North and East Team 2014

A Monument

19th July 2014

The day began with an early start at 6 with breakfast, and then off we went, departing from the hotel on our 4 hour journey to the Taj Mahal.

We were all kitted out in our Indian gear that we bought in Fabindia yesterday. We all looked totally stunning! The bus ride consisted of drumstick lollies and another display of wacky races – the cars don’t seem to use indicators, lanes or mirrors – instead they opt to beep the horn repeatedly which makes for a very noisy experience indeed – though once we got onto the motorway things became much calmer and boring!

After 4 hours of air conditioned goodness, we stepped off the bus into 30 degrees and 80% humidity, class craic. After a refreshing drink at the fabulous Trident Hotel we went to see one of the wonders of the world – the Taj Mahal. We looked in awe at the majesty that stood before us. The view was phenomenal, and after the typical tourist “holding the Taj” photos, we continued inside.

We learnt about the history of why it was built – the king’s wife was dying so she told him that he had to make a monument to show the world how much he loved her.

We had to wear little slipper things because the ground was sacred. All the décor was hand crafted from sheets of marble, it was outstanding craftsmanship. Following that, we came back to the hotel for a literal all you can eat buffet. We had a race to see who could eat the most, please believe between the two of us we had 14 plates (they were all full, I swear). We sampled a sweet that was famous in the town of Agra which was made with pumpkin and fresh coconut, it was pure great. We also ate buffalo (Orlagh’s fave) and an Indian dessert which was surprisingly spicy, as per usual.

We then left the hotel and went to Agra Fort. This was where the king stayed when he was imprisoned by his own son; the jail cell was made with hand crafted precious stones and had a fountain in the middle of it. This was amazing although it wasn’t the main attraction, as people continued to video and take photos of us. David threw them a few poses because he’s a good lad. We visited the marble factory and made a few purchases before we headed home again on the bus. Everyone is still buzzing from such a memorable start to the trip. Getting ready for tomorrow’s even earlier start to Dehradun, normally a peaceful 6hr train journey – but not when the North & East team is around!

Feeling good, looking good and sending all our love and hugs to everyone at home

Niamh McC and Orlagh

Getting Started

20th July 2014

We’ve finally reached Mussoorie 7000ft up in the Himalayas after our busy weekend. It’s cool and damp with monsoon rain falling intermittently. After an early start we had a six hour train ride to Dehradun from New Delhi.

An interesting journey from the train in Dehradun to Mussoorie surprised us with an elephant on the side of the road, monkeys roaming the streets and cows causing traffic chaos.

Then we met up with the Down team who had just finished their first week of teaching in Kaplani High School. They were extremely enthusiastic and gave us loads of advice about our upcoming week at the school. They told us how jealous they were, that we had a full four days ahead of us with the amazing kids in Kaplani!

We then took winding journey along the cliff–side of the Himalayas to arrive at our new home for the next week, The Mussoorie Gateway Hotel. Now that the clouds have cleared we have a picturesque view of Dehradun and the surrounding mountains.

We’ve spent the last few hours preparing for our first teaching experience in India. Everyone is buzzing to meet the students and get started!!

Ellie, Ellen and Thomas (Class 10 teaching group)


21st July 2014

In both senses, the views are truly breath–taking from our hotel in Mussoorie and even better in Kaplani, made superior by the people and buildings here.

The journey here was a white knuckle ride with my (Alistair) driver played us heavy dance club music to relax us – but just raised our heart rate even more! When we arrived at Kaplani we had 30 minutes before teaching, we took this time to take in the views, prepare (and freak out as we were so anxious about the teaching!)

We moved then, to their small playground where the pupils lined up in single file in order of their class and sang the Indian National Anthem loudly & proudly. I led arts & crafts today and we made etched paintings with the kids, they really enjoyed the painting and took it soon to my trousers (which are now half black on white). I really enjoyed teaching these amazing kids and playing football with them at recess, which is a bit of a free for all.

I (Matthew) had the privilege of leading the music lesson today which was great fun. The entire class had a lot of enthusiasm for music and really got into the spirit. We taught the pupils about rhythm, tempo and dynamics and tried to involve the entire class as much as possible. Working in the classroom is a completely different experience than what we are used to at home. Interactive whiteboards with computers are replaced with chalk and a blackboard and the entire experience is extremely humbling.

The teachers and pupils do not have the best of everything, but they make the best of what they have.

Today’s lessons has their moments but we can all regroup tonight and have an even better day tomorrow. I’m currently sitting just outside the staff room writing this, looking out over the city Dehradun with the clouds rising above mountains. Absolutely Fantastic.

