Updated: Apr 28, 2019
30th June 2018
The journey started at 4am on Glengall street. We had a 2 hour journey down to Dublin. Everyone was very excited despite some grumpiness at being up so early. Once we arrived in Dublin we all looked like we were heading off to our gold Duke of Edinburgh Award as we approached security. We then went and weighed our bags and the weight of Georgia’s suggested she was feeding the 5000. Ellie was the chosen one when it came to excess baggage as she had ‘too many’ straps. We finally got on the plane after a strong coffee. As we boarded the plane we were all amazed as it provided us with TV’s, blankets, pillows and headphones for us all!
After 8 hrs 30mins we eventually arrived in Abu Dhabi on little sleep. It was a quick turn around we just had enough time to eat a mountain of dried fruit and have a competitive/sleepy game of uno on the terminal floor.
The second flight was only four hours long which just gave Mr Miller (aka Andrew) time to give us a geography lesson!
We arrived in a very warm New Delhi we were greeted with fresh orange garlands…this was our first photo opportunity of many (and maybe our sweatiest)!
Paula was amazing at navigating us through a very busy airport and onto our bus. However, if we thought the airport was busy, we were even more surprised by the roads. But we were in good hands as our driver exclaimed that when he drove he, ‘felt like James Bond!’
When we arrived at the hotel we got a much needed drink of water and flopped straight onto our beds.
Georgia and Hannah
Shopping and Peaceful Contemplation
30th June 2018
After 4 hours sleep we arose like zombies plodding down stairs to get our first breakfast. We were amused by the red jam which was actually banana flavoured. This fact continues to bemuse Hannah.
We were all excited to get our dresses in and Indian H and M style shop, while the boy went to a small store for their brightly coloured kurtas. Some of us might have taken a wee while to choose which meant that a lot of the best and most colourful clothes went really quickly! Also, on reflection a white scarf is not a good choice when you’re eating colourful curry. They are now multiple shades of orange.
We then had our first meal out of the hotel, branching out to a choice Indian McDonald’s, which helped us ease into our new spicy diet slowly. A 9 piece chicken nugget meal tastes as good on this side of the world as it does in the UK, if not better!
After lunch we headed to the Gandhi Museum. We were so keen to learn the history of Gandhi, and the gardens were beautiful and a great place to take a photo.
The hotel that night gave us their famous ‘butter chicken’. As you will find out, we like chicken so this was an excellent choice for us. We had a small reflection session on the day which highlighted everyone’s different and amazing experiences of India so far. Straight after this we conked out in bed knowing we had another early start at 5:30 the next morning!
Georgia and Hannah
The 8th Wonder of the World
1st July 2018
An early start at 5am began our day. Following a shopping trip yesterday in New Delhi, we put on our best Indian dress for our day to the 8th wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal. After a quick breakfast in the hotel, we set off on our four hour bus journey to the Taj. It’s safe to say there wasn’t much sleep had on the bus due to the sing song and craic, despite the lack of sleep in prior nights. We experienced the private motorway which I must admit was a lot less stressful than the hectic commotion of the drivers of New Delhi City and after a scenic four hours, we finally arrived at the absolutely beautiful Trident Hotel. We were greeted with cold refreshments and some tasty treats that were much needed for the exciting day that lay ahead.
After a good covering of sun cream and mosquito spray, we headed straight to the Taj Mahal and despite seeing many photos of the wonder itself, nothing could have prepared us for the wonder that we were about to see. We parked up the bus and crammed the team into a small and ‘slightly’ sweaty van (slightly being a drastic under exaggeration) and headed for the ticket booths. Under the scorching hot sun we queued in anticipation. After we all got through security we bustled along with the thousands of other visitors towards the Taj Mahal. What amazed me the most was that despite being in the grounds, I was still unable to see the majestic building until we walked through the Paradise Gate and finally the beauty was unveiled. WOW! This is the only word I can use to describe my reaction; it was truly breath–taking. Like every tourist, we scrambled to get the best photos and made every effort to get photos of us ‘holding’ the Taj Mahal! We wandered round the beautiful grounds and building and marvelled at the amazing marble and the incredible workmanship. After a fantastic tour led by a wonderfully knowledgeable guide, Khan, we headed for home via an authentic Indian Marble shop. We learned a few ‘tricks of the trade’ and were able to buy some of the beautiful art and some fantastic colourful silk scarves and pashminas.
Tired and exhausted after such a thrilling day we set off back to New Delhi to the hotel for a much needed shower and a good sleep. Tomorrow we set off bright and early to start our teaching journey in Dehradun. We can’t wait to meet the children in SNEHA School!
