4th July 2015
We have arrived in India! We stepped off the plane to a wave of heat just hitting us in the face – the smells, sounds and sights were nothing like we could imagine! The travel agents met us outside the airport, gave us each a bright orange garland to welcome us then we loaded ourselves up and got into the taxis.
The taxi journey was crazy – the roads are like a game of Mario Kart. There is constantly horns blaring and the two lane road instantly turns into a four/five lane road with people running inbetween! Once we got to the hotel, we got a long rest then headed off to Kahn Martket for some lunch and to FabIndia to get our clothes.
FabIndia was amazing!! So many colours, shapes and sizes, I think the boys enjoyed it more than us! Once we were all kitted out, we went back to the taxis and headed to the outstanding home of Mr. Feilim McLaughlin, the Irish Ambassador of India. His house was immaculate, and a very very nice temperature in comparison to outside! We had an instant taste of home as we were served cold drinks and doritos on arrival.
He had put out a fantastic varity of food from salad to traditional indian food to –another home comfort – Irish Stew, which finished with delicious profiterols, lemon tart and fruit salad. We then chilled for an hour after dinner in the living room of his house which almost just felt like a night on the sofa at home, before heading back to the Hotel to sleep!
A HUGE thank you to Feilim and his wife, Sonia, for their amazing hospitality, company and food – a perfect first night in India. We are now ready for bed and very excited for our 6am breakfast before heading to the Taj Mahal!
Arriving in Dehradun
5th July 2015
We had an early start this morning to get our train from Delhi to Dehradun, leaving a bustling platform at 6:45am. We all drifted in and out of sleep, with almost everyone getting caught ‘catching flies’ on someone else’s camera, and playing a few games in between.
Arriving in Dehradun we made our way for food in an auto rickshaw, (the girls in vikrams (bigger rickshaws) – four boys with four big bags wasn’t an ideal situation but we arrived in McDonalds in one piece just before the rain started, and the rain hasn’t stopped since.
Fortunately, we managed to get through dinner and lesson planning before the electricity in the hotel started turning on and off due to the lightning. We are now heading to bed for some well needed rest before a busy week of teaching ahead of us!
Going back to SNEHA tomorrow after 2 years for me (Matthew) and 4 years for Ben will be a great experience and something both of us really looking forward to. We are officially on our own now as the ‘2015 Student Team’ after Christine and the Belfast Team left for Mussoorie. A few nerves about first lessons tomorrow but everyone is looking forward to the weeks ahead and getting back to Salt & Cravings for dinner tomorrow! Hope you are all ok at home.
Our Welcome to SNEHA
6th July 2015
We’d like to begin with a big shoutout to Niamh (Neev) – our amazing teaching leader! Christine watch out, she could steal your job very soon. She’s helped each of us in different ways and we really appreciate all the work and effort she’s put in. She’s so good that the two girls below could remember her by name from over a year ago!
Our 7:15am wake up call (which felt like a lie in) began our first day of teaching. Despite the pouring rain and nerves for our first day teaching, everyone was full of excitement as we travelled in the Vikrams to Sneha Doon Academy. We received a very warm welcome from all the staff and pupils, and some even remembered members of the team from previous visits!
Although we were feeling anxious beginning our first lesson, each teaching group soon found their feet. As we continued to grow in confidence while teaching, this was reflected in the response from each class. It was amazing to build a rapport with the kids in our class and we are really looking forward to seeing them all again tomorrow!
We also created a special bond with the pupils in Class 12 during Conversation Classes as they are not much younger than us. It was great to see everyone chatting and laughing together like good friends.
The spirits were very high on the journey home as everyone was delighted with a great first day. We enjoyed a delicious dinner in Salt and Craving and Emma and I would highly recommend the Carbonara! The craic was great all evening and it was the perfect ending to a fantastic day! Looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow!
Catherine McColgan & Emma Lynch
SNEHA Day 2!