Emily– Our first day of teaching was very nerve–wrecking as we were unsure of the level of the class, but also very exciting to meet who we would be teaching for the following four days. Our class is quite small, so that made it easier to get to know them better. I led the English class, and as one of the objectives for this week was to teach them about feelings, we focused on emotional words. We acted out each emotion as we said, and tested their memory with games such as matching up and “Emily says” (which I liked the name of!) It was a good first day, I’m looking forward to seeing the children again.

Alistair, Matthew and Emily – Class 7

On a High

22nd July 2014

The day started off with a bit of lie in compared to some of the previous days of the trip so far. I (Ryan) was woken up by the beautiful sound of blaring trumpets blasting through our windows from the army camp just downhill from the hotel. After plucking myself from the cosy realms of my bed, I managed to get a shower before all the water ran out – again! Upon exiting the bathroom, I approached my bag and found the Godzilla equivalent of a spider beside my bed. After recovering from the initial shock, I went to open the door of our balcony to throw it out but when I turned around, it was gone! I now live in eternal fear for my life and will certainly not sleep easy tonight!

Megan here! After breakfast and the car ride up to Kaplani, the day began for Ryan, Orlagh, Ben and I with English. We had found in our first class that it was hard to teach the whole class the same lesson in English as there is such a range of ability, so we were a bit more confident now, in our second class, to split them up into groups. This worked so much better and the children were so enthusiastic! We had a music lesson after, in which we started by recapping our previous lesson with a few games that turned into fierce competition! The songs were definitely the best part though! We sang ‘In the Jungle’ and ‘If you’re happy and you know it’, which we enjoyed as much as the children did!

Ben taking over for Megan here! We finished music on a high after a number of fun songs and games and couldn’t wait to get stuck into our arts and crafts lesson in the afternoon. After a spare period of planning and a 30 minute break for lunch we were ready to begin our art lesson with Class 8. My group of pupils had been eagerly awaiting the period all day, as I had promised them we’d finish off our home decorations (that we began making the previous day) and then move onto making ‘loom bands’.

As it turned out, we got so involved in working on our decorations again, that the period went by in a blur and we didn’t even get on to making the loom bands!

Now that they were finally finished all the children in my group couldn’t wait to get home and show their parents the new decorations they had made. I can speak for myself and the other members teaching Class 8 that we have finished our second teaching day already excited to return tomorrow and do it all again.

Ryan, Megan and Orlagh

Terrible Recorder Puns

23rd July 2014

I (Killian) was greeted this morning with a taste of home in the form of unending grey and persistent rain upon bouncing out of bed with the enthusiasm only a teenager can feel for a 7 o’clock start.

It could have been Northern Ireland, except it wasn’t. It was the Himalayas. Breakfast was a semi–conscious haze of jam and toast. Assembly was cancelled upon our arrival at Kaplani as a result of the rain, giving us time to enjoy our first encounter with leeches. Enjoy is a word more appropriate for some than others. While David cowered in a corner, Niamh M insisted that Barra place a leech on her hand “for the experience”. A disappointing lack of blood and gore resulted. Our first class was English, in which we taught Class 6 about jobs.

This was the first topic our class didn’t appear to immediately grasp, however they were soon able to fluently express to us their aspirations for the future. India will not run out of doctors, pilots or police officers any time soon.

I (David) had the best day so far in India however the zero visibility weather and down pouring rain compared to the clear vision we’ve had previously was not widely appreciated. Period 4 was expected by ourselves to be a ‘Messy one’ (Belfast slang I’ve learned) as we were teaching the children to play ‘Mary had a little lamb’ on the recorder. We taught the children using pens first, avoiding a noisy confused racket. This worked a treat and by the end of the lesson the children of Class 6 knew the song inside out, the lesson blew in (terrible recorder pun), and even the Indian teachers wanted to have a go. The final lesson for us, period 6, was Arts and crafts. In this lesson the children made puppets which they thoroughly enjoyed. Class 6 show real enthusiasm for each lesson given to them which radiates to all of the team.

I (Scott) woke up this morning feeling as fresh as I have on the trip so far. My favourite period was period 4 which was are music class. It was really enjoyable and when we handed out the recorders to the children their faces lit up with excitement and they couldn’t wait to get started. It was an enjoyable class and by the end the teachers in Kaplani where involved too and they practised through their lunch time to learn the song so they could continue teaching the children after we have left. After lunch my day took a downturn when I noticed blood over my hand. I wondered where it had come from soon to realise there had been a leech on my wrist (unlike Niamh it was not intentionally put there) – this was swiftly dealt with by Cathy. But apart from this my day was incredibly good and I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow. On a final note there was something that you don’t see every day at home which is a couple of cows just having a walk down the middle of the road when we were on our way home again in the car.