The Best Day of Our Lives
2nd July 2018
After the latest start so far, at 7am we got breakfast and hit the road in the exhilarating Vikrams and headed to SNEHA school. The sights and sounds travelling through Dehradun were a culture shock. Looking at the more disadvantaged communities made us all realise how lucky we actually are.
Arriving at SNEHA was extremely nerve wrecking, yet one of the best moments in our lives. Assembly had just begun as we walked through the playground with every class standing in perfect formation listening attentively. It was their first day of the new school year and I really don’t know who was more excited – them or us! As we stood there we all gazed in awe and the excitement on their faces was a sight nobody will ever forget. Once assembly was over each and every student stood tall to sing their national anthem. This was quite an emotional scene as we witnessed how devoted and proud they were to be part of their school and community.
The moment came for our first lesson and we stood outside the classroom buzzing with excitement, seeing all the children looking and waving. Walking into the class, butterflies in our stomachs, ready to make a difference to these children’s lives we began the lesson. Each of us took a small group of students to a corner of the room and sat comfortably with them sharing a book and beginning to build relationships like never before. Each and every student sat in wonder, unable to take their eyes off our faces while absorbing every word. Walking out of the first lesson was the most amazing feeling as we knew we had made their day a little bit better.
Once lessons were prepared for tomorrow, we spent the rest of the evening exploring Dehradun before retiring to the hotel to reflect on the first teaching day of an amazing journey. We will get some rest before starting again tomorrow to continue what we came to do, our Journey with Purpose.
Odhrán Dougan & Dessie McCorry
Conversation and Craic
3rd July 2018
By now 7am is beginning to feel like a generous lie in. We began the day making the somewhat uncomfortable yet exciting journey to SNEHA in the Vikrams. We arrived to be greeted once again by smiling faces which calmed our nerves instantly. That morning the corridors of the school were filled with laughter, cheering and an unforgettable buzz. We think we can speak for everyone when we say getting to know our junior classes is a truly unique experience that gets more incredible with every lesson.
As the day progressed we met with Dr. Reeta who told her story of her desire to create a safe educational environment for the poorest of the community. Her story struck a chord with each of us, all inspired by her faith and determination. This was when we all discovered what we are here for and how the right mind–set can turn nothing into something so special.
In the afternoon the conversation classes which had previously been met with anxiety, quickly became a safe space in which we could both learn and teach. Getting to know teenagers who shared many of our interests meant that we immediately forgot our differences.
We headed back to the hotel for an evening of lesson planning and were rewarded with a trip to the shop. I don’t think any of us had ever been more excited to see crisps and Cadbury’s chocolate and it changed the atmosphere in the hotel from one of exhaustion to one of joy. Every night during reflections we are all amazed by what we have learnt and we all hugely look forward to continuing our journey.
Amazing Children From Tough Circumstances
4th July 2018
We started the day with something that I’m sure none of us will ever forget: a visit to the marginalised community. We went in groups of 6 or 7, with Dr Reeta or her son, Ron, as guide. First, we stood half way across the bridge, which leads to the other, main section of the community. As we looked up and down the river it was full of rubbish with small children wandering along it, filling white bags with rubbish for their families to recycle. It is hard to imagine 20 years ago when there was no bridge and everyone had to walk through it. This is one of the great influences SNEHA School has had on its surrounding area, increasing demand for infrastructure and resources.
We walked back across the bridge down a short alley to a small group of rooms. We all found it almost impossible to comprehend that families of 6 or 7 were living, eating and sleeping in these tiny rooms by ourselves with no beds or furniture. The heavy monsoon rain meant there was mud everywhere; yet in spite of this, women in their brightly coloured saris were brushing and cleaning their homes and smiling at us in welcome. No photographs could explain fully this shocking experience to you, never mind a thousand words.
Going back into school was strange after the realisation that almost all the children at SNEHA live in this marginalised community. Their pristine uniforms put ours to shame, and they are even more unbelievable when you realise where these children wake up every morning. However, we all decided to use our experience to teach these children with even more love and passion than we had before.
It was lovely to get to know each of the children in our little groups more, and see them progress in their English, as well as meeting new children that hadn’t been at school the past two days. The children that were more reserved on the first day are becoming more and more comfortable with us, and it is amazing to see the transformation some of them have gone through from the first day as they have grown in confidence. We taught three young classes, finishing our crafts and beginning the preparations for our short performance tomorrow, Thursday. I am teaching Class 1 and I really enjoyed seeing how unique and different my two small groups’ art and way of working was: let’s just say that the finished results, although both great, were very different!