7th July 2015
Hey, it’s Aisling & Melissa here and we’re going to talk about our second day teaching with Class 7 at SNEHA. Neither of us have experienced teaching in SNEHA prior to this trip so it is sure to be a definite learning curve for the both of us. We are excited to see what the rest of our 3 weeks bring!!
To start our day, when we were warmly invited to join in on our first SNEHA assembly. We listened to all the students singing a variety of traditional hymns along with their national anthem. These were accompanied with a variety of Indian instruments. This cultural exchange got our day off to a great start.
As we are both in the same teaching group, todays experience was similar for the both of us. We started off by introducing a ‘measure me’ activity. Within this lesson we worked as a team with the pupils to discover the lengths of different parts of the body such as hands, as well as finding the average measurement within our class of 42. This proved to be a very interactive and enjoyable lesson for both our students and us.
Our second lesson involved a comprehension, which focused on the heart. This comprehension highlighted both the pupils’ high level of enthusiasm and their English language ability. Although the pupils already have a substantial understanding of the English language it was great to watch them interact with each other, speaking in the language they are keen to improve.
To reflect on our day and our experience so far we have found seeing the beggars difficult to watch. However seeing what is on the streets of Dehradun has made us more motivated to make a difference in the classroom.
Aisling Boyd & Melissa McLean
Visiting the Marginalised Community
8th July 2015
Hey there, Orla and Sian here!
We’ve finished day three of teaching and today was the day we visited the marginalized community. For any of you worried parents out there, I would skip down a few lines.
Our transport to the community just happened to be each of us riding on the back of a motorbike, and can we say it was awesome!
Once we arrived, we were shown around by a number of Sneha pupils who very enthusiastic to show us where they lived. The visit was upsetting and really opened our eyes to the poor conditions that these families have to endure. However, seeing how proud the children were of where they came from was real comfort to us as living conditions were far from what they would be back at home. It was a real privilege to see the dedication it takes for the children of Sneha to attend school everyday and we are now more determined than ever to give these children 100% in every lesson.
Conversation class was a real highlight for us both, as we teach the same group of eager Year 12s. Along with teaching we were really able to have the craic with the students and the lessons themselves were a cultural exchange for both them and us. We were both impressed by their level of English and although some students struggled it was still great to see the effort they were putting in to the class anyway.
While it was difficult to see the unfortunate conditions these children go home to everyday, it is amazing to know that Sneha is an oasis for them through everything. Heading off to Punjab now for some Indian grub and looking forward to tomorrow’s assembly that we have had the privilege of being asked to do!
Orla Donaghy & Sian Clifford
9th July 2015
Niall and Emma D checking in again… we’re still alive!
We have just completed day 4 of teaching in Sneha and we feel that we have really connected with the pupils. In our class the engagement we have received has been phenomenal, each child like sponges, eager to soak up all new concepts that we have taught them. It is clear that they all realise how important their education is and are very determined to reach their full potential. The ethos throughout this school is nothing short of amazing. As a community they are very proud of where they come from and have been more than welcoming to us from day 1.
This morning started out with an assembly, which we had the honour of presenting. Hours of planning the night before had come down to this. Could we remember the songs that we had rehearsed? Of course!! With the songs nailed, we were on our way. Things ran smoothly, the theme of today’s assembly was why each individual pupil is special and unique, focusing on the parable of the lost sheep. We represented this with a jigsaw heart that illustrated different reasons as to why each of the SNEHA children are special and unique.
Pupils from the audience came forward and stuck different pieces of the jigsaw together. We brought the assembly to a close by a performance of the parable . The pupils really enjoyed this as we all were crawling around impersonating the shepherd’s flock. The giggles as we performed were something that showed the bond we had created with the pupils over the past 4 days and we are glad that they were entertained.
