expect but we were immediately welcomed by being a part of their assembly which was very different to our own; it involved a quiz, reading the news and singing the Indian national anthem. We did our final preparations and headed to Class 8 to teach our first lesson. Our class was lively and responsive which was really great for our interactive lesson. We taught them our names and followed this by having them design their own name badges. We had also organised some group work for the children to improve their sentence structuring when talking about jobs. We continued on this theme when we returned for our second class as the children began writing role–plays in pairs using the sentence structures and occupations they just learnt. The children were so excited and this was really encouraging but a little challenging too when things got noisy. We found the language barrier a bit frustrating but we all worked together– both pupils and young people– to make the lesson a success.
The whole team agreed that our some of our highlights came during recess. It was so heart–warming to see the children enjoying their midday meal, which is funded by Saphara, and to play cricket with the boys and other playground games with the girls. After we had finished our final lesson, P.E., we departed Kaplani feeling a little sad to be leaving the amazing pupils who we had already bonded so much with. It was an amazing feeling to use the training that we had had during the year leading up to the trip and have the experience at Kaplani that we had so been looking forward to.
Elmer and the Snake
1st November 2017
Today we trekked our way to Donk Primary School, which is situated 6000 feet above sea level. We arrived at a road side stall this morning for some healthy pre– walk supplies (crisps and fizzy drinks) and then began what would be a breath–taking walk through the Himalayan foothills. With a mixture of sunshine, the sights and Surender’s knowledge on the history of these hills it was sure to be an amazing adventure. Along the way we stopped at Babita’s house, who is currently studying for a BEd after receiving financial support from Saphara; it was fantastic to see first–hand the benefits that our fundraising can bring to the individuals who need it most. Every so often we would stop for a quick water break, while Surender informed us of local tradition and the improvements that these villages have undergone over time.
Once we arrived in Donk, the first teaching group began a phonics lesson on the story ‘Elmer and the Snake’. Although the kids were initially quite timid, once we got into smaller groups with them we really began to see their personalities shine through. They wrote a number of words in English and I don’t think I will ever forget their faces light up when they were rewarded with a sticker! In the next lesson we used paper plates to make snakes that they could hang from the ceiling; we got into small groups and worked with 1 or 2 children each. We let them colour in, stick items and design their snakes to look anyway they desired. They loved it when we tied their snakes to the roof and by the end of the lesson the ceiling was covered in colourful snakes. I was partnered with Mohit who was very quiet at the beginning, but soon came out of his shell after we created our signature handshake.
After this, we explored the small hamlet of Donk and met some of the residents that lived there. Seeing the hardship of their rural lifestyle was eye opening, as the struggles they face are so different to what we observed in Delhi at the beginning of our trip. Surender then led a workshop on community development, and we discussed a variety of solutions to the issues faced by rural Indian villagers. It was so interesting to learn about what both Surender and Saphara are trying to accomplish through the power of education.
Overall, it was an amazing day and we both cannot wait to get back into the classroom tomorrow for our final day at Kaplani.
Erin Daisley and Paddy McCleave
PS it was a special day for Erin – as it was her 18th birthday – and for me as it was mine. What a way to celebrate – trekking to Donk! Christine
2nd November 2017
Today in Kaplani High school there was less stress as to planning lessons and more stress as to leaving the glowing faces of all the delightful young children. While I was with the students it warmed my heart to find that Class 8 could remember everyone’s names. Then I and the rest of the group went straight into the lessons as planned. The lessons were very exciting; however as important as it was for them to learn, we wanted them to have fun on the last day of us being there. Over the past few days we have taught the children a range of occupations and how to construct sentences concerning their future jobs. Starting their lesson we had the chance to see how the students would be able to perform for the rest of the class. We were encouraged by their vigour and enthusiasm when performing the drama they had set out in the past lesson. After our lessons we stuck their final scripts for the routine on the classroom notice board.
It was an unbelievable experience getting to teach in Kaplani High School. With Class 6, my team and I tried to reinforce what we had taught the children in the previous lesson. We introduced ourselves to the classroom – they were delighted to see us again, it really made my whole group feel so special. I especially felt so glad to be able to teach my group of little girls again, I was happy they were able to tell me what we had learnt the last day – such as occupations, how to say “my name is” in proper sentences and how they felt. Within the two lessons we had with Class 6 today, we tried to reinforce what occupations they would like to have in the future. My girls mentioned they wanted to be a doctor and policewomen. We had planned resources such as ready drawn people, so our groups could draw what they wanted to be in the future in order to create a wall display. Then we had planned a role play. We got our groups to ask each other questions and see if they could reply in full sentences. It was amazing to see that they could. But perhaps the most special moment of the day was when we were leaving our class for the last time. We weren’t expecting anything, but it was a very special moment when the girls ran up to me and handed me cards that they had made that morning, saying they would miss me. It is a moment I will remember forever.
