Down Team 2019

Updated: Jul 17

Half Way Around the World

June 28

Following what seemed like a journey half way round the world via Dublin, Amsterdam and Delhi, the Down Saphara team has at last reached our destination. After a well-deserved full night’s sleep, we woke up to a delicious breakfast in the aptly named ‘Hotel Perfect’.

We soon found ourselves exposed to unfamiliar levels of heat and humidity as well as a multitude of sights and sounds. The streets were bustling with motorbikes, cars, vikrams and tuk-tuks along with incessant beeping of horns. Walking through the streets of Delhi, we observed the markets and busy high-streets on our quest for Indian attire for the boys and girls. Not surprisingly, the boys completed their shopping very quickly whilst the girls took considerably longer to choose their outfits.

After we had all our shopping done, we had a quick break for lunch at McDonald’s before travelling to the Gandhi Museum. There, we saw at first hand the spot where he was assassinated and traced his last footsteps. We learned how Gandhi achieved Indian independence and was an inspiration for future generations. The simplicity of his life was very humbling. We are looking forward to keeping you up to date on the next part of our journey.

Cora and Zack

The Taj

June 29

After our second night’s stay in the “Hotel Perfect”, we were wakened at 5.30am and downstairs for breakfast at 6.00am, feeling very smart in our newly purchased Indian attire. The breakfast was a small selection of familiar food which consisted of cereal, toast and omelettes, accompanied by juices and hot beverages. After breakfast we headed for the coaches which were to take us to Agra. On this brisk walk we noticed the difference in temperature and humidity at dawn compared to when we arrived in Delhi in the early hours of the morning. During the four-hour journey we observed the transition from a bustling urban environment to a rural one. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we finally reached our destination, the spectacular Taj Mahal.

Our tour guide, who was very informative, led us through the imposing external East Gate and explained the details of its construction. After a tour round the gardens, the team finally got to enter the tomb itself. It was a daunting experience as the sheer size of the structure was breath-taking.

We had the pleasure of a beautiful buffet lunch in the 5-star Trident Hotel after which we were taken to see the Agra Fort, the grandeur of which is stunning. On the return journey to Delhi we saw cows, sacred animals in India, as well as horses, goats and stray dogs. Everyone enjoyed the journey back to Hotel Perfect, excited at the prospect of a cold shower and a good night’s sleep.

Lidia and Tiernan

Early

June 30

Early to bed, early to rise, as our day began with a knock on the door at 4:30am. After a quick breakfast, we prepared for the long train journey ahead. With the opportunity to catch up on much needed rest, we took full advantage of the six-hour journey to Dehradun. Realising there were a few hours left until we reached our destination, we made the most of the journey by getting to know our fellow team members better.

Arriving at Dehradun, we experienced, for the first time, the extreme monsoon weather. Completely drenched, we saw the golden arches in the distance and were never so happy to see McDonald’s and get out of the streets which had turned to rivers.

We hopped into the taxis once again and off we went on our venture to the Himalayas. The endless winding roads were like nothing we had ever seen before and had a view at the top which was breath-taking.

Rooms sorted and bags away, we finalised our lesson plans, excited to see what tomorrow brings when we meet the school children for the first time. Tired and hungry, we received yet another delicious assortment of traditional Indian curries and prepared for another early night to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for teaching in the morning.

Anna and Connor

A Big Day

July 1

Today was a big day for everyone in the Down Team. After being tourists in Delhi and a day of travelling, finally we got into the classroom. After what we all agreed was (unironically) a generous lie in of 7 o’clock we woke up to a fresh breakfast of cornflakes and orange juice. At 8:30 ‘sharp’ we left the hotel for Kaplani High School.

Upon arriving at Kaplani we took part in the daily assembly. The children spoke in both English and Hindi and two children read about people of interest, one of whom was India’s first female Finance Minister.

At 9 o’clock the first lessons began. Our group decided to start the day off with a PE lesson. We played games that would develop the children’s skills in preparation for playing handball. Every group got their classes to make name tags, so as we could learn the children’s names and they could learn our names.

After teaching all of our lessons we returned to the hotel for lunch and, more importantly, a nap. After our lunch and nap, we returned to plan the next day’s lesson in comfort at the hotel. We were all given possibly the best news so far on the trip, dinner would be sweet chilli chicken. This was a welcome break from the spectrum of curries we had eaten.