Today’s lessons in our class (Class 6) were based on The Water Cycle, The children had already a foundation of knowledge surrounding this topic. So it was a joy to watch them answer the questions we had come up with so effortlessly. We went further into each part, which they thoroughly enjoyed and understood.
Many people were touched by yesterday’s visit to the marginalized community. You could see that today we were even more motivated to begin teaching. We found it hard to believe that the same pupils who were in our class had to live under these impoverished conditions. It brought home why we are here and this truly is a journey with a purpose!
Niall Kelly & Emma Devlin
11th July 2015
Hi all, Matthew and Ben here again, the wifi has been very slow hence the delay on our blog from Friday. We were up as usual for school around 7 and on our way by 8, in a very wet vikram because of the monsoon rain the night before that had continued into the morning. It was a successful morning teaching with groups covering the water cycle and another group finishing their lessons on the 5 senses, all lessons ended up outside in some sort of song or game.
In the afternoon the clouds grew darker and closer and by the end of our conversation classes with class 11 the heavens opened and everyone was soaked in minutes. After a nice lunch in salt and cravings and getting drenched we made our way back to the hotel to plan lessons for the next week.
We both then got given the task of going into town again to get money exchanged; we got ourselves an auto rickshaw and headed into the town. We got our money changed and some groceries for the weekend ahead. We then decided to go exploring and went into a whole range of shops we had not been into before, we found a great bakery that had a huge selection of deserts that we will definitely be visiting again, we also visited Lotto, a fancy watch shop and the toy shop place to get some Haribos.
After making our way back from our adventure we had some down time before heading out for dinner to Moti Mahal. There was only 1 Autocar available because of the continuing heavy rain so the driver did all 3 runs. The dinner had mixed reviews making it into people’s highlights and lowlights but we were able to get 3 separate Autocars home. We had an upbeat set of reflections in room 117, which was a good way to end the day and everyone went to pack for our weekend away in Rishikesh in a very enthusiastic mood.
Matthew and Ben
12th July 2015
We began our weekend at 7am on Saturday and headed on the coach to Rishikesh. After a 2–hour drive, we stopped at Patanjali, Yogpeth and Chandi Devi – all beautiful Indian temples!
We had lunch at Dominos then travelled on to the most exciting part of the weekend, a visit to Hari Ki Pauri – the Ganges! We had an amazing time, it was so exciting to get a real sense of Indian culture and learn more about their traditions and beliefs. Some of the living conditions and beggars around the area were upsetting for the team but we have all kept positive and remember the good we’re doing at SNEHA.
We paired up and sent a flower boat down the Ganges which was very fun! We found an amazing tour guide who enriched our experience of the Ganges.
Our hotel for the night was called Ganga Beach Resort and it was a nice break from the madness of Dehradun – finally getting a lie in and a night’s sleep without the sound of horns. We woke around 10am, had a relaxed breakfast and set off to see the last sight of the trip– Laxman Jhulia, a beautiful bridge situated over the Ganges.
This afternoon, some of us went to Hotel Inderlok to meet the North Belfast & East Belfast school teams. It was good to see the North Belfast Team sharing their stories with the East Belfast Team before they headed to Kaplani. We then spoke to the North Belfast Team and told them all about the amazing SNEHA school, which they start teaching in with us tomorrow.
Our day ended with a visit to Salt & Cravings for dinner and we’re now practicing our Ceili & Line Dancing, with the girls taking charge of course, for the cultural exchange with the SNEHA students on Thursday.
Back to Work
13th July 2015
We had a good weekend of sightseeing and experiencing authentic Indian culture, however we were excited and raring to get back to school for a new week. Certainly as a group we feel much more confident as teachers (which is not all our forte) in the work we are doing, and we arrived at SNEHA this morning refreshed and eager to get stuck in!
Today’s lessons for Class 6 involved learning about Shapes and The Water Cycle – and as per usual Sian, Emma D and Niall brought their ‘A game’ to class. At this stage we all feel very confident leading each lesson, ensuring we use appropriate English so that the children can reach their full potential in each class. It is great to see how the relationship between all the Saphara students and SNEHA pupils has flourished over the past week!