Our final conversation classes were bittersweet as we saw all the Class 9 and 10s for the last time. As we have chatted to them over the past few days we have all grown quite attached to them, and will miss their rapping, dancing and singing. Most importantly, we will miss our conversations with each of them as, despite coming from such different backgrounds, we have all grown close to each other and have realised how much we have in common.
After school we had a treat: all of us got henna tattoos. There is a program at Sneha School which teaches the girls how to apply henna and we all sat on the ground as the Saphara girls got a pattern on the front or back of their hands, and the boys got their names on their forearms in Hindi.
An amazing day!
Final Day at SNEHA
6th July 2018
Last day at SNEHA! It was an emotional start to the day when we realised it was our last day to ride on the Vikrams and that we would be saying our last goodbyes to our SNEHA students. Apart from that, excitement was in the air as we were going to watch the brilliant performances the students had produced in the last three days… which was a lot better than our ‘Reach for the Stars’ performance. We were introduced to three different kinds of dance, each equally as amazing as the other, especially the one performed by the nursery students. Then it was our turn to give our rendition of the S Club 7 classic. The fun and laughter we had while rehearsing the song and dance routine was a welcome change from our daily lesson planning.
We then jumped back into our regular classes to get ready for our final performances. The students in Classes 1–3 were getting the opportunity to show off what they had learned with us during the week. The classes leading up to the performances were quite stressful as we realised the children were nervous about speaking in English in front of their peers and teachers. We felt quite anxious for the children too, as this was their big moment to shine. However, once we ran through it a couple of times with them we realised they would be great and we were all so proud of them!!
When the time finally came for the big show, the students were flawless! They gave it their all and we felt like proud parents. Then the moment we had all been dreading finally came about, where we had to go to the children’s classrooms and say our final goodbyes. The children were delighted with the reward stickers we gave them and we were equally delighted to get some photographs with them. We will never forget our time in SNEHA.
We then headed back to the hotel to finish packing up, and to get ready for the long and windy journey up to the mountain town of Mussoorie. We headed off at 3:30pm, with 7 people in each car with luggage strapped to the roof for that extra ‘Himalaya Explorer’ look. However, travel sickness was at the back of our minds during the trip, as the views travelling up the mountain were just breath–taking. We realised how beautiful Dehradun, and its surrounding countryside, really is. We finally reached the hotel, and we were not disappointed by the views from here as well and how much it contrasted with what we had seen in the city.
We had our usual Indian dinner of butter chicken, paneer curry and naan bread which we were all really looking forward to. After some ‘chill’ time, we began our lesson plans for our first day at Kaplani High School and even though we were all exhausted, it was still exciting to be doing something new with our new classes. The teachers were merciful enough to let us have an early–ish night and we all ran to our beds for a well–earned sleep!
Kristen & Jack
A Big Change
7th July 2018
Today we had another early morning, waking up to get ready to go and enjoy our first day at Kaplani High school. We set off in our cars to travel to the school from our hotel. We left around 8 o’clock, and arrived about half an hour later, which is the longest of all of our travelling to the schools yet. We arrived at a very different environment than in SNEHA. Kaplani is a much smaller school – only 100 pupils and fewer classes. Another big change is that it is a high school; we are working with pupils from class 6 to class 10 a contrast to the Class 1 to 3 set up in Sneha.
Walking into Kaplani, we saw all the pupils were lined up for assembly, with the senior students, including the head girl and boy, leading the assembly. First, everyone completed drills to make sure everyone was paying attention during assembly. The rest of the service consisted of daily news, the Indian national anthem and a quick speech from the principal.
Once assembly was over, it was time for the pupils to begin lessons of the day. For some of us, we started getting to know our pupils in Period 1, for others, they had time to collect their thoughts and take in the beautiful scenery around the school. For Odhran, Ellie, Sophie, Matthew and I it was time to get prepared for our lesson in period two, which was with class nine. When we walked into the classroom in period two, there was an initial surprise of going into a class of older pupils. After we had introduced ourselves to the class we separated the class into smaller groups of 5 or 6. Our first lesson was the ‘getting to know you’ lesson which went really well; everyone came out of the class feeling buzzed and we knew that we would be seeing the class again in only one hour.
After our break, we went back to our class – in Kaplani we are with the same class for 3 periods in one day which was rewarding. Within our second class it was time for PE which was a fun time as we had thought of fantastic ideas to teach the children. We played games such as splat, popcorn and the direction game. This allowed the children to learn the different directions such as north, east, south and west.
After PE class it was time for the children’s Midday meal. We learned that Saphara pays for 150 pupils’ meals every single school day. This was a lovely experience for all of us as we got to see a lot of the Kaplani students in a more relaxed environment. We were able to talk to them for all of lunch time and we were able to play some games. All the boys from the Saphara team played rugby with the boys in the playground, and the girls from the team were dancing and playing too.