Before leaving the Saphara boys joined a workshop with the boys from each class. In this workshop I got to see the amount of difference this programme makes to these young boys lives. The moments where we compare our lives to theirs are the moments that stay with us forever. This was one of these moments. The personal development of the young boys was shown to us through written and spoken presentations. The girls from the Saphara team had their own workshop led by young Indian women who had completed their girls’ resilience programme. To finish our day off at Kaplani we distributed a range of gifts for each class. These presents were met with smiles, high fives and hugs, I can speak for every Saphara member when I say that today was a heart breaking and lovely end to our time in Mussoorie. I was also sad to leave behind the beautiful mountains that I was becoming accustomed to while spending my time in the Himalayas.
Alyssa Alexander and Peter Verner
Smiling Faces in SNEHA
3rd November 2017
After arriving last night in Dehradun it was nice to be back to the heat we had become so accustom to at the start of the week. We began the day with the usual 7.30 breakfast call and were pleasantly surprised to have curry as an option. Today we had our first experience of a Vikram, travelling to SNEHA School. This was an amazing yet challenging journey as we started to recognise the vast poverty in Dehradun. Despite this the journey was everything we expected of India; the tuk tuks, the smell of incense, the cows and the glaring of horns whilst weaving in and out of the rush hour traffic.
After working for 3 days in Donk and Kaplani School with between 10–20 pupils in a class, we were all anxious about the prospect of working in SNEHA School with 40+ pupils aged 6 and 7 in each class. Despite this, as a result of our detailed preparation we were able to confidently carry out our lessons. The children were delighted to see us when we arrived at their assembly, everyone was warmly welcomed by all the pupils and their teachers.
The best bit of our day was meeting Dr Reeta and listening to her speak about the tremendous amount of work she has put into SNEHA School with the help of Saphara. From plumbing the toilets to building a stadium, being able to witness first–hand the power of our fundraising was an honestly amazing moment. Tomorrow we get to hear about her son Ron’s story, who gave up his luxurious lifestyle in order to help and make a difference in the Dehradun slums alongside his mother. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to get henna tattoos from the local young women who were involved in the Girls’ resilience programme. This programme empowers young women and girls of the local community in teaching them life skills, allowing them to have a voice.
In the evening we went shopping and bought, notebooks, clothes and food for our 6 hour train journey back to Delhi. To finish off an amazing day in Dehradun we as a team to Salt and Cravings went out for dinner and too much food came home with excess baggage!
Overall we had an amazing day and cannot wait to see the children in SNEHA again tomorrow for our final day of teaching in India.
Connor Mills and Shealyn Smyth
A Special Assembly
4th November 2017
Today was our second day at SNEHA, but also our last day of teaching– while this broke our hearts, it was also the last of the early morning starts – WOOHOO! Breakfast this morning was an absolute dream thanks to the best–value–for–money jar of Nutella purchased in an Indian supermarket last night. After breakfast we hopped into the Vikrams once again to head to the school.
On our journey to SNEHA this morning, we stopped at the marginalised community where the vast majority of the children that attend the school are from. There are no words to describe the conditions that these loving children and families are living in. All I can say is that I am returning back to Northern Ireland, a place that I didn’t much care for or appreciate, with a new sense of how lucky I am.
After being kindly informed last night during dinner that the Saphara students also had a part to play in the special assembly, the team began to choose a song but were immediately distracted by the tasty dinner. However, when the vikrams rocked up to SNEHA this morning we were greeted by 1000 pairs of eyes staring expectantly at us, we immediately felt stage fright. Our performance would have flopped but luckily the kids joined in and gave us a run for our money. The girls from classes 8–10 then took charge of the assembly and presented a sketch on saving the environment as well as a dance displaying some of the many cultures of India; both were extremely poignant and gave us a glimpse of the crucial lessons that these young minds are being taught at this incredible school.
During recess the girls from the team had the opportunity to have a taster of the girls resilience program and the young women involved. The girls shared their stories of how much the program has benefitted them. We met the girls who had led the assembly and they shared with us that without the program they wouldn’t have had the confidence to even talk in a classroom, never mind a whole school assembly.
I was teaching class 1 which is the equivalent of P2. As part of the lesson we took the children out of the classroom and into the playground where we tried to teach through play and creativity. We had been looking at the book ‘We are going on a Bear Hunt’, so for our last lesson we took them on a REAL bear hunt. Seeing the children bursting with laughter as we journeyed around our imaginary land of rivers, forests, snowstorms then finally reaching the bear cave was tremendously heartwarming and will be a memory that will stay with me forever.
After the classes were finished we got to hear from Dr Reeta Rao, the founder of SNEHA. It was a privilege to hear how she started the school with just four rooms and how it has expanded into what it is today.