For me, chatting to Nadesh today – a young Indian teacher at the school – was a real highlight. I’m sure some of you reading this will be aware of who Nadesh is and of his inspiring story. Today was my first opportunity to sit down with him – Nadesh is so passionate about where he works and he strives to get better at what he does so that others can benefit from his skills and gifts. He credits every good thing in his life to God, and he acknowledges how blessed he really is – it was amazing to hear Nadesh explain how he just wants to provide the children with the best education they could hope for. This was truly humbling to hear. Seeing such a faith being lived out in Nadesh’s life is incredible!
We have just finished off the evening with some creative lesson planning for tomorrow and now we are heading for dinner! We might even have time tonight to practice a little more for our big performance on Thursday!
14th July 2015
The highlight of the day was an inspirational talk given to us by Dr Reeta. She talked to us about the development of SNEHA and how it has become such a huge success. This talk made us more aware of the work she and the teachers do to improve young lives. When SNEHA first opened it enrolled 60 pupils.
Alongside the work of Saphara it now has 1100 pupils and helps children from the local community, particularly girls, receive the education they deserve. This has motivated each and everyone of the student team to continue to give their all in each lesson so that each pupil reaches their maximum potential.
Today in class, Aisling’s lesson involved a carousel activity. Each group focused on different parts of the body and became familiar with body parts, organs and bones. This reinforced what we had taught the pupils last week. As we approach the end of our teaching experience, it is incredibly rewarding to see how each pupil has progressed in their learning over the past week and a bit.
Class six had a brilliant day too, as we began to teach about the compass and direction using our globes. We began in the classroom and students quickly grasped the concept of north, east, south and west. After the rain cleared up we went outside and played games, which we all thoroughly enjoyed, even the teachers. Sian found it very impressive when one young student could rhyme off cities of countries from all over the world. It has been amazing to see how much class six ‘s English has improved, particularly in those who had such little confidence last week.
We have just finished lesson plans and are getting excited for the last two teaching days ahead. Also tonight we will be preparing for culture exchange and one last assembly tomorrow morning!
Aisling & Sian
Henna, Selfies and Dancing
16th July 2015
Our day started with a fantastic Sneha assembly, Saphara style. The school team blew us all away with their musical talent and we followed this with a handwritten poem of thanks to all the teachers and students of Sneha for making the last two weeks so special for us.
I (Orla) had an amazing day with Class 5! We made our own treasure maps and got to sing the hilarious frog song that they absolutely love. The children also had a great time teaching me Hindi, and an even better time laughing at my pronunciation.
I (Melissa) really enjoyed the lessons with Class 7 today as we did a great quiz on the human body, which the children had a ball with. Unfortunately the Giraffes didn’t win, but a big shout out to the Kangaroos who came first in both classes.
Conversation classes were great craic for everyone as the girls taught us all some Hindi dancing which resulted in a very competitive dance off. Afterwards we finally got our hennas from some of the talented women in the local community. I think the boys enjoyed it just as much as the girls!
We can’t believe tomorrow is our last day at Sneha, we will be upset to leave but looking forward to our fir wnal classes with our incredible children! Currently sorting presents for every child and are soon heading to Salt and Cravings for Dave’s last night!
Orla & Sian
Celebration Day at SNEHA
17th July 2015
The student team woke early as we were excited, but feeling a bit sad, as today was our last day at SNEHA – and what an amazing day it was! We had assembly again first thing and the SNEHA kids dedicated a song called ‘Making Melodies’ to the team, followed by their ‘Special SNEHA Clap’. Each group then taught two lessons which rounded up the last two weeks teaching.