Two or three helpings later, the group started to play games. Here Megan crushed Lucy’s game long domination of Empire. We also learned that nearly everyone in our group has brittle bones in 2 truths and a lie. After our games we had the night’s reflection and we all retired to bed to be fresh and ready for tomorrow.

David and Cara

Replenished

July 2

After a broken night’s sleep, due to a spectacular lightning storm, we awoke to see the breath-taking view of the Himalayan foothills. No photograph or video can adequately capture this scene. Fuelled with breakfast, we boarded the taxis and excitedly awaited our second day teaching. After taking part in assembly, we began teaching and found our lessons easier now that the ice had been broken. We connected much more with our groups and the students in our classes. Witnessing their fun and competitive side through our many handball lessons, we could see how much happiness the opportunity to learn through new games provided.

A highlight of the day was the Kaplani students teaching us cricket. In finding out more about our pupils, we were shocked to learn how far some of the children travel just in order to get to school and that their lunch could be the only proper meal they get all day. This was an emotional experience as during lunch we saw how many children can be fed through £100 of our fundraising and how appreciative they are of this meal.

After lunch, we decided to teach the children the ‘Hokey Cokey’, resulting in them returning to afternoon classes a little more hyper than their teachers might have liked! Class 8 then returned the favour by teaching us some Hindi songs, although only on the condition that we sang ‘Baby Shark’ first!

After teaching, we headed back to the hotel to plan our lessons for tomorrow and finally were allowed to buy some snacks in Mussoorie to replenish our sugar levels. What a pleasure to discover that Pringles were available! Dinner was followed with a few competitive card games led by Michelle and then we decided to get an early night to be ready for our last full day of teaching.

Claire and Charlotte H

Opportunity

July 3

Today’s objective was to give each student the opportunity to develop confidence and display his/her particular talent. Favourite songs were discussed and it was evident how much our relationship with the children has developed as they are now completely comfortable around us. We have observed how competitive and enthusiastic the children are in every activity. Despite the long treks to school, the students’ high levels of energy and eagerness to please act as an inspiration to all and demonstrates how highly they value their education.

One of the most amazing moments of today was when I (Charlotte T) noticed that a little boy named Sagar had written something in Hindi on one of his work sheets. When I asked him what this meant in English he replied, ‘God.’ I found this extremely heart-warming as although the children have very little in terms of material possessions their communities are so full of faith and hope. Furthermore, this shows us how it is possible to find something positive in every situation.

After saying goodbye at the end of the day, we turned around to find all of Class 7 gathered in the door way. The fact that they so desperately wanted to give us another hug and high five gave us a great sense of fulfilment and worth. It is so rewarding to see the strong connection and positive impact we are having on the children.

Laura and Charlotte T

The Monsoon

July 4

The onset of monsoon season caused our original plans to be changed and the trek to Donk Primary School was cancelled due to health and safety issues caused by lack of visibility and heavy rain.

During this trek we would’ve seen first-hand where the community of Kaplani High School live and heard from Mr. Surender Singh about the local families and environment. Fortunately, Surender was able to come to our hotel and tell us about the area and the history behind the setting up Kaplani High School. He informed us of the caste system in India and of how many families within the Kaplani area were against sending their children, especially girls, to receive education. Until 1994, there were no schools within the area, but Surender organised for the women of the village to come together and discuss what they wanted- an education for their children.

Stemming from our previous evening’s reflection on using our talents, our team split into 3 groups to plan and prepare displays for our final presentations in Kaplani and SNEHA. Our group decided to sing a rendition of ‘A Million Dreams’ from the Greatest Showman while others chose to dance. Michelle organised a 10-minute HIIT workout for the team, an occasion for further team bonding, fun and laughter. Although initially reluctant to exercise, it benefitted us immensely and set us up for planning for our final day at Kaplani.

The evening meal was a surprise visit to the Clock Tower Café in Mussoorie where we all devoured scrumptious pizzas, leaving us feeling full and ready to begin our reflection. This gave the LHD Team the chance to settle into the hotel. We finished our evening by reflecting on God’s plan for each of us and ended with a quick rendition of ‘A Million Dreams’ which has now become the 2019 Down Team’s anthem.