Killian, David and Scott


24th July 2014

Yasmin and Barra here with the latest updates from the great Himalayas. We started the day off in the clouds, but we weren’t on cloud nine, as it was our last day teaching the wonderful children at Kaplani. We began the day with some toast, a staple diet for us Sapharians. I (Barra) made sure to stock up on energy in the form of black coffee for the final day ahead in Kaplani. We set off on the daily cramped car journey across the winding roads.

We walked down the path to the school with our heads held high but with heaviness in our hearts as we approached the final day of teaching. We were greeted with smiles as usual, and began teaching our classes which were filled with the buzz of preparation for the performance at the end of the day.

We had a chance to meet 10 former Kaplani students – 6 at sixth form college and 4 at university – who have been able to continue their students thanks to scholarships from Saphara. It was really inspirational to meet them and to see their pride in what they’ve achieved.

Thanks to our fundraising, we were able to buy the students new fitted uniforms and school shoes. I (Yasmin) felt that nothing so far on this journey could compare to the feeling watching the boys’ and girls’ faces light up as they took off their flip flops and replaced them with new shiny shoes.

After they got their uniforms, all the pupils and teachers shuffled into one classroom and we began the performance. Yasmin’s class kicked it off with a brilliant rendition of country roads in both English and Hindi, and ended using their new recorders playing ‘Mary had a little lamb.’ My (Barra’s) class had practiced Reach for the Stars by S Club Seven, and when they performed it live, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and the real thing!

The end of the day was the most emotional time of the trip so far. We never expected how hard it was to leave them after only four days of teaching.

I (Barra) never usually cry but I couldn’t hold back the tears when I got up and stood in front of them and saw all their faces looking up at me, I saw that they appreciated me and that I had made a change in their lives, and they had made a massive change in mine. Thank you Kaplani, we will miss you.

Barra and Yasmin

On Leech Watch

25th July 2014

Today was the dreaded trek to Donk. We woke up to our usual toast for breakfast and made ourselves a pack lunch with, guess what, more bread! I (Niamh) was a bit anxious about the trekking but was very excited to meet the children at Donk which gave me the motivation I needed. I (Nicole) was more worried about the leaches than anything else, but the person behind us was on ‘leach watch’ on our shoes. Plus we were all sporting the leach look (trouser tucked into socks and hiking shoes) and we were all so attractive, cat walk models if we are honest. So strutting off down the mountain we eventually arrived at Donk after an hour and a half, with one stop on the way at Patrani, where we saw some water buffalo.

When we arrived we were all quite anxious and our attention was focused on the lesson. Our group was teaching English to the older class of age 5–7. We were teaching The Very Hungry Caterpillar story and we decided to make it active. Hanging a fruit or another type of food on each small child I (Niamh) acted the caterpillar, sporting a caterpillar head gear made from pipe cleaners. Our group, Niamh, Ben, Ellen, David and I (Nicole) helped the children join on to Niamh with each food, eventually we were one big fat caterpillar. The kids loved it! The other group did a wonderful Art lesson where the pupils made hungry caterpillar hats and butterflies kindly organised for us by Alistair’s mum! The kids were buzzing after their art lesson! After our lessons our group and the other art team for the small children went on a tour of Donk. On the way we saw a girl from our previous class in Kaplani, Priyanka, who was very proud to show us her bedroom covered in posters of Bollywood stars and pictures of her and her family.

Saying goodbye twice wasn’t easy and waving goodbye with tear filled eyes we moved on to the rest of the village.

When we arrived back it was assembly time, with one little boy giving us a run through of actions to get everyone listening. For example, ‘stand at ease, touch your nose’ etc. it was at this time we were able to give the children our gifts of new shoes, a punching balloon, bubbles, a pencil and a rubber. The smiles on their faces at this stage made the trek worthwhile. Some joined us on the trek back home, with Killian, Ben, David and Alistair giving the kids a piggy back about a third of the way home and Nikki treating them to some M&S chocolate biscuits! With the children gone it got competitive with the boys and Niamh McCrossan wanting to beat the down teams time, which they did finishing in 1 hour 10 minutes. We weren’t far behind finishing in 1 hour 20 minutes and our “slowest” team in 1 hour 50. I think it is safe to say most of us will be hanging up our hiking shoes after that!

After a well–earned rest we began our global awareness weekend. Exploring issues lead to much debate (especially in our group) on whether our generation is misunderstood. We all got a lot out of it.

As this was our last night with Christine she told us her wonderful story on the dream that started Saphara, we think it is safe to say she has inspired us all!

As a small token of our thanks we gave her a card filled with ‘Christine quotes’ of the trip and a scarf of her favourite colours – turquoise was in there of course.

Missing you all, love from Niamh and Nicole x

Speeding Up

26th July 2014

This is Cathy (Mrs McCrossan) and Sam (Samuel) reporting on Saturday night while the others are watching Slumdog Millionaire. (We are eating curly–wurlys which taste amazing).