After lunch we had our first art lesson. My class we were making paper flowers. This was a great time as we got to interact with the students in a different way as we were used to having them sit and teach language whereas in this instance we were all being creative and talking too. Our art lesson was the last of the day so after it was over, we went back the hotel for some lunch. During the slower paced afternoon we enjoyed taking a walk around the town of Mussoorie to help us get used to the altitude. This is so that we can enjoy the trek to Donk primary school next week. The weather was amazing today so let’s hope it is like this next week.
8th July 2018
This morning we can safely say was a great gift for all of us, as we had the chance to have a lie in until 8:50am. At 9.45, feeling refreshed and well fed, we had the privilege to speak and listen to the leader of MGVS who is called Surender Singh, as well as a young woman called Radha, a leader in the Saphara Girl Champions programme. She had been a quiet girl with not very much confidence but through the programme Radha has become a powerful and motivating young woman who now has the role of a master teacher and is now travelling to meet the Irish ambassador to talk about her experience. This session brought together the L & H, Down and student teams – 65 Saphara people all in the same place – and we learned many things about where our fundraising is going – as well as being inspired by Surender and Radha.
We partook in an activity called “River Babies” which involved us performing a script within a random style of theatre, these included Bollywood, Shakespeare, spaghetti western and pantomime. This was hilarious as we all threw ourselves into the activity and embarrassment wasn’t even a thought. The group has grown so close and tight knit over the past week that everyone had a great time. Between questionable swimming, well dressed dames and flawless accents we may as well have been on the West End stage. The moral was that we should find the root of the problem and make a change there rather than trying to just manage the issue, it was summarised in “give a man a fish he’ll eat for a night, teach a man to fish he’ll eat for life”.
Matthew, Casey & Aine rehearsing their performance of 'River Babies'
In the afternoon we had the chance to go down into the town of Mussoorie, in the foothills of the Himalayas, for some food and mostly for the girls to have another chance to do some shopping. We then got back to the hotel at 5pm where Joanne told us about what we would be doing tomorrow within “The Happening”. We all went off to our rooms to gather to our thoughts and prepare for what we will speak about tomorrow.
We then had a couple hours of free time – much needed after a busy week of teaching and travelling. We enjoyed this free time at the wonderful Hotel Himalayan Club where the views from the rooms are fantastic. However, it was very misty when we arrived back so a lot of the distant mountains could not be seen.
After dinner of our favourite butter chicken, we got to watch the well–known classic film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. A large part of the movie related to what we had seen in the past week of children growing up in very tough circumstances – it was inspiring for the whole team. We finished the night with our daily reflection which was based on our fantastic talk with Surender this morning. Lights went out at 11p.m and doors were locked for another good night’s rest.
Zara, Hasan and James
Global Awareness Weekend
9th July 2018
The last lie in of our trip began an interesting Sunday morning. We spent the early hours of the day preparing for The Happening later that morning. We all dug deep to gather our thoughts and process what we had seen and achieved throughout the last ten days. The challenging but rewarding task allowed us to transform these feelings into words and music which could be shared within the group.
As the Happening began it was clear that there was a range of emotions flowing through the now close–knit group: excitement, nerves and an overall sense of acceptance and support. We gathered at the garden and placed our chairs in a circle so all could be heard and seen. ‘The Happening’ consisted of us all reflecting on our experiences throughout the time we have spent with Saphara. Anything meaningful was acceptable which enabled everyone to express themselves in a way which showed exactly how they felt. The happening was a beautiful event with song, prayer, quotes, bible verses and heart–warming stories.
Afterwards, we gathered again to go into the town of Mussoorie where we went to an eye–catching restaurant which, I think, reminded us all of home. The western–style restaurant served a gorgeous menu whilst allowing us to all eat together as a group. The food was just stunning, even though there were a few questionable choices for lunch, like chocolate pancakes and French fries.
After our meal out and our short shopping trip to the local stands, we headed home to plan lessons for our second day in Kaplani. Three periods had to be prepared to include art, science and English. For art, we decided on an interactive 3D flower project where all of the students made an individual flower. When they are finished they will be joined together to make a spectacular wall display. For science, we developed a lesson on the solar system, specifically the planets and the sun. Lastly, for our English lesson we decided on descriptive sentences and verbs.
Finally, we had the privilege to visit the local chapel and meet Father Joseph. He very kindly opened the chapel and allowed all of us to say a prayer and have a peaceful moment of contemplation in the silence in The Sacred Heart Church. Father Joseph was gracious enough to say a prayer for all of us students, the teachers and all those back at home.