Lucy and Clódagh

Goodbye

5 July

Today was our final goodbye to the students of Kaplani High School and proved to be an emotional roller-coaster. At breakfast, everyone seemed eager to make the last lessons memorable and exciting. One of our objectives for the day was to create a short presentation with our classes which they would deliver to the whole school. We were enthusiastic to let the students demonstrate the impressive handball skills, rules and code of conduct that they had learnt this week.

We were greeted at 8.40am with the usual smiling faces which we have seen for the past four days. Assembly this morning felt particularly special and sentimental, knowing it was our last. The team enjoyed taking part.

In the sessions between our lessons, we were able to discuss how much we felt our teaching had improved and developed. We could see the positive effect this was having on the students. Although the anticipation of saying our farewells tainted the last lessons, they were also filled with laughter, songs and games. Most of us had prepared small cards with messages for the individual pupils in our groups which were received with the upmost gratitude. Almost every student presented each of us with various gifts in return, including handmade bracelets, notes and even a moon and star hanging mobile.

Class 6 began the showcase with a very impressive English reading and Class 10 concluded with a presentation on the main points of their class code of conduct- respect, listening, communication and teamwork. This was followed by a rendition of ‘A Million Dreams’, which was definitely a tear-jerker for lots of the team. We were blown away by the show of Bollywood dancing by the students, especially a duet by Sunita and Prianka. Kajal, a member of Class 10, expressed her gratitude in front of the whole school for the new English skills she has developed. To end an amazing week, the Principal of Kaplani High School gave a moving speech about new relationships between ourselves and the pupils and thanked Saphara for the generous donations and support throughout the years. We left Kaplani with heavy hearts but a great sense of fulfilment.

Annie and Jess

GAW

July 6

We began the day with a different start, by having a very much appreciated lie in! After breakfast, we had the largest gathering in the history of Saphara for the Global Awareness Weekend. All members of the Down, LHD, University Team and the Grey family were privileged to listen to an inspiring talk delivered by Dr. Surender Singh, highlighting the phenomenal work he does for children and local people within the Mussoori area.

This talk affected everyone and made us realise how lucky we are to have the wealth we have. We also heard from Dr. Christine Burnett where she informed us what had influenced her to found Saphara and how she was able to get into contact with amazing people like Dr. Surender Singh. After, we were split into groups and began preparing meaningful performances of the River Baby. Although the various genres were very entertaining to watch, we quickly realised the much deeper meaning behind the play. We discovered through the story that it is better to start by solving a problem at the source rather than to be reactive and fix the problem when it is too late.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking into the beautiful town of Mussoori and getting lunch in a small pizzeria. A quick fix of shopping was in store after this, before getting drenched by the monsoon rains on the way back to Hotel Himalayan Club. We all had a relaxing evening back at the hotel, with all the teams watching the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, which highlighted how anything is possible no matter how rich or poor a person is. We then ended the day by heading up to bed for an early night. This marked the end of our last full day in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Happening

7th July 2019

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up this morning to the incredible views of the Himalayas. We were also greeted with several huge monkeys climbing on the walls around our hotel. After another filling breakfast, we gathered chairs and assembled the entire Down team for ‘The Happening’. This is one of the highlights of the Saphara experience, during which each member of the team has the opportunity to share a special reading, poem, prayer, song or personal reflection. Many of us quoted verses from the Bible that best described how we felt and others opted to sing duets or read poems. Jo even wrote a lengthy letter to our team and read it to us, letting loose her own creative side!

At around 11am, we all hopped into our taxis and began the scenic journey down the mountains from Mussoorie to Dehradun. Along the way we saw more of the usual roadside markets and were often stopped in our tracks by cows. As we descended, the temperature rapidly increased to one similar to Delhi. When we arrived at our destination, we discovered a beautiful hotel and our new home for the week. After dropping off our bags at the hotel and unpacking, we had our first experience of travelling through Dehradun in Vikrams. We all squeezed into the vehicles that were smaller than cars yet greatly resembled the sounds of a very old lawnmower. With seven of us packed into each, we headed down to McDonalds for a well-deserved lunch.

Following this we had plenty of time to explore the vast and traffic ridden city of Dehradun, with some of us even treating ourselves to some shopping and doughnut tasting. Well fed, and by now tired and sweaty, we headed back to the hotel to begin lesson planning for our first day in SNEHA school. Afterwards, we were treated to the hotels selection of Chinese food and whilst we wrote the blog, others played cards or chatted before an early night and a well-deserved rest in preparation for a busy teaching day tomorrow.