It is hard to believe that this time last week we were on our way back to Delhi after visiting the Taj Mahal; we were stunned by its beauty and majesty and all agreed it would be a day we would remember forever.

On Monday morning the nerves and apprehension subsided quickly as relationships were formed and bonds cemented while teaching the wonderful children at Kaplani. Lessons were prepared, songs practised, worksheets designed and art lessons designed with ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ attached to every lesson! It was incredible to see how each group took ownership of their classes and developed a real passion for teaching from the outset.

It was also interesting to observe how our young people were developing a passion for fashion (Indian style). Matthew was clearly setting a trend with his money belt that had four attachments and tucking trouser legs into knee length socks became the norm in the afternoon during the treks into Mussoorie town. Evenings were spent singing as the North and East Saphara choir were formed and practised ‘Sing’ for their debut performance at the school cultural exchange concert.

It was incredible watching the mist during the day and it often felt as if we were teaching in the Himalayan clouds. Much was learned outside of the classroom as we witnessed young children at Kaplani eat their midday meal which reminded us how Saphara uses fundraising money to transform the lives of children. Thursday was a very humbling experience as we presented every child with a new school uniform including shoes which was again provided by the generous fundraising.

After the cultural exchange concert many tears were shed and it was incredible to witness the pride in our young people as their classes performed. We have watched our young people blossom and grow within a short period of time.

The trek to Donk was much anticipated and lived up to every moment. Yet again we were very proud of our young people as they delivered Art and English lessons to primary school children. We were given the opportunity to give every child a new pair of school shoes along with some gifts that the team had brought. The trek back from Donk was a lot more difficult for some, namely us! Though this time, I (Sam) made it back in 1 hour 50 minutes as opposed to 3 hours the last time (July 2011). Thanks to Cathy for many chats and to the young people in our group singing Dolly Parton tunes mid–way!

Today we had a very interesting talk from the director of MGVS, Surender Singh, about the role of this organisation in working in partnership with local communities to improve quality of living. It was an interesting insight into how to respectfully provide support for marginalised communities. We have all been given food for thought.

We have had an amazing week and we are very excited about the week ahead at SNEHA.

Bye for now,

Cathy and Sam x

Very Proud Teachers

27th July 2014

Wow – what a week it has been! It all began with the visit to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort; a wonderful way to welcome us to India! Very quickly we found ourselves sucked in to the historical background of each monument and all were very keen to explore and ask questions to our very knowledgeable guide. As Teachers of Religious Studies we were particularly grateful for the insight into the religious symbolism of the buildings (CAI and AGS pupils…watch out for this in your RS lessons next year!)

The teaching week began with the taxi ride up the Himalayan mountains to our base – Mussoorie Gateway. The journey involved our hands gripped tight, our teeth clenched, eyes closed and a shared packet of anti–sickness tablets! I (Nikki) didn’t realise I was a sufferer of travel sickness until this journey! Nestled half way up the mountain, the pupils began planning for Monday morning. We were amazed by how quickly they developed lesson ideas and they were genuinely excited about the week that lay ahead. Monday morning came and the lessons were taught exceptionally well and this continued right up to Thursday. The Kids at Kaplani School hung off their every word and bonds were formed almost immediately.

The teaching continued with a one–stop visit to Donk on Friday! We had heard from many who have come before us that this was a day to remember…it certainly lived up to that! Not least because of the beautiful but exhausting trek to and from the little Hamlet but also because we got the chance to see where the story begins for many of the Saphara scholarship students and Kaplani High School pupils; their family, their homes and their primary school! In such a short time our pupils taught four fantastic lessons in Donk Primary School and left a lasting impression all round! I (Lynsey) must make a special shout out to Ellen and Orlagh who after completing the trek back from Donk selflessly volunteered to wait with myself at the top to cheer home the final group of Trekkers! Great Effort girlies! All in all we are so proud of the CAI boys, AGS girls and ‘Cathy’s Crew’. We have watched them grow spiritually and emotionally this week – parents you should be very proud!

As we write this we are travelling down the Himalayan mountain towards Dehradun where our next adventure will begin. Our young people can’t wait for a fresh new Hotel, a new school and of course MORE McDonalds! We are very excited about the week ahead at SNEHA school. Our young people will notice a massive change as classes will have grown from 9 students to 40+ in a classroom! They are upbeat and ready for the challenge of a completely new teaching environment. Ben hopes his ‘Ben 10’ nickname sticks in the new school and the girls are particularly looking forward to getting Henna Tattoos.