An early night was needed by all to get ready for the busy day ahead.
Day 2 at Kaplani
10th July 2018
Monday was the first teaching day since the global awareness weekend and back to an early 7am start. With a quick cold shower and some toast we were on our way to our second day at Kaplani. It started off with lashing rain and dense fog to end the assembly and to start the teaching day.
The morning began with a free period as we were trying to quickly rehearse our lesson plan. As we entered class we taught the solar system through fun games and activities. As the bell rang for the beginning of English we danced and sang with the pupils to teach them verbs and adjectives. When English ended, lunch began and seeing the midday meals was really heart–warming. The group and I witnessed first–hand where our fundraising was going and it felt like we were making a difference no matter how small. As the final bell rang, it was time to turn the page on another teaching day at Kaplani.
When we arrived back from teaching, we gathered in groups to plan science for the next day and with a quick discussion about more games to play with the pupils, we packed up and went down town for some shopping. Once we arrived back we quickly discovered that Jack, Hasan and James’ room had been broken into by monkeys. They had eaten some of Hasan’s food and escaped through the window, leaving the empty packet evidence on the roof. We had a great surprise when we discovered that Dominic had arrived to join our team for our last few days. He will be a most welcome member of our team.
The final two lessons to plan were English and art, which Mona made light hearted and fun, as always. Once we packed up our teaching materials we quickly brought the chairs into a circle for a reflection on the most interesting event we had witnessed from the past few days.
To end the day, we all had some really dramatic scenes as we played a game of ‘wink murder’. As 10 o’clock approached everyone was feeling satisfied and tired from another good day’s work. So we quickly put our chairs away and all headed back to our rooms to put our heads down for a good night’s sleep, excited to start the day all over again!
A Day for Umbrellas
11th July 2018
This morning we woke up to torrential rain as part of the monsoon season. After quickly getting ready and the usual breakfast of tea, toast and a banana, we all loaded into the taxis for the scenic journey to Kaplani. During this journey it was even more difficult to see the beauty around us than usual due to the heavy mist. We arrived at Kaplani with our raincoats on and umbrellas up and offloaded our stuff in the staffroom. Some groups went to teach their classes during first period, whilst my group, who are teaching class 8, had the first period free to prepare our resources.
We taught our class the order of the planets during second period which followed on from our science lesson the previous day in which we taught the pupils the names of the planets. At the end of our science lesson we gave the whole class balloons with the names of the planets on them and they had to put them in order. This proved to be very exciting and the children seemed overjoyed with the colourful balloons which they ended up throwing up and bouncing around the room.
After our English lesson during fourth period, which focused on verbs and involved making colourful word dice, we joined the children in the playground for break time. The boys played with the rugby ball with most of the boys at Kaplani whilst the girls played lots of games in a circle such as the hokey–pokey and a clapping game which the girls taught us a song to.
To end the teaching day we continued our art lesson making 3D fantasy flowers. The children really enjoyed decorating their flowers with colourful tissue paper, pipe cleaners, sequins, stickers and post–its.
We then returned to the hotel to have the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. After lunch we were able to relax for around an hour before having to lesson plan for tomorrow’s trek to Donk Primary School. After lesson planning, the whole team played celebrity charades which was great fun and ended in a dead heat.
Next we went out for dinner in the town, which is only about a 10 minute walk away, to a restaurant called The Clock Tower Café. Everyone ordered pizza and chips which were delicious! After the lovely dinner we came back to the hotel for a quick reflection before a much needed early bedtime to end the busy day and get ready to stretch our legs for tomorrow’s trek to Donk Primary School.
Trekking the Foothills of the Himalayas
12th July 2018
Waking up to torrential monsoon rain was no surprise this morning, as we prepared for our trek to Donk primary school. After the daily taxi journey we arrived at our starting point kitted out with water, snacks and waterproofs. Then we were off, with the experienced Surrender taking the lead. Our journey to Donk was mainly downhill with a few stops along the way to see what life in the foothills of the Himalayas is really like.
After passing the mother of one of our Kaplani students with her cattle, we stopped at the home of one of Surrender’s old friends and his family. Their house was small yet practical with three rooms and cow shed. Surrender explained how some of the funds raised by Saphara went towards training for sustainable development of the more rural areas in the Himalayas and how their daughter was now studying for her Bachelor of Education through MGVS and Saphara Scholarship.
When we arrived at Donk, we were greeted by the smiling faces of the eight remaining pupils and we began our lessons in the tiny classroom. Our lessons consisted of English, art and games. It was amazing to see the children’s desire to learn, unaffected by their rural isolation.