Louise and William

First Day at SNEHA

July 8

We began the day with the usual 7 o’clock wakeup call and gathered downstairs for a quick breakfast to fuel us for the day ahead. We left the hotel in our Vikrams – it was a quick but bumpy ride to school for the first day at SNEHA. Throughout the journey we were hit by the contrast between the marginalised community and the pristine courtyard at the school. We were surprised by the impressive size of the school and even more amazed by the number of enthusiastic children that could fit into one classroom. When we arrived, we had the privilege of watching the Junior Assembly, filled with joyful singing and dancing by the younger children. It was a pleasure to join in. We taught 3 classes throughout the day and these ranged from numeracy to literacy and crafts. Unlike Kaplani, the classes are much larger and slightly harder to control. However, we embraced the challenges and had lots of fun with the children. We had to adjust our teaching to engage the younger age group but enjoyed this challenge. Once again, we were all taken aback by the happiness and enjoyment of learning which the children displayed despite their lack of material goods.

After another hectic but hilarious Vikram journey back to the hotel, we had lunch and then enjoyed a well-deserved rest. Following a few hours downtime, we met again to plan our lessons for the next day. Once again there were many creative ideas and the plans were finalised with greater efficiency than last week. This evening we were treated to another meal out in Salt and Cravings. This time instead of pizzas, we had a variety of burgers and pasta and it was delicious. The evening ended with reflection and prayer. It was interesting to discuss the differences between a rural and urban school and reflect on the impact of change on each of us. We are all looking forward to another day of teaching tomorrow only after a good night’s sleep!

Edie and Lidia

Barefoot

9th July

We awoke ready to begin our second day at SNEHA with the sun shining. However, during the Vikram journey the heavens opened and the monsoon rain began to fall at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, there was no assembly due to the adverse weather. We were warned that attendance might be lower if the children hadn’t left home before the rain began but after a barefoot run across the puddles in the playground we were greeted with full classes of happy children. We had a challenging day teaching as we were unable to take the children outside for class. This is another example of the need to be adaptable, something which we have experienced throughout the trip. Lesson plans were quickly redrafted and delivered inside.

Fortunately, at the end of the school day, the rain eased off and we were allowed to visit the marginalised community situated near the school. This was a very emotional experience and one that none of us will easily forget! Dr Reeta pointed out how insecure the banks of the rapidly flowing river are and how the heavy rain was adding to the problem. She explained that often the poor-quality buildings become flooded and can collapse easily. Dr Reeta further explained why many people, including pupils from the school, choose to live on the streets because the rent payments prove too difficult to maintain. It was an invaluable lesson and one which motivates us even more to deliver top quality lessons and make each day even more worthwhile and enjoyable for the SNEHA children.

We completed our day with an intense game of “Would I Lie to You?” in which many secrets unfolded. It was a great way to relieve stress and end the day on an uplifting note ready to start again tomorrow.

Megan and Clódagh

Stories

July 10

Another day in Dehradun, and yet, to no one’s surprise, another early start! We think it’s safe to say that we have actually developed a routine in which its normal to wake up at 7:00am – not bad for a bunch of 17-year olds! Piling into our Vikrams, we somehow made it to SNEHA in one piece after a terrifyingly, exciting journey.

Once inside the school gates, we were greeted with the lines of students , in orderly fashion, waiting for assembly to begin. We can both admit that there is no better way to start your morning than dancing in the extreme Indian heat with a school full of incredibly special children. That almost sounds sarcastic but please believe us, we definitely recommend.

Only having 2 lessons today, we received the heart-warmingly humbling story of Dr. Reeta Rao, a truly inspiring woman, for without her SNEHA wouldn’t exist and the children from the marginalised community surrounding it wouldn’t have access to an education. People’s eyes were watering as her and her son, Ronjoy, shared the devastating images of the unforgiving flood that destroyed parts of SNEHA school. It made us feel even prouder to be supporting a charity that went to extreme lengths to help such an extraordinary school during an unimaginably difficult time. Despite all this, Dr. Reeta still managed to remain hopeful when most people would’ve thrown in the towel, making it crystal clear as to why the sense of community within the school is so strong.