The homeward journey has now begun as tonight we spend around six hours on a train on our way back to Delhi for our last day. Goodnight and sweet dreams.
Rhiann McCurdy and Matthew Steele :)
5th November 2017
Today was the last day of our life–changing trip to India. I think I can safely say on behalf of the whole group that what we have experienced and accomplished here in India over the last ten days has been astonishing. We can’t wait to come home and share all of the amazing stories and experiences we’ve been given; whether they be bad jokes, lifelong friends or amazing photos, I can say that we all have had a blast. However, all good things must come to an end and this trip was no exception.
Today we awoke to the holiday fireworks for Guru Nanak’s birthday, got breakfast at about 10 o’clock which on this trip was a lie in. We then all hopped in to our taxis and travelled down to the Cottage Emporium where we spent the last of our precious rupees on souvenirs for ourselves, our families and friends. After shopping till we dropped we had to rejuvenate, and what better way than in a coffee shop, where an assortment of exotic shakes, coffees and cakes went down a treat before jumping back into our taxis and off to the peaceful Lotus Temple.
The Lotus Temple is without a doubt the most amazing place I have set foot in. There was a huge queue waiting to get in but it was worth the wait to see the Lotus Temple in all its glory. The outside of this amazing temple was in the shape of a lotus flower – hence the name – and was a beautiful piece of architecture. Before going into the temple we were told that it is a place of worship and that everyone is free to stay as long as they want to pray or to have time with their thoughts. Sitting here I was really able to reflect about everything that we as a team had done for the children and the teachers and also how they have impacted me as a person. Leaving the Lotus Temple really drew a close to our time as tourists in India and was one step closer to our plane journey’s home.
Our final visit was to the Irish Ambassador who kindly had invited us to join his for afternoon tea – the cakes were amazing! We had a great time telling him all about our trip and how Saphara is impacting the lives of so many children. And then it was often to the airport for our flights home. Can’t wait to see everyone!
Rhys Ditty, Calum Smyth and Aeron Harrison
If Saphara has taught me one thing it would be that despite differences in colour, religion and background I have just as much to learn from the children at Kaplani and Sneha as they do from me. Both their ability and desire to better themselves through education is inspiring, and I hope that it’s something I can take back to Northern Ireland with me. I believe each of us is called to help those who are in need, and the fact I have had this opportunity to make a difference or an impact, however small, in these children’s lives is truly amazing – and I hope that anyone who is also given this chance to make a change, whether it be in India or your own community, grabs it with both hands. Erin Daisley, Slemish College
The trip overall has been fantastic. I wouldn’t want to change the emotions and experiences that I had throughout my time in India, from the smells, sights and differences that were explored the Saphara India trip has given me personally so much to think about for my future. I also greatly appreciated the chance to go out to Kaplani, Donk and Sneha schools. I will forever remember my time there. Once in a lifetime is how I would truly describe this trip as it is the first time I have realised who much I take for granted. I feel very proud to be allowed to go on this trip with all of my team who I know I will stay in contact with. Peter Verner, Priory College
This trip to India has been a life–changing experience. I am so thankful and privileged that I had the opportunity to work with these amazing children, who have also taught me so much. Getting to know these children and the areas in which they come from, have only helped me become more thankful and help me value everything in life. My highlight of the trip has to be seeing the smile on the children’s faces when they were able to remember and recite what we taught them. I hope that we have impacted their lives as much as they have impacted ours. Bethan Millar, Cullybackey College
My time on Saphara was more than I could ever have hoped for. From the moment we arrived I felt welcomed by India and continued to feel that love and friendliness everywhere we went. I loved being able to both improve the English of the kids In Kaplani and SNEHA school but also putting a smile on their faces was a huge honour. Seeing first–hand the work Saphara does was an amazing opportunity and showed me how important the fundraising we do at home really is. I have made new friends and got to experience a whole new culture that I will hopefully get to see again! Thank you to everyone I was on this journey with and who helped make a difference in these children’s lives. Rachael Gowdy, Sullivan Upper
This trip to India has been the most humbling experience I have ever had the honour to take part in. Arriving home, I have been asked by numerous people if it was a sad experience and honestly it wasn’t. Every single child that I encountered was so full of love and abounding happiness that it was extremely difficult to feel sadness during the trip. These children, although most of them were a lot younger than me, have taught me a wonderful lesson that it does not matter the colour of your skin, the money in your pocket, your religion, as long as you have love in your heart then the world can be an amazing place. I want to say a huge thank you to all of the wonderful children that I had the privilege to meet, I hope that I have been able to show them that they can dream big and as long as they work hard they can achieve those dreams. But I will never be able to thank the teachers and children for everything they have taught me. I would encourage any one that has been thinking of doing a trip like this to do it, you will not regret it. Finally, thank you to Christine and the amazing group of people that I was on the team with, you made the experience that much better. Matthew Steele, Slemish College
