Lurgan-Holywood-Down Team 2019

Updated: Jul 23

Arriving in India

After a long flight we arrived in Delhi at 2:15 am local time and were greeted by beautiful garlands of yellow flowers by the staff at the airport. It was a short bus journey to Hotel Perfect where we gladly received a good night’s sleep.  The short walk to our bus gave us our first real taste of life in Delhi and first experience of the 40 degree heat. Our first stop was Gandhi’s museum where we learnt about his life and his work; the museum was located where Gandhi lived and took his last steps before he was assassinated. Everyone really enjoyed getting to know more about this Indian hero and it was a peaceful, enjoyable way to start our journey. Following a quick lunch at McDonald’s it was time to shop for our Indian clothing. We were all glad to get out of our sticky Saphara tops and into some more comfortable, clean clothes.  Back at the hotel it was time for our first Indian dinner which did not disappoint. We then gathered for our first reflection where we talked about our initial impressions of India and shared any feelings about the trip so far. After some quick showers it was then an early night to prepare for the 5:30am wake up call to travel to Agra. It took about 4 hours on the bus before we reached the city where the Taj Mahal was located. Our first stop in Agra was the luxurious Hilton hotel where we bought soft drinks and enjoyed complementary cookies. Finally it was time to see the Taj Mahal in all its glory.! We spent about 2 hours there talking and taking pictures of the wonderful sight as well as gaining some knowledge on the reasons behind the 22 year build of the Taj Mahal.   After a tiring day in the scorching heat of India we headed to the Hilton hotel for a well needed all you can eat buffet of various Indian cuisines. Once we devoured our food we took some time to relax before once again boarding the bus for a long trip back to Hotel Perfect in Delhi.

Rachel & Harvey

To Dehradun

30th June 2018

Sunday was a busy day for the team, leaving Delhi on our long train journey to Dehradun. This gave the team some quality time together, laughing, reading, looking at yesterday's photos and even a few hours sleep.

We were greeted in Dehradun with our first experience of monsoon rain and our first vikram ride to the hotel.

After a delicious dinner we spent some time lesson planning for tomorrow, which will be another first as we begin our real purpose in this Indian adventure - teaching.

Excited to finally meet some of the children whom we have heard so much about, we are having an early night before setting off to SNEHA school in the morning.

First Day of Teaching

July 1

Today we woke up at around 7am to prepare for our first day of teaching at SNEHA school in Dehradun. After a filling breakfast we hopped on our Vikrams to bring us to the school. Approaching the school gate the excitement hit us and we were all smiling from ear to ear when we saw the children lining up in their uniforms. Seeing the little pre-school ones was especially heart-warming and there were a few comments on how we could just pop them in our pockets and bring them home.

On our way through the school the classroom windows were filled with the smiles and waves from the pupils of SNEHA. We walked into our classroom, instantly greeted with a chorus of ‘good morning ma’am’. Throughout the day we had 3 lessons with our classes, each providing a new opportunity to improve and develop our interactions with the pupils. It was amazing to witness the pupils' interactions with us - creating name cards, singing and working in small groups were some of the highlights for many of us.

Our experience of teaching left us with a surge of joy and like the children, we were beaming. Feeling inspired by Dr Reeta we set back to our hotel in our Vikrams talking about our amazing first day of teaching. Our Vikram journeys have given our team the full Indian experience and have become our new favourite mode of transport.

Finishing off the day, we prepared for tomorrows lessons in SNEHA, focusing on what we can improve to provide the best we can for the kids. Once we had a lovely dinner we sat as a group and reflected on our day, sharing how we felt about our experiences. After which, we headed to our beds for an early night to ensure we were ready and filled with energy for our greatly anticipated second day with the wonderful children at SNEHA.

Anna McR & Anna C

Warm Greetings

Tuesday 2nd July

Today brought another early start as the team returned to SNEHA for another fun filled day of teaching. Again, we piled into the Vikrams ready to head to school on what is always a fun if eventful journey! On this journey, we passed over the river beside which many of the children live in the marginalised community here in Dehradun. Seeing the challenging conditions the children live in inspired us each even more to give our best to these pupils who face so much each day yet always come to school with a smile on their face and overwhelming pride in themselves.