The trek seemed longer and more difficult on the way back yet we were all comforted by the huge sense of group morale and enjoyed the impromptu sing songs when we could afford the breath. Despite all this, it was somewhat embarrassing to see three of the school children pass us, on their way home from school without breaking a sweat. Completing the hike gave us all a unique sense of achievement and made us really appreciate the determination of the pupils of Donk, Kaplani and other rural schools and their commitment to their education.
The Last Day of Teaching
13th July 2018
Today was so emotional because it was our last day of teaching. The day started off with our usual breakfast of cornflakes and toast. As we finished our breakfast we headed to our taxis to make our last journey to Kaplani. Once we had arrived in the pouring rain we entered the staff room to prepare for our last lesson. Even though we were thinking about how emotional this day was going to be, we were very aware of the Donk children who had such a long trudge through the rain to reach school.
The bell rang and we headed down to their Assembly for the last time. Once they had sang their national anthem we headed back up to the staff room and everyone headed to their lessons. For our last day at Kaplani we had decided, like at Sneha, to give the children the opportunity to put on performances for the rest of their school to show what they had learned during our classes. Two classes did science, two did art and one class did English. In each lesson every child had a chance to demonstrate their English. Once again I was really nervous for the performances by the children that I had taught all week – but once again they did amazingly well!
The performances were held in one classroom and after the performances had finished everyone was so proud of each class.
The children overwhelmed us with their love and appreciation and we left Kaplani with notes from them saying that they were going to miss us.
We hopped in the taxis and headed back to Dehradun to have our last Indian McDonalds before packing on to the train for our second six–hour journey to Delhi. We will spend our last night in Delhi before our exciting day tomorrow, shopping, visiting the Lotus Temple and The Cottage Emporium. Our last stop will be Delhi airport for an emotional but exciting flight home and our final few hours together.
My Saphara experience was one I will not forget in a hurry. The cultures, values and sense of life we have experienced over the past two weeks has been incredible. Our team was been so close, which made working with the children all the more special. The children we met at SNEHA and Kaplani schools were filled with so much joy and showed such a love for learning in spite of their background. This experience has put so much into perspective about how we view our own education and our advantages in life. The skills I have gained from this experience have been invaluable.
Sophie Nelson, Sullivan Upper School
My Saphara journey has been such a life changing experience. The children’s energy, motivation and eagerness to learn in the classroom, despite their difficult living conditions, is something I will never forget and I feel privileged to have worked with such special kids.
Casey McConville, St Ronan’s College
Travelling with 21 team members and 4 teachers has been the most amazing journey. Hearing about the children’s dreams to become teachers, doctors and engineers was really inspiring. I would not have been as motivated as them at their age. Overall the experience was life changing and the dynamic between the team was something I will never forget and it made my experience ten times better.
Ellie Malcolm, Priory Integrated College
Saphara has been the best experience of my life so far, beginning with a massive culture shock with all of the different sights and smells, you could tell that we were far away from home. Teaching at SNEHA has been the most enjoyable and rewarding thing I have done as seeing the young children react so happily when you just smile and wave at them, that’s a golden moment I will never forget. Leaving SNEHA after 5 days was difficult as everyone became attached to their classes and knowing that my pupils and I have now gone our separate ways really makes me want to come back and do this all over again!! I am so grateful to Saphara for giving me this life changing opportunity and it has really open my mind about what things I take for granted and complain about at home; things which would be considered a luxury for many people in India. My Saphara journey has made me strive to become a better person who is grateful for the little things in life.
Karl McCullough, St Patrick’s Grammar School
Having this experience has completely changed my life. If I did not come here, with this team and with these leaders, I would not feel how I feel right now. I feel so privileged to have what I have in my life, this trip has really opened my eyes. Having the experience of teaching all types of ages, and experiencing the walks the children do just to get an education, that we back home take for granted, has really motivated me to do more. Best 16 days of my life, and I am so glad I got to spend it with such supportive and amazing people.
Lauren Matthews–McAllister, Priory Integrated College
Saphara gave me the incredible opportunity to see first–hand the huge difference we all can make to the lives of others as individuals and as a team. The past two weeks have been truly unforgettable and, though I came to teach, I cannot believe how much I have learnt. Each member of the team was inspired everyday by the unwavering drive of the pupils we taught, making us all appreciate our own privileged lives so differently. The people we met like Dr Reeta and Surender proved to us the huge impact one person can make to the lives of so many and encouraged all of us to look to the future with their positive determination for change. India itself is a truly unique country full of culture and colour and I cannot imagine sharing this challenging yet exciting experience with better team.