To lift the mood, we participated in a competitively friendly game of Kabaddi, which you can probably guess ended in a “draw”, but still a great game nonetheless. We think it will be a hit back home. Finishing up, we went to get henna tattoos which were beautifully done by such talented women who were trained through SNEHA school. The boys will definitely be writing their names in Hindi as it’s more like artwork than just a name and the girls got such delicate patterns along their hands.

As a final treat for our last night in Dehradun, we received news that we would be going out for dinner to get pizza – very well-deserved pizza if we do say so ourselves. We jumped back into our Vikrams, took a few selfies and headed to the hotel for a final reflection. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. Saying that, we went to bed and prepared ourselves for a knock on the door at 6:45am the following morning, only after chasing away a gecko from the girls’ bedroom door.

Charlotte H and Connor

Bittersweet

July 11

Today was a bittersweet day for everyone in the Down Team. It was sweet because we got to see the beautiful Bollywood dancing the pupils of SNEHA put on for us all. However, it was bitter because it was the last day of teaching and the penultimate day of our entire trip. The Bollywood dancing was just one of the amazing displays at SNEHA’s Celebration Assembly. The occasion, as a whole, was a truly remarkable exchange of cultures. Thankfully, at least one member of the team was able to show the best of Irish culture as Charlotte T did a spectacular display of Irish dancing.

The classes also took on a display like format, as the children presented what they had done over the week in front of Dr Reeta, her son Ronjoy and Miss Rachel (the principal of SNEHA school). Every class performed a song related to the book they had studied. Class 1 performed Bear Hunt, Class 2 The Hungry Caterpillar and Class 3 Monkey Puzzle. We were all so proud to see the children show off what they had learnt this week (so fantastically). However, we had to leave SNEHA today, with most people sad to go but we were all comforted by the thought, ‘it helps knowing we put at least one smile on someone’s face.’

Upon returning to the hotel, the heavy hearts were given a bit of levity with the splendid news of Chinese for lunch. With many of us going up for more (William having his usual bucket load) we were all set for the train journey back to New Delhi. As we go on the same tracks that started this journey two weeks ago, we are sure every member of the team is remembering the many laughs, the proud tears and the bonds that we have all forged over the last two weeks.

Laura and David

Final Reflections

July 12

Our final day in Delhi was full of last minute shopping and excitement at going home together with a real sadness that our Saphara journey was coming to an end.

A real highlight of today was being hosted to a wonderful dinner by the Irish Deputy Ambassador, Mr Peter McIvor. Being back on Irish soil in the middle of Delhi was a surreal experience - and the food was fabulous!

As we head to the airport here are our final reflections on a journey of a lifetime:

My Saphara trip has been an unforgettable journey filled with many ups and downs. From meeting the enthusiastic children to experiencing the unimaginable poverty that they face has really opened my eyes to our world. I hope I will take this knowledge with me when I return home and plan to become more thankful for the things I have. I am so humbled to have had this experience with such a supportive team around me.

Edie Carroll (Down High School)

My time here in India has been filled with many challenges and exciting experiences that I will never forget. The days spent in SNEHA and Kaplani were amazing, seeing the work that Saphara does first hand has been eye-opening and being able to see where all the money we had fundraised has gone to has been truly rewarding. The children have to have be the best part of the trip for me, especially seeing the girls’ confidence grow throughout our time there and the enthusiasm and positivity at the schools was unforgettable. Seeing all of their smiling faces every time we walked into the classroom never failed to fill me with joy. Saphara has taught me to always be grateful for what I have, after seeing how little the children have in the sense of materialistic goods. Instead, they have a wealth of happiness, faith and love which I hope to take away from this experience.

Maria Downard (Assumption Grammar School)

I can say with full confidence that in the past two weeks I have become a fuller and better person. I have learned to find a new sense of satisfaction and appreciation for everything I have, including my education and family. Saphara has taught me that giving is the greatest gift and that the gratitude and joy that stems from simple actions makes all the challenges so worthwhile. I’m amazed at how close I have grown to other members of the team and the level of trust that has been built, they were a major reason why my experience was so special. I have made memories on this experience that I never thought I would and I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity.