To have the opportunity presented to me to go out to India and do something I am passionate about has been incredible. Being part of this team has impacted all of us greatly – not just the children we have been teaching. We have built new friendships and skills along the way. It has been fabulous, not only to experience the Indian culture and visit famous landmarks, but to see smiling, enthusiastic faces in the schools we were teaching in. Every student and teacher we met in the schools were polite and welcoming. The children’s value towards the simplest of things has shown me how a simple smile or encouragement can have a huge impact on someone. I have come away from this trip changed. This trip is an experience I will never forget and I am thankful for this opportunity. Rachael Hutcheson, Priory College
I am incredibly thankful I had the opportunity to take part in the Halloween team with Saphara. I have developed many skills while working with the young children, such as confidence. I had an amazing experience working with young girls and boys trying to help improve their basic English skills. I have never felt so much joy until the children I was working with started to become more confident in themselves, even with the little English we were able to teach them. Working with Saphara has enabled me to become more empathic towards others and has really taught me to value everything I have in life. I have definitely come back from this trip a changed person. Alyssa Alexander, Cullybackey College
I am so thankful for the amazing experience given to me through Saphara. I’m so glad I was able to meet lots of new people and teach the most enthusiastic and eager children I have ever met. The relationships created at both Kaplani and SNEHA schools are something I will always reflect on. The kids at these schools taught me so much – their resilience, their happiness and their commitment to their education. I am so grateful to have shared this experience with such an amazing team of students and leaders. Connor Mills, Sullivan Upper
Overall this trip has changed the way I look at things and how I think about things. Especially after visiting Kaplani High School I will definitely value my education more and learn not to take it for granted. Aeron Harrison, Priory College
I really loved India. Walking out of Delhi airport felt like stepping on to an alien planet – but I loved every second of it. Teaching was unbelievably rewarding. The kids really appreciated us being there and I am gutted to be leaving behind all my new mates at Kaplani and Sneha. The trip has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for my education and has inspired me to take advantage of the opportunities we take for granted. India has to be one of my favourite places in the world and I’m determined to come back in the future. Michael McKenna, Slemish College
My time in India with Saphara has far surpassed all of my expectations. I loved every minute of it, from exploring a beautiful country to working with the most amazing children. I am so thankful that I was able to experience a completely different culture and it has deeply changed my perspective. I found a satisfaction in working with those children that I haven’t found in anything else through their incredible eagerness and positivity despite living in such poverty. I met some truly inspirational people in India, both students and teachers in Kaplani, Donk and Sneha schools and I am so thankful for how much I have learnt and the opportunities I was given. I would do it all again in a heartbeat! Kate Campbell, Sullivan Upper
The highlight of my trip would definitely be the trek to Donk. It was amazing to experience how the children have to travel to school every day and, even with the 2 hour trek, how they still love their education. The work that Kaplani, Donk and Sneha do is amazing and I was so proud to be a part of it. I feel totally honoured and blessed to be able to say I have had the experience of teaching children in India with such a great team of people. Teaching these children has also taught me to appreciate and be grateful for all I have as these children have nothing and yet portray so much joy and happiness. The emotions and experiences I had on the trip are some that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The highlight of my trip has to be giving out gifts in Kaplani; the 3 kids I was working in a small group faces lit up after being given a ruler and knitted teddy and a lolly, their faces showed true happiness over something, that at home, would be taken for granted. Shealyn Smyth, Slemish College
The last 10 days in India have been amazing and, I know it’s clichéd but, life changing as well. I now understand why people talk about these sorts of trips changing them and I really feel the trip has changed me. The children we met are a true inspiration with how proud they are about their education. I think if everyone in western education had the same work ethic the possibilities would be endless for so many people. It’s a trip I will never forgot from the 15 people I went with who couldn’t have been better and all the children we worked with. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go out and do this work and I would love to go out again. I couldn’t have hoped for a more fulfilling experience. Paddy McCleave, Sullivan Upper
I’d just like to say how grateful I am to be a part of such a wonderful team and to be selected to help children in need of it. I think that this trip really has changed my life for ever. Never will I complain about school or how far I have to walk to school after teaching those children, not only that but I think I have found my new passion in teaching as the feeling I got when we taught the kids is one I’ve never felt before. Calum Smyth, Slemish College
I believe that the opportunity to go to India has been an incredible experience for me. I have many fond memories of the people that I went with and I hope to see them all again soon. India is truly a remarkable place and has allowed me to be more open to doing more trips in the future. However, above all I’ll remember the kids – their wonderful smiles and brilliant senses of humour and their ability to turn seemingly dire situations into amazing opportunities. I have no doubt that with Saphara’s guidance they will go very far in life and be able to make a great contribution to their communities. Rhys Ditty, Priory College