Thankfully, the monsoon rains had arrived overnight so it was a bit cooler and more of the SNEHA pupils were able to make it to school. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Early Years pupils during their assembly, which involved lots of wonderful singing and dancing and touched the hearts of many of us on the team.

The lessons for today centred around lots of different craft activities linking to the books being taught. From the minute we walked into the room, we were greeted warmly with handshakes, smiles and waves. All the pupils got stuck in to the crafts and the smiles of pupils and the Saphara team filled the classrooms. The bright and fun nature of the cutting and sticking, singing and dancing was reflected in the mood of everyone in the room – the children were overjoyed and sad to see the lessons end, as well as us in the team feeling similarly upbeat.

This afternoon, we returned to the hotel before a quick shopping trip for some of the girls to pick up some more Indian clothes. Following this, we prepped some more lessons for tomorrow and our final classes for Thursday, before being treated to Domino’s Pizza for dinner – an admittedly nice break from curry! During our reflections tonight, we were reminded that we are now halfway through our teaching at SNEHA and 6 days into the trip, it is hard to believe just how much time has flown since we arrived here, and how much we really are enjoying every single minute of it and making the most of our time both with the kids and together with each other as a team.

Jonathan & Alice

A Visit

July 3

We started our day with a visit to the marginalised community where the pupils from

SNEHA come from. This gave us some real motivation for our lessons as it proved to

us just how amazing these children are and how content they are with what they

have. The homes consisted of one room which was used for everything. This was a

moment to gain some perspective.

When we arrived at SNEHA we held two Art classes and prepared our pupils for their

presentation to Dr. Reeta and Ronjoy on our final day. During our break Doctor Reeta,

founder of SNEHA school, told us all about how the school was formed and all about

Saphara’s contribution to it, which was truly inspiring. It was amazing to hear her

personal story and get to hear about her passion for education.

After teaching, we got the opportunity to take part in some Irish dancing with a group

of students from 9A, under the watchful eye of our resident expert Niamh. This was

such a joy and the Indian children really enjoyed learning the routines. We then got

our Henna tattoos done by some very talented women who take part in a programme

provided by SNEHA school. The girls got beautiful patterns on their hands and the

boys got their names written in Hindi.

As a treat tonight we went out for dinner to a local restaurant, Salt and Cravings,

which was absolutely delicious! Today was a packed day and a very memorable one

as we approach our last day in SNEHA school.

Matthew & Tamzin

Learning a Move or Two

July 4

We began our last day at SNEHA School with a whole school assembly. This

involved performances from both the older and younger children and ourselves, as

well as a formal introduction and prayer from the Head boy and girl. The songs and

dances we were shown were amazing and we were invited up to dance with the

older girls, so we learned a move or two!

We heard an emotional and captivating speech from Ronjoy, who expressed his

thanks to the entire Saphara team. After this, we began to prepare our classes for

their end of week performance for Dr. Reeta and Ronjoy. These were a huge success

and we were extremely proud as everyone was able to say a sentence in English.

We gifted the children with stickers as a reward. Saying goodbye to the children was

hard, but it was comforting to know that they are in the safe hands of SNEHA school

and that we had made an impact on their education.

After we put up the wall displays that the children made and said our final goodbyes,

we headed back to the hotel to get our bags and a quick McDonald’s. We then

began the journey up the mountain to Mussoorie. The view from the cars was

incredible, but we saw it at an angle because the road was so steep!

After settling in to our rooms, we had a quiet night in with dinner and some team

bonding, which involved some board games. Tomorrow we will be hiking into the Himalayas so we will have to get an early night.

Aoife & Sam

Our Trek

July 5

Today we experienced the undeniable luxury of our first proper lie in… at 8:30am.

The standard breakfast of cornflakes, toast and omelettes was made even better by

the possibility of a hot drink, as we are finally beginning to appreciate the cooler

weather and cleaner atmosphere. We were quickly disbanded to change into our

walking gear in preparation for our trek to Patrani.