Megan Graham (Down High School)

Words cannot describe this experience in my opinion. This journey has presented many different challenges, hardships and of course, achievements. I am extremely humbled to be part of this life changing trip. I hope I have had a positive impact on the pupils of both Kaplani and SNEHA, as well as my fellow teammates and leaders, as I know they have all had a positive impact on my time here, so much so that it has gave me a whole new outlook on the world around me and the life I live. I am extremely proud of the work Saphara does and I am truly grateful to have been a small part of the organisation’s mission.

Tiernan O’Neill (St Patrick’s Grammar School)

My Saphara journey has been an amazing one filled with so many amazing memories and experiences. I feel that we are all genuinely one big family now, and I am so grateful for having been able to share this experience with so many amazing people. This experience has taught me how much we need to appreciate everything we have. Although the children we have worked with don’t have much, they have so much in terms of spirit and sense of community. I am so grateful for this experience and the wonderful people that have experienced it with me.

Laura Shaw (Down High School)

My Saphara journey has definitely been the most eye-opening adventure with an amazing team. I have loved every moment and embraced the many challenges I have faced. I was amazed at the positive attitude and smiles on the children’s faces while teaching despite what they’re going through. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity as it has given me a greater sense of what is happening around us.

Louise Sweeney (Assumption Grammar School)

“What is wealth?” After 16 days in India, this is the question I am left asking myself. We can so easily get caught up in the monetary value of everything and yet money has no value unless we have the attitude to change the world with it. Every single one of us who gives money has the power to make a difference. After visiting the marginalised community in India, I believe I met people who are rich in love, compassion and happiness – things I feel that we don’t necessarily have enough of at home. Wealth isn’t just about how much money someone has, it’s much bigger than that. On this trip I have realised that a smile costs nothing but has the power to change someone’s life when given away.

We all left Belfast with the same objective in mind – to make a difference. It was through this objective that I realised that we are all so alike, our differences are something to celebrate. I wouldn’t change one thing about it. It was the perfect team and feel so lucky to have met such amazing and talented people, all who have made a great impact on my life, and thanks to the teachers who gave up part of their summer to come to India with us, and our loving team leader, Jo. I can’t imagine life without Saphara. I have had some of the best moments of my life on this trip, especially meeting children whose thirst for knowledge and education is truly inspiring.

I am leaving India with new friends who I am so grateful to have met and knowing that I could have inspired at least one child to follow their dreams. Saying that, those children have inspired me to follow mine and make the most out of life.

Connor Simpson (St Patrick’s Grammar School)

Throughout the past two weeks, which felt like two days, I have learnt a lot about the world and about myself. Prior to this journey of a lifetime I thought that I knew most of what the world had to offer, but I soon learnt how wrong I was. From starting in the sweltering heat of Delhi, moving to the more peaceful and tranquil Mussoorie, and then back down to Dehradun I have experienced and learnt a lot. I have learnt how easily you can go through life not realising what’s going on behind the scenes and how easily poverty and suffering can be hidden. Judging by the smiles on the faces of the ever- grateful children of Kaplani and SNEHA, you would never guess that they travel over two hours on foot to school and live in a single room house packed to the brim with other people. Regardless of their situation they always had a smile to share and this taught me an invaluable lesson during my stay in India. So, if I leave India with nothing else, I will certainly leave knowing that I have no reason to complain about any petty problems ever again and that all I need to do is take inspiration from those who have so little and smile.

William Orr (Down High School)

My Saphara journey has been one filled with many different emotions and experiences which have left me feeling so overwhelmed with the amount of happiness seen by the students from Kaplani and SNEHA. After witnessing the heart-breaking poverty that the children face my eyes have been opened to the lack of appreciation we express at home. I hope to use my Saphara experience to appreciate the small things and help spread more positivity in my life. “Sapham” – my Saphara family - an unreal group of people who share the same enthusiasm and caring nature towards others, putting smiles on so many children’s faces, my time in India would not have been the same without every single one of them and cannot thank them enough! I am so unbelievably grateful for this opportunity and hope to do it all over again!

Claire Morrissey (Assumption Grammar School)

The past two weeks haven’t just taught me to appreciate everything I have in life, but to be so much prouder of it. Seeing just how little the children have yet they are genuinely the most joyful people I’ve met and are so proud of everything they have. is so humbling. The pure happiness of the children at Kaplani and SNEHA is so humbling, and seeing how the pupils’ confidence has grown, especially the girls, was amazing to watch. I am also so grateful for the people I have experienced this trip with, and how much closer we have become, the term ‘Sapham’ really is true. I have loved every second of this unforgettable experience, and I am going to cherish every memory I have of the trip, the ups and downs, for the rest of my life.