Class 5 welcomed our teaching group with a big cheer, which was to be the start of a great last lesson. We squeezed onto the playground beside all the other classes to play our last pirate themed game. We then began our treasure hunt around the school following instructions including the directions they have learnt. It was amazing to watch the children grow in confidence and develop their English over the past two weeks. They arrived back to the classroom to find ‘treasure’ – we couldn’t believe how much they enjoyed it and how grateful they were for our small gifts of chocolate coins and a pirate balloon! Although the purpose of the trip was to teach the children, the amount we have also learnt is incredible – we couldn’t believe how happy we made them and how appreciative they were of us just being there, which they expressed through also giving us small gifts and multiple hand–made cards.
Class 6 began and ended with the shapes game – the children enjoyed it so much that they didn’t have time for anything else, except for a few selfies! The group also finished their Water Cycle posters and displayed them on the wall as a gentle reminder for the children of the Saphara Student Team 2015.
Class 7 got a bit messy with paint today. Their main focus over the past two weeks was ‘The Human Body’ and so they made a classroom display of the children’s handprints, which they loved! Throughout each lesson the children have been split into four groups – Kangaroos, Lions, Giraffes and Goats – which has provided healthy competition during each lesson but caused madness today as Nadesh shouted ‘WHO’S THE BEST?’ and the kids continually shouted their group name. The group teaching Class 7 have had an absolute ball, and like all the other team members, have gotten as much out of the experience as they put in – we were all very sad to leave but each of us are leaving with unforgettable memories!
We gave small gifts to children in each class and their bright smiles just illuminated how grateful they were – each girl received a toothbrush, toothpaste, some hair bobbles, clips and sweets and each boy received a toothbrush, toothpaste, bouncy ball, yoyo and sweets too!
The day ended with an amazing Cultural Exchange/Celebration Afternoon, which even the rain couldn’t ruin! The SNEHA students preformed some immaculate Indian dancing and certainly put our Ceili and Line Dancing to shame.
There were performances from all age groups and was amazing to see the whole school out watching in the shelter that Saphara has helped provide for SNEHA.
Some pupils from our Conversation Classes were involved in the dancing which was amazing to see – each one of them so talented in their own way! We attempted to Ceili & Line Dance then did a group ChaCha Slide with the North Belfast Team – it was an amazing end to a life changing week!
A huge thank you from all of us students to the amazing teachers and pupils at SNEHA Doon Academy – we can’t thank you enough for the past two weeks and know many of us will be back as soon as we can!
We are trekking to Donk tomorrow and then having a celebration day at Kaplani High School on Saturday, which we are all very excited for. The internet connection will be slow so the blog may not be uploaded to late Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Catherine & Emma L
An Amazing Experience For All
18th July 2015
On Friday we had an early breakfast then loaded ourselves into taxis to head up to Moussorrie for the weekend – 7,000ft up in the Himalaya Mountains! It was amazing for the group members who had never been before, and equally as amazing for those who had! We arrived at Moussorrie Gateway Hotel, left our bags and headed straight for our trek to Donk Primary School – a school that Saphara works very closely with.
The trek down took us about 1 hour, and we stopped in the local villages to meet and speak to the people that lived there. It was amazing to hear their stories and how Saphara has helped them – this really made us recognise were all our fundraising was going and the outstanding difference it was making and the impact it had on their lives. Niall was extremely excited as a girl from his Kaplani Class two years ago lived in the local houses and was at home for him to see and speak to!
We got there and were greeted by 20 children and their teachers. Donk PS has just two classes, both of which are full of exceptionally bright children who have an incredible eagerness to learn. We were accompanied by the East Belfast Team who had planned some lessons to teach and whilst they taught them we had a tour of the local houses beside the school from the amazing Surrender Singh – Surrender is the director of the organisation called M.G.V.S and works with Saphara to ensure the children get their right to education, along with many other things like safe living conditions, running water etc. We also got to witness the midday meals set up by Saphara which was just outstanding.