Following this occurred an exhilarating taxi journey full of twists and turns beyond

western imagination. We were then dropped off in a place that felt like the middle of

nowhere, with only one sweet stall and a few locals at the start of the trail. The trek

was a back and forth journey starting with a downhill walk in which, once we reached

the village of Patrani, we would turn back around and walk the same route uphill.

Five minutes into the trek, the lead guide of the group stopped to educate us on the

specific area, in which he rather calmly (to our horror) told us about the regular

presence of the Himalayan bear. Thankfully the worry of confronting the bear was

interrupted by the heavy monsoon rain, which stopped us in our tracks, and had us

making umbrella tents for a good 15 minutes, which allowed for some good chats

and some sneaky snacks.

At the bottom of our trek, we visited some of the locals of Patrani. We were grateful

to be shown their home and we were humbled by their pride. Once we said our

goodbyes, we began our uphill trek, which was difficult for everyone, but very

rewarding and fulfilling to complete. As the rain clouds cleared on our ascent, we

were able to take in the breathtaking views that were so beautiful and out of this

world, that they nearly compare to the views from Cavehill!

After another amazing dinner, we joined forces with the Down team to play The

Trading Game, which was great fun, informative and a great start to our Global

Awareness Weekend, which we are all really looking forward to.

Dylan & Erin

Global Awareness Weekend

July 6 and 7

Our Global Awareness Weekend had, unbelievably, already arrived. After breakfast

we were entertained with a team bonding game in which groups of 3 were given a

script and an individual theme to perform to the group. Each trio were left to interpret

the script according to the various themes ranging from country to horror,

Shakespeare to musicals and everything in between making for a very interesting

morning! Not only was it hilarious but it started an eye-opening discussion on charity

versus justice.

The rain must have followed us from home because a trip to town was delayed by

seemingly endless rain. But after slapping on our rain coats we braved the storm and

soldiered on into town with the promise of pizza as our prize. After a much-needed

warm shower at the hotel, the teams gathered to watch Slumdog Millionaire, again facilitating our on-going discussion on poverty, justice and some aspects of Indian

culture.

Sunday morning saw the beginning of our lesson planning for our upcoming week’s

teaching in Kaplani High school. After a busy morning and a productive week at

SNEHA school we relished the opportunity to take part in what is known as The

Happening. This is when the team gathers and is offered a chance to share their

thoughts and feelings in a judgement-free zone. This allowed us to reflect not only on

what we had experienced together but on the wider issues such as global poverty

and we wrestled with our relative privilege. It was nice to take time out of our week to

empathise with each other which, once again, brought us closer as a team. A couple

of fun games rounded off the night before heading to bed early, looking forward to

our week ahead at Kaplani High School. It is hard to believe our second teaching

placement now begins!

Cliodhna & Katie

First day in Kaplani High School

July 8

It is hard to believe we are already half way through our trip here in India and only

three days remain with the amazing kids of Kaplani High School. Not only have they

delighted us with their manners and warm welcome but their understanding and

willingness to learn has undoubtedly reignited our passion that started with SNEHA.

Although the age gap is much smaller with only a couple of years, or even a few

months, between us and the pupils, our enjoyment and connection with the children

remained just as strong.

Back into routine, our wake up call was the usual 6:45am with the surprise of a

cheeky monkey keeping many hidden in their rooms. The drive to Kaplani High

School was filled with nervous stomachs but excited laughter. Ageing from ten to

seventeen, the student body met for their daily morning assembly and we were

greeted with joyful smiles. The day was packed with English, dance and tag rugby

which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. A moment of true enlightenment came this

morning before classes as we saw students arriving for school; a little girl made her

way slowly up the steep steps, noticeably tired before the day had begun. It really

made us realise and appreciate the true importance of Saphara’s Midday Meals

Programme, which helps give pupils the energy and focus to learn.

After heading back up to the staffroom to get ready for our first period class, we

relished the chance to forge new relationships with our prospective students and put

our preparation in practice. Although a very different experience from SNEHA, we

loved every second of meeting our new students and teaching class six ‘The

Gruffalo’ and class eight ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance.’