Charlotte Hart (Down High School)

Although this journey has had many challenges it has definitely been the best and most fulfilling two weeks of my life so far. Saphara has taught me to be content with what I have and that material things do not matter in the greater scale of things. My favourite moment of the trip was seeing the students (especially the girls) grow in confidence throughout the weeks, both in Kaplani and in SNEHA. I know that the memories of this experience will last a lifetime and I know that I have made friends for life!

Clodagh Bogues (Assumption Grammar School)

My India experience has been both challenging and most definitely the best experience ever. Seeing the children, in particular the girls at Kaplani, grow in confidence throughout the week. From being so timid and quiet on our first day, to screaming for the ball during handball at the end of the week overwhelmed me with pride. The Class 1 children at SNEHA shown so much happiness and joy with continuous smiles and overwhelming satisfaction despite how little they have and come from. The past two weeks have taught me to be so much more content with what I own, and to reduce any unnecessary desires or wants. I have experienced continuous laughs with the greatest 27 people and couldn’t have asked for better team members and leaders to experience this unforgettable journey.

Lucy Hanna (Down High School)

My time in India has been an eye-opening experience. Meeting the children in Kaplani and SNEHA has showed me that I have so much to be grateful for and take so much for granted. The happiness of the children even though they have so little shows how unimportant materialistic things are. A highlight of this experience is the bond that I now have with my team due to challenges we have faced. I am so grateful for this experience and hope to do it all again!!

Cora Sherry (Assumption Grammar School)

My time in India has been an absolute whirlwind and it has been absolutely amazing. To attempt to summarise the journey, its impact and the experiences we had in roughly five lines seems entirely impossible! The teaching at both Kaplani and SNEHA schools gave me perhaps the purest and most persistent sense of joy and fulfilment. The enthusiasm demonstrated by the pupils at both schools has been infectious and thoroughly inspiring. Despite the impoverished and extremely underprivileged positions the children find themselves in, their wide grins and laughter seems to illustrate the basic happiness at the centre of their persons. The conditions that we were witness to in India were at many points shocking and disturbing, but there is a definite sense of appreciation and content at the heart of places like SNEHA and Kaplani High School. This experience has given me a greater understanding of the world and its different cultures, and as a result I feel wiser and less naïve about the world surrounding me. On a personal level, I think the trip has helped to build my character, particularly in aspects such as confidence and teamwork. The experience of teaching children has been unforgettable and I have built friendships which I hope to maintain for a life time.

Zach Miskelly (Down High School)

My time in India has been an experience that I will never forget, it has changed my outlook on life most definitely. I loved my time teaching the amazing students in both Kaplani and SNEHA, watching them grow in confidence especially the girls, I have never experienced an atmosphere like the one in both schools. I can say with confidence that my time in India has made me a better person and one that appreciates everything I have a lot more. Seeing how satisfied all of the children are even though they have so little, their enthusiasm and happiness in school is so humbling. I can definitely say that it has had a major impact on me. I loved every minute of my time in India and even though it had its challenges it was still perfect and that it because of all of the fantastic people I was with.

Anna Moore (Assumption Grammar School)

My time in India has been truly amazing and so, it’s extremely difficult to summarise in a few sentences. Seeing the extreme poverty that the children in SNEHA and Kaplani face has been both eye-opening and upsetting, yet hopeful. They are filled with such gratitude and enthusiasm despite the little they materially possess, and I’ve concluded that they are wealthier than us in many ways. Their positivity has taught me lots about the person I am now and the person I want to become. One of the most rewarding elements has been seeing girls striving for education and equality, even in an environment where these are often discouraged. It’s also been very interesting to observe Indian culture and this is something I would like to learn more about. I feel so lucky to have been able to experience everything with such a great team, and knowing I had so much support has made challenges much easier to overcome. I am so thankful to Saphara for the opportunity to make a difference, and I know I’ll never forget the memories I’ve made.

Jess Martinez Gorman (Down High School)

This journey in India has been a hugely fulfilling experience for me. I also hope that I have had the same effect on the people I came into contact with. The most satisfying feeling was helping the children in both Kaplani and SNEHA Schools. I was completely in awe of their perseverance and love for one another despite their extreme and obvious poverty. Everything about India is enchanting and eye-opening in ways I had never experienced before. The team was also so amazing and I feel that together we were able to make positive changes with every interaction. Despite the many hardships of this trip, this experience has been unforgettable.