Rebecca Bolton, Sullivan Upper School
This has been an experience I will never forget and always cherish. I came to India with my first intention to teach the school children but in fact they also taught me to appreciate what you have got in life regardless of how little and to always tackle life with a smile. I could not have done this without my Saphara team as we were all there for each other and worked well to be a great team. I have witnessed some shocking scenes on this trip but I hope to be more encouraged to make a difference. It has been a joy to work with the children in both Kaplani and SNEHA and I hope that I made a difference to their lives.
Hasan Ghafoor, Sullivan Upper School
This has truly been a life changing experience! It was such a thrilling journey and every second was fascinating. The last 16 days has changed my life in so many ways. It is without a doubt something I will never and could never forget. I’ve definitely had some of the best moments of my life on this trip, seeing the children’s faces while you teach as they look at you in awe is such a heart–warming and thrilling feeling! It’s hard to believe it’s over, it really has been an amazing experience with a group of the most amazing people.
Kristen Magee, St Ronan’s College
My experience of India through Saphara has been challenging and exciting. The hustle and bustle of Dehradun and Delhi to the pounding of rain on the roofs at Mussoorie is part of a journey I will never forget. The bright smiles of the school children, immaculate clothing and bright colours lie in stark contrast to the conditions in which they live. I found this particularly challenging but oddly in ways comforting that in a small way, I was helping to make a difference. I could not have shared the experience with better people!
Hannah Jemphrey, Sullivan Upper School
My experience with Saphara has been everything I could have ever imagined and more. It has opened my eyes to some of the injustices of the world but, equally, it has opened my eyes to some of the things I could be doing, in India and when I get home, to help those who truly need it. It has shown me that even if the difference I make is seemingly insignificant in the ‘big picture’, it can be life–changing to an individual. These past 2 weeks have been an amazing and life–changing experience.
Sarah Robinson, Sullivan Upper School
The last 16 days have been eventful to say the least, and they have certainly had their ups and downs. Of course, with the ups being getting to work with so many bright children from both SNEHA and Kaplani and the fact that they are always so happy and hardworking, given some of their backgrounds, is truly inspiring. Definitely another up would be getting to know my Saphara team better and realising how everyone cared for each other and also seeing how much fun we could all have together. On the other hand, as I said it wasn’t always a smooth ride, as I think every night everyone one was really tired, and also the odd bit of sickness tends to get you down as well. However, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, and for this I can’t thank Saphara enough, for giving me this opportunity, and everyone else on my team, for making it a truly enjoyable experience.
Jack McNeill, Sullivan Upper School
Saphara: Journey with Purpose. I don’t think anything sums up my experience throughout the past 16 days more. The purpose of Dr Reeta, the truly inspirational principal of SNEHA: educating, supporting and simply showing what a strong woman can achieve. The purpose of Donk and Kaplani: providing an education to even the most rurally situated children. The purpose of our leaders: to support us through the amazing times, the good, the bad and the overwhelming times. As Paula says, “to be the mum away from home.” And finally, the purpose of all the 21 students: to have understood the necessity of fundraising in changing lives but to have appreciated that there is no greater gift than love, smiles and generosity of the heart. In my eyes, this is what Saphara is, generosity of the heart.
Meabh Turbitt, St Ronan’s College
The past 16 days have been a blast from getting closer to the team and meeting so many amazing kids. From SNEHA to Kaplani, the kids have been motivated and hardworking in everything they do always remembering to smile and bring fun to every lesson. Saphara has allowed me to travel to new world filled with inspirational people. It’s a trip I will never forget!
Matthew Graham, Down High School
The past 16 days have provided me with an experience of a life time. I loved teaching the kids in both SNEHA, Donk and Kaplani. All the kids taught me so much through their own individual personalities, such as to appreciate all things in life, and that no matter how low you are feeling you are never too low to smile as this can just brighten someone’s day. It amazed me how bright and bubbly these kids were and they never failed to make my day with their smiles and outgoing personalities. I also loved getting to bond with my team mates and become like one big family. Saphara has really inspired me to do something like this again in the future in order to help make a difference in life.
Georgia Hamill, Priory Integrated College
Saphara has been an amazing experience that has enabled me to make a difference and help enrich children’s lives by showing interest in them and by spending time with them. After spending so much time together, we have all really bonded as a team and I have seen everyone become much more selfless and compassionate towards each other. It was a privilege to be able to teach these incredible children who are so well–mannered and content with the little they have in life. It was life–changing to see the marginalised community where many of the SNEHA students live and seeing how they manage to come to school every day spotless, eager to learn and full of excitement. This trip has changed my perspective on life and what the important things are, and it has taught me to be less materialistic and value friendships and my opportunities much more.