Before we left, we gave the children little gifts like toothbrushes, soaps, stationary and some sweets which made their faces light up instantly!
The trek home began, which was uphill for most of the journey so tired a lot of us out! We made it back to the cars in about 1 hour and 15 mins, then headed back to Moussorrie Gateway to get showered and have a rest. We had dinner with the East Belfast Team and it was great to talk to them and tell them all about SNEHA, which they will be starting to teach in on Monday! We then got together to plan our Celebration Day at Kaplani High School, which we were all extremely excited for.
Niamh Lynch It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of yet another Saphara team for a third time. As leader, it was incredible to see the impact the trip had on the rest of the team, especially their time teaching in SNEHA. I loved every minute of being back at SNEHA, teaching the most wonderful children and working along side some inspirational people. I am also very lucky and proud to have been involved in such a special celebration day in Kaplani for Class 10 leavers who did so well in their exams. Overall, it has been an absolutely amazing trip from start to finish – a journey with purpose!
Emma Lynch India, for the second time, was completely different to the first but still equally as eye–opening, heart warming and life changing! I am proud to say that I’m part of Saphara – through this amazing organisation I have met amazing children and adults who have such determination and thirst for life, which is truly inspirational. Teaching in SNEHA Doon Academy, as well as visiting Kaplani High School and Donk Primary School, has been both a pleasure and a privilege – a huge thank you to the staff at these schools for their help and support! From this trip I have also gained an amazing set of lifelong friends – thank you to Christine Burnett for giving me this opportunity!
Emma Devlin Without a doubt, Saphara 2015 has been the most unforgettable trip of my life! From start to finish it has been an amazing experience thanks to all the the people that I have met and children that I have taught. I am so grateful to have shared this experience with such a great team!
Ben Montgomery I Can’t believe it’s all over, the three weeks have flown in and it’s time to go home, could easily do it all again tomorrow. Seeing how the schools have progressed from four years ago and seeing how Saphara are supporting teachers and students is really encouraging and inspiring. I will definitely be back to visit and see what more amazing work Saphara have planned for the future.
Aisling Boyd The past 3 weeks have been unbelievable from start to finnish. I have spent these unforgettable days with a great bunch of people, making new friends and meeting inspirational students. No words can begin to describe how blessed I feel to be part of the Saphara student team 2015 and how amazing this life changing trip has been! Would do it again in a heart beat!
Matthew Gibson A truly eye opening experience that has had a significant impact on my life. Being lucky enough to go for the second time in 3 years really was amazing. Saphara does unbelievable work in India and to be a part of that is something very special.
Catherine McColgan I can’t believe our three weeks in India have come to an end. This journey with purpose has been the best experience of my life. Meeting the inspirational pupils of Sneha Doon Academy and Kaplani High School was a gift. I will cherish the memories of their little smiling faces and the time we spent together. A huge thank you and well done to Niamh for all her hard work as an excellent leader.
Sian Clifford It was so amazing to get the opportunity to see and be apart of the work saphara do in India, it is truly unbelievable. The children and teachers at both Sneha and Kaplani are so inspirational and I’ll never forget the laughs and smiles shared with them. Also student team were an amazing group of people!
Orla Donaghy I thought nothing would compare to my first trip with Saphara, but with my second trip behind me I couldn’t be more in love with India and all the incredible people I have had the opportunity to meet! From the wonderful people on my team to the amazing children we taught, every moment together amounted to an extraordinary experience!
Melissa McLean My trip to India was a life changing experience. It was amazing to teach the children at SNEHA and to learn about a new culture all at the same time! I would recommend this trip to anyone who is considering it.
Niall Kelly What another incredible experience!! To be allowed to travel to India and teach again has truly been an honour. The whole trip was amazing the team were fantastic definitely friends that I’ve made for life! As for the children a true inspiration to anyone! Their determination and hard work second to none, but their smile is what really hits you. It never leaves their face which i feel is something so special! Fantastic trip!!