Lidia Ballocchi (Assumption Grammar School)

It is hard to put into words just how amazing the experience of the last two-and a-bit weeks has been. From the visit to the Taj Mahal (one item off the bucket list), to the heights of the Himalayan village of Kaplani, all of it has been exceptional. Despite all the pretty views around me, the poverty, just below the surface, is simply impossible to overlook. Yet in spite of being from very poor communities, the children at Kaplani and SNEHA schools are full of joy. This is the one thing that has impacted me, the joy that is present in everyone, despite their very difficult conditions. These children have a pride and satisfaction in everything they own. This coupled with the overwhelming sense of community has made me wonder if we really are better off back home.

David Williamson (Down High School)

It is hard to put this experience into just a couple of sentences. I will be coming home with so much to think about including how touched I was by seeing how happy and joyous the children in both Kaplani and SNEHA were with so little. There have been many highlights of this trip including visiting the one and only Taj Mahal, along with more solemn moments from seeing first hand the slums of Dehradun. This truly has been a once in a lifetime experience that has with no doubt changed me as a person in a very positive way and I will forever be grateful to Saphara.

Cara Taggart (Assumption Grammar School)

It’s extremely hard to sum up this once in a lifetime experience in just a few sentences. Throughout these past 16 days, I’ve had the experience some would only dream of. From seeing one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, to seeing some of the most poverty-stricken areas in the world. During these 16 days I have learned so much. The most rewarding part of the trip has to be seeing the beautiful smiles of the children in both Kaplani and SNEHA. You wouldn’t think that the children in both these schools come from such humble homes or walk two hours every morning to get to school, as they are always smiling. This experience has been life changing for me, making me realise how lucky I am compared to so many people in the world. I will always be grateful to Saphara for the hard work they do for these beautiful children, in helping them to change their lives forever.

Rauri Murtagh (Down High School)

The past 16 days have been a whirlwind of emotions, not only myself, but the whole team. Filled with lots of highs from the flash mob of YMCA on the train from Dehradun to Delhi, to seeing the smiles we had left on the children’s faces. But also a few low moments like seeing the extreme poverty not only on the streets of Delhi but the poverty that immersed the lives of the children we were teaching. The hardest part of this trip for me was leaving the children in KaplanI, it was heart breaking because of the bonds that I have made with my little Class 6 and impossible to hold back the tears. It’s sad to see that this journey is coming to an end but I know in everyone’s hearts it’s only the beginning for the Down Team 2019. We have all built unbreakable bonds and have made lifelong friendships that will last forever. I believe I have grown as a person and matured a lot in the past 16 days. It has opened my eyes and widened my mind to what’s really going on in the world around us. I am so glad I was given this opportunity by Saphara and would recommend it a million times over to anyone who was even contemplating going. It has been a life-changing opportunity.

To come to the end of this journey knowing I’ve come out of it with new friends, friends for life. Also knowing that I’ve made even one child smile means that this whole journey had purpose and that it is just the beginning.

Annie Haughey (St Patrick’s Grammar School)

The end of this journey comes with mixed emotions. On one hand I feel extremely happy and grateful to have met the most amazing and enthusiastic children who I have enjoyed every moment with at Kaplani and SNEHA. Their contagious laughter and bright smiles made every day a joy and I feel very lucky to have shared such exciting and memorable times with them. On the other hand, I am sad to be parting from my Saphara family. I have learned something from every member of this team and appreciate the continuous support shown by everyone throughout this journey. This has been an adventure that I will never forget.

Charlotte Trainor (Assumption Grammar School)

My first Saphara journey has been one filled with many blessings. Despite the challenges faced, it has been an immense privilege to experience first-hand the inspiring work carried out at both Kaplani and SNEHA. I was humbled to see such gratitude and contentment in the lives of children who have so little and I hope to return home with renewed thankfulness for all I have. It has been amazing to work alongside such a wonderful team of students and teachers who have made the journey so memorable. To quote the song performed by the team “no matter how big, no matter how small, we can be part of it all” and I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to play a small part in Saphara 2019.

Elizabeth Morris (teacher, Down High School)

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