My highlight so far has to be the trip to Donk. Anyone who knows me will agree that walking boots don’t feature in my regular wardrobe! However, The trek was definitely worth the fashion faux pas! The kids at Donk were absolutely adorable and were so excited about our arrival. The school consisted of two small rooms – one with chairs for the kids to sit on, the other with nothing but the floor. When we arrived our young people taught the story of The Hungry Caterpillar and ended the day handing out presents including new school shoes. The Donk kids were so excited and held tight to the box the entire trek home.

I felt particularly proud watching the CAI boys carrying some of the Donk kids home on their back (over very steep hills!) and filling them full of sweet treats! Donk was a truly amazing experience and something I will remember for a long time.

I have been inspired by so much that I have witnessed in India…Here’s one highlight for me! On Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to some young adults who are part of the Saphara scholarship scheme! I was particularly touched by the story of one girl who has shown sheer determination and begun to turn her family’s future around! She found herself growing up fatherless, with a mother forced to sell illegal liquor to provide for her family living in a home destroyed by terrible weather conditions and a brother who refused to go to school! But oh how the story has changed…As she studies she works part time in a Coffee shop earning money for her family which means her mother no longer needs to illegally trade, her family home has been rebuilt, she now ensures her brother attends school and receives an education and she has clear goals for her own future! What a tremendous story of hope!

We want to take this opportunity to thank Christine for all her hard work and assure her and her family of our thoughts and prayers. We would also like to thank all of you at home for the tremendous fundraising you have done for this cause. We have witnessed first hand the difference your fundraising is making and I am sure your young person will fill you in on all the great things your donations have achieved. We are very proudTeachers right now and we know you are proud parents too! As day eleven comes to a close, we are ready to take on the week ahead!

Lots of love,

Nikki and Lynsey (top roomies of the trip!) xx

The Infamous Camel

28th July 2014

Monday saw an unwelcome return to the 7 o’clock start, as I (Killian) awoke anticipating a return to teaching in the unfamiliar environment of SNEHA School.

Extra time was set aside to take full advantage of the hotel breakfast, consisting of, among other things, pancakes, muffins, a sausage roll thing with chocolate instead of sausage (a much superior alternative) and a variety of Indian foods with names I can’t remember, varying drastically in taste. I was in my prime. After dragging ourselves from the breakfast table we travelled by Vikram to SNEHA.A Vikram is a 3–wheeled contraption into which 6 people are somehow squeezed for a journey of blaring horns and unnervingly confident drivers.

We unfolded ourselves from the Vikrams (insert mental image of clown car) and arrived at SNEHA just in time to witness the school assembly, consisting of the school song and the Indian national anthem. The staff room became a hub of frantic organisation before we set off to teach our first lesson to all 46 pupils of class 1A. After introducing ourselves, we spilt the class into colour–based groups and gave them corresponding name badges and stickers to decorate. The ferocity of competition for stickers will prepare the kids thoroughly for the real world. The rainbow song saw a return to rational calm as each group proudly stood as their colour was mentioned. A 40–minute break provided brief respite before we were back into the trenches (happy, excited trenches) with class 1B to teach the same lesson. This went as well as the first, with the added benefit of experience. Emily will now describe to you the rest of the day.

Thank you Killian for that introduction.

Today in SNEHA we went over numbers and days of the week through a classic tale: The Hungry Caterpillar. The children were very good at being able to count and name each day, which we were impressed with considering they are 3–6 years old and English is their 2nd language. We sang the rainbow song and the infamous ‘Sally the Camel’ which they really enjoyed. Following this we had a conversation class with pupils around our own age. This was to help improve the fluidity of their English, which they need for job and university interviews. It was great to see that some of the members of my group wanted to be engineers, translators and of course; cricket players. I especially enjoyed hearing about their daily routines and about their culture because if any of us had’ve been born there that would be our daily routines and our culture.

– Killian and Emily

Pride and Joy

29th July 2014

Hello from Dehradun!

Our day started off as eventful as ever by driving in the Vikrams! As we approached SNEHA, we noticed the drop in attendance due to a Muslim Holiday however many of the pupils still managed to come to our classes which we were very grateful for. I (Ryan) began the teaching day with a class 1 English lesson on the book, ‘The very hungry caterpillar’. The class was very receptive and loved all of our animated and sometimes frightening faces. They each got a balloon and sticker for coming in; the look on each of their faces whenever they received them was priceless. It’s amazing how such a simple thing to us can have such an effect on them so that definitely made my day.

I (Niamh) began teaching my book, a similar lesson to yesterday. We focused on opposites of descriptions and it was so cute to see them all acting out noisy, quiet, tall, and many others. There is a deaf boy in my class so I brought an extra book for him to look on with. His face when he saw the colours and copied the actions was so rewarding as he wouldn’t normally receive this attention. We then taught class 2A prepositions using Mark the Monkey (a puppet). Their enthusiasm was equalled by my teaching team, who took great joy in teaching them the hokey–kokey, with squeals from everyone!