After grabbing a quick milkshake in town at the Little Llama Café, we returned to the

Hotel Himalayan Club for lesson planning and reflections. Today’s reflection

consisted of us discussing things that we are looking forward to at home but primarily

focused on the moments that have touched our hearts throughout our trip.

Peter and Kate

11 Days Later

July 9

Today marked the halfway point in our teaching in Kaplani. It is hard to believe how

fast the past 11 days have flown and all we have done in that time.

At 6.45am we leapt out of bed for our breakfast and headed to Kaplani High School for

day two. The drive was just as astonishing, with views which cannot quite be

described, making the early start completely worthwhile. We arrived at Kaplani High

School, and despite the monsoon rain, lightning and thunder, the smiles on the

pupils’ faces were beaming with joy as usual.

We opened the day with our literacy lesson, consisting of a bit of acting from the

Saphara team retelling the tale of the Salmon of Knowledge. We created a

storyboard wherein Class 9 and 10 could show off their artistic side and development

of their English by writing a sentence and drawing a picture to match. We also

discussed the theme of empowerment, finding the pupils’ own ‘superpower’. Later

we created zentangle fish with their superpower in the centre.

The practical lessons, as usual, were a complete success. Class 9 very

enthusiastically began to learn some Irish dancing, picking up the moves faster than

some of our Irish natives. Class 10’s practical PE lesson was also a success with a

very clever reworking of the lesson due to the weather conditions. Class 8 enjoyed

practical Chemistry, using universal indicator to test a range of solutions and learning

about acids and alkalis.

The weather cleared by the end of the school day revealing the most beautiful of the

Himalayas and Donk in the distance. When we arrived home, the good weather

allowed us to take in a little more of Mussoorie, appreciating the views and getting a

well-deserved milkshake.

Today we reflected on what we would like to take home with us from India – answers

included both physical items and feelings which made for a heartfelt, yet funny

reflection. It has been a productive and fun-filled day and we hope look forward to

preparing final presentations with our classes tomorrow morning.

Izzy and Ellen

Confidence Growing

July 10

It was another 6:45am start for our penultimate day at Kaplani and also our

penultimate teaching day of this incredible journey as a Saphara team.

Yesterday’s monsoon rain had eased off, but the low lying clouds made for a mizzly

morning. Despite this, the assembly at Kaplani was able to go ahead which was the

perfect start to our day. In the morning class 6 enjoyed making animal masks from

the Gruffalo and rehearsing for their mini performance of the Gruffalo on Thursday.

One thing I have really enjoyed about my group in class 6 is watching their

confidence grow every lesson. A PE lesson after recess was a really enjoyable way

to end the day with the class and they particularly enjoyed using the rugby tag belts.

Similarly, class 7 loved making elephant faces from paper plates and created some

of the most colourful elephants I’ve ever seen! In no time they were able to explain

the patterns and colours that they had used and which were their favourites. Their

enthusiasm genuinely warms my heart every single day. They also had a really

enjoyable literacy lesson when they practiced their sentences for their performance.

In P.E. they loved playing ‘rats and rabbits’ in pairs – and were much faster than I will

ever be!

After a great but tiring day’s teaching, a trip to the Llama Café for a late lunch was

much appreciated. A vanilla milkshake and a chicken burger actually go down well

together! We stopped at a couple of shops on the way back through Mussoorie to

our hotel then we were almost straight back into lesson planning. The excitement for

the final performances really shone through and we worked hard knowing it was our

final planning session.

For our final reflection as the LHD team, we did a positive affirmation activity which

involved writing a positive comment about everyone in the team. It was a moving and

encouraging experience, making us realise how much we have bonded over the past

two weeks. After presenting thank you gifts to Paula and Catherine for all of their

hard work and dedication to us and to the children, we started packing for our

departure on Thursday afternoon.

It was another unbelievable day in the Himalayas, teaching some of the most

incredible and inspirational children we have ever met. The feeling we get after a

lesson is unforgettable and like none we can describe.