Phoebe Patterson, Sullivan Upper School
This experience has been two things, life changing and worth it. The two and a half weeks I have spent in India, travelling, teaching, making friends for life and most importantly making a difference to the children’s lives, is a period of time that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I have loved being part of such an amazing group and feel that it really has been a journey with purpose.
Odhrán Dougan, St Patrick’s Grammar School
My ‘Journey with Purpose,’ with Saphara has been more than I could have ever imagined. I have gained invaluable experience and life changing memories that I will cherish forever. Not only did I have the opportunity to teach and bring smiles to the faces of some of the most disadvantaged children, I was able to learn so much from them too. Their positive attitudes, determination and dedication to their education have truly inspired me.
Katie Smyth, St Ronan’s College
My Saphara journey has been the most incredible experience that I have ever been a part of and it would not have been the same if I did not have the team that I have been a part of. The journey that I have been a part of would not have a meaning if it was not for the children that we had raised money for and went out to see in India, it wouldn’t have been worthwhile at all. Being around these children that literally come from nothing really makes you appreciate what I have at home. Having these children around you really make you thankful. Overall, the Saphara trip has been absolutely amazing and a life changing opportunity to be a part of.
Áine McKenna, St Ronan’s College
My Saphara journey has been filled with so many different emotions. Watching those children come into school laughing and all smiles and in absolute immaculate condition after visiting the marginalised community which was truly astonishing and shocking to see. I have learned that it doesn’t matter what your background is, you can make something of the life you have. After that it would be hard to not be totally inspired and determined to make a difference no matter how small as we have seen first–hand how much even a small difference makes to every single one of those kids. This trip has been totally heart–warming and very inspirational and I have only Saphara to thank for that opportunity. Lastly, the trip wouldn’t have been what it was without having such an amazing team round me. Every single person cared for each other and helped each other through the times we were feeling a wee bit down. Life changing experience.
Dessie McCorry, St Ronan’s College
Saphara for me has meant the experience of a lifetime; it has meant that I had the opportunity to learn from the most amazing, bright, young individuals. The experience of working with these children was not only life changing but so valuable as well. The children’s smiles of joy and happiness during all classes even in the smallest of things were so amazing and have changed my view completely. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience this and could not thank Saphara more; the team was so supportive of each other and made the whole trip utterly life changing.
James Daggett , St Ronan’s College
My Saphara journey has been filled with so many different emotions and memories which I will cherish for a very long time. From the people I have met in my team and the children I have met in Donk, Kaplani and SNEHA they all together have made this one of the best trips I have ever been on. I really did not want to leave India! It has been so challenging seeing the children coming from so little but each and every one of them aim to make every day they have the best they can and throughout this trip this is what I have aimed to do. It is also something I will aim to do for a very long time. If I didn’t have the same team who were always there supporting me and caring form me this definitely would have been a very different trip. I will be praying for the children out there and especially those children who go to SNEHA. Overall, I cannot thank Saphara enough for providing me with this amazing opportunity and making this a summer I will never forget. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of!
Zara Shaw, Priory Integrated College
Having had the privilege of participating in Saphara’s most recent summer trip to India, it is clearly evident that amidst immeasurable poverty and extreme social and economic inequalities, the charity is providing opportunities where previously there were none, simply and effectively through one of the most basic human rights – education. The beautiful energy of the children and their zest for knowledge and for life was both moving and uplifting. It is easy to see why teams return year on year to both SNEHA and Kaplani schools, fostering resilience and achievement, raising awareness and above all building hope of a better future for each of them and their families. Saphara is truly a journey with purpose. It will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Celine Moore, teacher, Priory Integrated College
My two weeks away with Saphara have been a rollercoaster. I wonder if the words amazing and incredible cover it enough. To see the growth of the young people with us and the friendships we
have all made has been amazing. We have all shared experiences which simply cannot really be put into words. Putting on my teacher hat, I am so full of pride after seeing the final performances in SNEHA. Those children were inspiring in their determination, patience, resilience, commitment and motivation to learn. Something perhaps we should all be taking a little bit of away with us. When we see what these children come from, it is such a pleasure to share just a little bit of our time with them. Thank you Saphara for this opportunity to share in your vision.
Caroline Hall, teacher, Sullivan Upper School
I was wanting to experience on this trip a sense of complete newness of culture as I have travelled extensively. I was not disappointed. I was humbled by the generosity of people who have so little, the beauty of the landscape, the overwhelming determination and self–worth of their work ethic. It has opened my eyes even more to appreciate the little things in life that bring an abundance of happiness for which I am truly grateful.
Mona Robinson, teacher, St Ronan’s College