We both then headed off to one of the marginalised communities in which SNEHA pupils live. We learnt from Nadesh, an English teacher who is helping with class 3, that 95% of the children from SNEHA school lived in the marginalised communities. The boys travelled in style on the mopeds (with Ryan hanging on for dear life) with some of the older pupils driving us there whilst the girls sadly had to drive in a jeep. Thankfully, after arriving in one piece, we were all brought to one of the areas of the communities. Some of the SNEHA pupils were with us and a couple of them showed us where they lived. We were a bit apprehensive at first but although the area was one of the most deprived that we have been exposed to, the sense of community was inspiring.

The pupils showed off their houses with pride and the joy and hope in their faces and those of their relatives was something we all will never forget.

When we returned, we talked to Dr. Reeta who helped to set up a lot of physical, emotional and medical help for the people in the communities. She explained how in SNEHA, the pupils given priority were those who would have no chance of going to school had the charity not been there so in effect, SNEHA is educating the poorest of the poor. Girls are also given priority as education reduces the chance of early marriage and increases their chances of getting a job much more than that of a boy would.

Our conversation classes went exceptionally well. Mine (Niamh) was a little intimidating as my class were all boys but they were so complimentary and really wanted to learn. They talked about their hopes for the future, in respect to their career as well as family life. It was so moving to see fully–grown pupils wanting so much in life, including providing for their families and their love for their country and religious festivals.

Also, during the last few days we seem to have acquired a new friend (or two). A couple of cats in the hotel have now become our stalkers, waking us up in the middle of the night and terrorizing our reflection sessions! As we are writing this, Cat No.1 is currently sitting in the resource box right behind us and staring us out! Apart from the unwelcome visitors the Hotel is lovely and we are thoroughly enjoying our time in Dehradun!

See you all soon, Niamh McC and Ryan

Into the Community

30th July 2014

This morning we had a slightly earlier start as we were to be in SNEHA for eight just in time for the whole school assembly.

All of the pupils formed lines in their class groups and performed a few songs for us including their school song, if you’re happy and you know it and a beautiful song in Hindi. Following this our Saphara group sang “Sing” by Gary Barlow, the whole school joined in on the chorus and it was a very special moment for everyone as we could see the enthusiasm on the children’s faces as we all sang as one. After assembly we split up into our teaching groups once again and went to our various classes. Matthew and his teaching group completed arts and crafts and phonics which the children thoroughly enjoyed. Orlagh and her teaching group continued to work from the book “The very Hungry caterpillar” teaching the children to write in full sentences. The children have fantastic English and in classes 1a and 1b they are only 5 years old and truly inspiring to teach.

Matthew here! In the afternoon myself and the rest of the group had the opportunity to visit one of the marginalised communities in Dehradun .To get there we were allowed to ride with pupils on their scooters which was a brilliant experience especially in the busy back streets. I feel proud I was able to stay on! After a short ride we were given a small tour of part of the marginalised community under the watchful eye of Nadesh, a teacher at SNEHA. Nadesh is one of the school’s English Teachers and is truly an inspirationalperson. He has such a passion for the SNEHA pupils so much so that he stays after school giving them free tuition and even calls some of the pupils up on a Sunday to make sure they are studying! On our visit to the community, we were able to meet the local people, many of whom went to SNEHA School, and this was an extremely humbling experience. We were all taken back by the immense pride the local people had in their homes and how welcoming and kind they were. One thing that struck me was the high ambitions many of the teenagers have; I asked them about their school and their future career goals and many aspired to become doctors, engineers, accountants and politicians.

This just goes to show how education can be the key to breaking the poverty cycle and that schools like SNEHA and the amazing work of people like Dr Reeta can provide them with life changing opportunities.

Orlagh here, continuing on from Matthew! Later in the afternoon after our final class we were all invited to get henna tattoos which is part of the Indian culture. The ladies were greatly skilled and all of the girls got an individual design on their hands. The boys got their name written in Hindi on their arms. The ladies were from the marginalised community and had been given the opportunity to take henna classes by Dr Reeta giving them a skill to create an income for themselves and their families. We returned to the hotel by our new favourite mode of transport, the Vikrams, and completed our lesson plans for the last time. We can’t believe that tomorrow is our last day of teaching in India! We would happily just stay here and become a full time teacher, the kids are amazing and we have learnt so much from them, giving us a new perspective on life. From a young age I have always dreamed of becoming a teacher but after these past few days in India I am feeling more passionate than ever and am so grateful that we have all been given this opportunity from Christine. Can’t wait for our last day of teaching tomorrow but the countdown is on now, not long until you see all 18 of our beautiful little faces!