Zara and Harvey

Jam Packed

July 11

Today was another early start as we packed up our bags before heading off to our

final morning of teaching at Kaplani High School. With our teaching bags jam packed

with stickers and presents for the children, we were more excited than ever to get in

to the classroom. Before that though, we lined up for our final morning assembly at

Kaplani, an event that never fails to brighten your day! Following this we set off to

our classes to prepare for a whole class performance in front of the principal. The

purpose of this was to recap on our week of teaching and to showcase the amazing

children in each class and their wonderful talents. In Class 9, we hung our crafts on

the wall before retelling the Irish legends of Finn McCool and the Salmon of

Knowledge before some of the staff. To say the least, we were so proud of the

children and how they performed admirably under real pressure – they never fail to

inspire us. Sadly though, the inevitable then came: the goodbyes. We gave the

children some gifts as a small token of our incredible gratitude to them for letting us

into their school, before a photo frenzy just to make sure we remember how special

our time at Kaplani was, from the smiles on the face of every child, to their ever-

growing confidence in the classroom. It is undoubted that Kaplani has touched the

hearts of every student on the team, and has left us with memories that will never

fade – there wasn’t a dry eye amongst us as we walked out the school gate for the

last time.

We then returned to the hotel to pick up our bags before heading down the mountain

again to Dehradun. We knew we had left the Himalayas when the heat hit us as we

waited to catch a train back to Delhi, marking the end of our teaching journey here in

India. It has been an eventful two weeks, but a time filled with such joy and

happiness for the team. We now look forward to one last day in Delhi before we

begin our journey home.

Alice and Jonathan

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 heart has travelled so much further than the thousands of physical miles we’ve covered in these past two weeks. Initially it plummeted seeing the poverty experienced daily by so many, but the children at Kaplani lifted me up more than I had ever thought possible. Their shining smiles, incredible work ethic and endless energy have filled my heart with joy! I’m infinitely grateful for meeting them and for everything they’ve taught me, including unconditional compassion. Every moment during this journey has changed my life by deepening my perspective, and spending time teaching and getting to know the children has touched my soul. It has encouraged me to dream big dreams for our world and every person in it. Even brief personal health struggles have strengthened my faith and trust, reminding me constantly of how truly blessed I am. I count myself infinitely blessed to have spent this time with such an incredible team (students and leaders), making a small but meaningful difference in the lives of incredible souls and I will forever be grateful for everything. I hope and pray that I can return soon!

Zara Matthews (Sullivan Upper School)

The moment you walk into the school, whether it be SNEHA or Kaplani, the overwhelming feeling of joy and pure happiness is infectious. That smile that is plastered on your face from the first encounter with the kids isn’t removed until you leave them on that last day. The smile is replaced by the upsetting feeling that when you wake up in the morning you won’t be looking at all the faces in your class that you have grown to love. Although leaving the kids after a week of teaching is upsetting, what everyone should remember is that you have done something good. Whether or not you think that it is only temporary, I can promise you that for the children in your class you have changed the course of their lives. You have showed them that somebody cares, that they are worthy of an education and that they deserve the best you can give. Never doubt how much of a change you are making because doing something little is much better than doing nothing at all.

Kate Fitzsimons (Down High School)

Prior to this trip I was overflowing with both anticipation and nerves, especially as I was the only boy coming from Lurgan. However, after two weeks I can say with full confidence that I am completely privileged and incredibly fortunate to have experienced this journey with 18 of the most amazing young people I’ve ever met. Everyone was so accepting and allowed me to find myself and be 100% confident and genuine around them with no feeling of judgement. In addition, I have been permanently affected by the amazing children whom I have had the honour to work with and teach. SNEHA is a magical school full of kids with golden souls and smiles who really made me realise just how lucky I am to have grown up in a Western society and how much I take for granted. Additionally, the older kids at Kaplani High School were an absolute pleasure to teach and their ambition, compassion and confidence blew my mind as they implemented this every day and also filled me with the same qualities. I will dearly miss and am eternally thankful to everyone who made this journey a life-changing experience.