Sending all our love,

Orlagh and Matthew


31st July 2014

Greetings from India, where the birthday celebrations are in full swing for Ryan’s 18th birthday.

However, it is now the beginning of the end as we are sitting on the train back to Delhi writing this. We had started the day with a surprise for Ryan at breakfast as we had blown up loads of balloons to throw at him as he entered the room. It worked brilliantly, but we were waiting for 15 minutes for him to get downstairs!

It was our last day of teaching in SNEHA, and we were all ready to make our last lessons with Classes 1, 2 and 3 the best lessons of the week. My (Megan’s) class were making animal masks in the middle of the school’s courtyard after being moved out of our classroom, with a teacher – Nadesh – helping us. He is such an amazing person and by the end of the day all of the teaching groups loved him also! In fact, on the way back to the classroom at the end of the lesson, he encouraged us all to make as much noise as possible to disrupt the rest of the classes as we bounced by! – Megan

Meanwhile, I (Niamh K) was touring SNEHA with Cathy, Ryan, Orlagh, Emily, Megan, Alistair and Sam teaching all the classes the Peel Banana song. What began as a trip to Kindergarden became a full–scale mission terrorising the school, teaching every pupil the song. It was good fun but exhausting. By the end of the day even the teachers knew the song (not by choice though). After we finished our lessons we attended the cultural exchange concert.

We witnessed some incredible dances by some of the female students in glittering traditional dress and then performed Reach for the Stars and, surprise, surprise, the banana song!

It was so nice to watch the kids perform and we were able to express our gratitude to the SNEHA community for their kindness and generosity over the last few days. The team then made a guard of honour for the SNEHA pupils as they went home, shaking every child’s hand. One interesting Vikram ride later, we were at our favourite restaurant, Salt and Cravings. – Niamh

Ryan here! First of all, thank you for all the birthday messages – Its nice to feel so loved!! Ever since I got up this morning, I’ve been bombarded with them. It all began with a 7am serenade of happy birthday by Sam and Cathy outside my bedroom door. Then, as explained by Megan, I was ruthlessly ambushed with balloons at breakfast and got a card from everyone in the group. Throughout the day at SNEHA, teachers and kids alike were wishing me a happy birthday (probably due to the massive badge on my chest reading “It’s my birthday“, kindly supplied by Cathy). The celebrations continued at Salt and Cravings, where I received a personalised chocolate cake with candles that wouldn’t go out; I was starting to turn blue by the time the candles were fully extinguished! I also received a variety of unusual presents from the Saphara team including a tongue cleaner, a leaking jar of pickled hot dogs (including the addition of a crushed salt and vinegar Pringle), a feather boa and beer shampoo amongst others. Thank you for them all haha! It’s safe to say that this is a birthday that I will never forget!! After carrying my now fully loaded bags into the taxi, we set off for the train station, and onto the train, where we will spend the next six hours before heading back to our first hotel where we will spend our final night in India :( see you all soon!!

Ryan, Niamh and Megan Xx

Sowing Seeds

I can’t really fit this whole experience into one paragraph – but I really enjoyed it. I loved teaching and getting to know the pupils in my classes; it’s amazing to see such impoverished people being so generous and so happy. They will never be forgotten. I am very, very thankful to have been picked for this trip – the opportunities we had don’t come around often! It was amazing! – Emily

Saphara has been an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. From teaching the kids in the schools to the visiting the marginalised communities, the main thing that stuck was the sense of hope on their faces and it really made me appreciate what I have. – Ryan

It is difficult to put into words how I feel about my time in India but here I go. The trip was definitely a peak in my life. I’ve had countless unique opportunities and experiences. I sang in front of a school and hiked up a mountain with a small Indian child on my back, just to name a couple. I have made strong connections with so many people. Firstly, the kids that we taught – they were really special to me and I wish them all the best for their future. Secondly, inspirational people like Dr Reeta, Surender and Nadesh have given me a lot to think about. Finally, the 17 amazing individuals on my team. I have had so much fun with you guys and it saddens me that we have to go our separate ways. Thanks for the good times! Thank you India for helping me appreciate the little things as well as the big things in life and for broadening my perspective on the world and the people in it. Namaste. – Barra

The Saphara experience has been life changing for me in so many ways. I have experienced so many new things, met some inspirational people and had some incredible experiences. I am so glad that I was able to share this journey with such an amazing team and I know my experience in India will affect me for the rest of my life. – Niamh K

Amazing experience with a team of wonderful people. It is great to see, first hand, the difference that Saphara is making in the lives of many people. I feel honoured to have contributed to their work in a small way. – Sam

My Saphara experience has not only been everything I thought it would be but so, so much more. The thing that will stick in my mind is seeing the enthusiasm, smiles and eagerness on the faces of the children every day. They are so happy with what they have and we will all be more grateful for the simple things such as our own education. I’m leaving feeling more aware and inspired by the work going on and the huge impact it is making. So happy to be a part of it all! – Orlagh

What I have experienced over the past two weeks is something I will be unable to forget. I cannot and will not forget the Taj Mahal, Lotus Temple, Agra Fort, the incredible class 6 at Kaplani and the amazing classes IA and IB at SNEHA. I am so thankful to the inspirational and unbelievable Nadesh, the selfless and wise Surender, the incredible Dr Reeta, Christine, and every teacher and team member and on this trip. The end doesn’t seem real; I wish it wasn’t. – Killian

When I came out on this trip I promised myself I wouldn’t become emotionally attached to any of the school kids or experiences I would encounter; I failed. Saphara has truly changed my perspective on life and my personality (for the better I hope). The friends I have made and the children I have taught have impacted me massively and I wouldn’t trade the experience of them for the world. – Alistair

The whole experience of teaching has been eye opening. As a student, you will never realise how much time and planning and resources teachers have to put in to be able to engage with their pupils. Our team has only done it for nine days but we are all exhausted! The experience has been so useful and rewarding and has started me thinking about teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) – I am completely grateful for it. – Megan

Saphara was a life changing experience with an incredible group of people! Words can’t describe how beneficial it was both for us and the kids we were helping. Anyone who’s considering applying next year I urge you to do so – trust me you won’t regret it! – Ben

My Saphara journey was not what I had expected. Hearing the stories of others about their time on Saphara is nothing compared to the experience my team and I have had. No words can describe the incredible bond we have together and with all the children we have taught. They will always be in my thoughts as I pray for them to do well and be the inspiring people they are. – Yasmin

Saphara was a great opportunity and an unbelievable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to travel with and meet some inspirational people who are doing great work to help those less fortunate than ourselves and would recommend it to anyone.Scott

We have shared laughs, tears, songs, stories and carried each other along the way. The teaching has been amazing but we have been taught a lot more. We brought gifts but have been given so much more from the people who have so much less than us. Treasure the memories! – Cathy

Saphara is definitely not what I expected it to be, it was 10 times better. I didn’t think the children would affect me so much and I would become so attached to places and people I spent only 4 days with! I remember so clearly the principal of Kaplani saying ‘this may only be 4 days but we will remember this for 40 years’ which is completely accurate. It was the best 16 days of my life and has made me a better person and made me realise how lucky and appreciative we should be at home. – Nicole

The whole teaching experience has not only been my highlight but has been eye opening. It has made me become more grateful for my own education and I now hope to pursue a careers working with children. – Niamh McC

Saphara has taught me a lot about India and also myself. My highlight would be the last day in SNEHA; the last class was beyond words. I have found inspiration from a young teacher called Nadesh who has such passion and love for the job and the children. – Dave

Saphara as certainly been for me, as the Hindi for suggests, a ‘journey with purpose.’ I have been truly inspired my so many amazing young people as part of this charity. A special mention must be made of Dr Reeta. During a conversation about her own story and the work she has done at SNEHA she said, “I believe we sow the seed…God does the work and one day we will see the fruit!” What a challenge – it’s time to sow more seeds anywhere and everywhere! – Lynsey

There have been so many rich experiences over the past two weeks – moments of joy and a wonderful awe at the way human beings can touch and influence the hearts of others. It has been a blessing to be a part of Saphara in 2014. – Lorna

I believe we sow the seed…God does the work and one day we will see the fruit!”

What a fantastic two weeks these have been. Reflecting back now so many memories come flooding back. It was truly an honour and privilege to work with the amazing children in Kaplani and SNEHA. The ambition and hard work ethic of the students was inspiring. It’s hard to believe that the trip is over now and I’d like to thank Christine and the teachers for making this opportunity possible. This has been a very positive experience and I hope the work of Saphara grows from strength to strength. – Matthew

India was quite an experience. I loved every minute of it andespecially spending time with our Saphara team! It opened my eyes tothe obvious problems in India which I didn’t expect to be as bad. It also makes you appreciate what we have – as the poorest people we met appreciate what they have even though it’s so little. – Thomas

Saphara was the best 16 days of my life and has been so inspiring! Saphara does fantastic work and I’d like to thank Christine for an amazing experience and for the opportunity to meet every member of the Saphara project, especially Nadesh, the teacher from SNEHA. The trip has made me appreciate what we take for granted! And thanks to Cathy, Sam, Nikki, Lynsey and Lorna for all their hard work. – Ellen

Saphara has been the most incredible 16 days of my life. The kids at Donk, Kaplani and SNEHA taught me so much and I’m so grateful for meeting each of them. It’s so hard to put into words how special the kids really are but I will never forget their happy wee faces and how every little way we tried to make a difference counts! – Ellie


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