Dylan Watters (Lurgan College)

This trip has been an emotional rollercoaster: full of points of incredible pride and feelings of achievement; equally feelings of guilt, anger and self-doubt. However, the overwhelming feeling of this has been love: love from our friends, our teachers, love the pupils have for us in an almost instantaneous way and the love the pupils have for their education. In SNEHA and Kaplani I saw how much difference nurturing children can make. I saw the marginalised communities where the children came from and was amazed at how they came to school with such excitement and enthusiasm. I realised how much I have to learn from these children, who have so little but still give all they have with such compassion. My leaving thought will be that I hope that the love I had for the pupils made them feel as valued and special as I saw they were from the second I walked into the classroom

Izzy MacMahon (Sullivan Upper School)

Throughout this trip, I have come face to face with some unbelievable yet upsetting things. One of my most heart touching moments within the trip as a whole was when we walked through the gates of SNEHA. From previously witnessing first-hand the overwhelming poverty within the marginalized community, it was incredible to see the positive and hopeful atmosphere amongst the children (many of whom attend SNEHA). As we entered SNEHA, the school was in the middle of their assembly and all the kids, despite their where they live, were dressed in their best and gleaming with enthusiasm. It made me realise how important an education was to these kids. It made me realise that I had to give my all and the kids deserve nothing short of excellence.

Sam McCormick (Down High School)

Everybody said this trip would be life-changing but I didn’t believe them until I walked into SNEHA school and saw the children’s faces light up with joy. It was a privilege to be even a small part of these children’s lives and witness first-hand how happy and content they are even though they have so little. It was truly inspiring and I hope to bring a little bit of their determination and drive home with me. One of my favourite moments of the trip has to be watching the younger kids at SNEHA school performing their assembly; watching them dance about singing songs and having an amazing time was something else. But the realisation that these kids who would otherwise be picking plastic from the river now have a feasible chance to get a good education and make something of themselves to be proud of was incredible. At Kaplani High School I got the chance to talk to some of my kids, not only about their hopes and dreams for the future but their plans to reach them. As I sat in front of these future doctors, teachers and lawyers I was blown away. No, I might not have changed any lives, but I like to think I made a small difference, because I know they have changed my life.

Katie McConville (St. Ronan’s College)

To sum up my entire experience in India in only a couple of sentences is an impossible task. Words cannot describe the feelings, thoughts and happiness that have filled this trip. I have been fulfilled with a newfound wholeness. However, the journey has not always been easy. At first, I felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt and helplessness. However, over the course of the 2 weeks this guilt transformed into an incredible force of motivation to give the wonderful pupils of SNEHA and Kaplani the best two weeks I could offer. I will never quite comprehend what lives the pupils have led, even before they bounded into class at 9am with the widest smiles on their faces. They displayed the most incredible work ethic and determination, one of the many things I have learnt from the children. Every single child was filled with such love; a love I will never forget. I feel beyond privileged to have been given the opportunity to meet not only the amazing children, but also make friends for life. I hope this feeling of fulfilment will carry me throughout my life, as I carry a little part of each child with me every day.

Ellen McCormick (Sullivan Upper School)

I can now say with full confidence that this trip has been truly life changing. From meeting, and becoming so close to, 18 amazing people to hopefully touching the lives of all the kids I taught, smiled at and came to love throughout the 16 days has been something so special that there are few words that can describe these overwhelming feelings. From the happiness you feel when you walk into a classroom, to having such great difficulty when having to say goodbye at the end of the week has made this trip completely unforgettable and one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have the children changed my life, but also the people that I have shared this experience with. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard or as much as I have with this group of incredible people, teachers and leaders. I still cannot fully comprehend the commitment and passion the kids have after visiting the marginalised community. Some can walk up to three hours a day to get to school, whereas sometimes I can barely roll out of bed. It was a truly eye-opening, yet inspiring experience that I hope to learn and change from. On those last days of teaching at SNEHA and Kaplani, I could not wait to get a picture with my small group and whole class as I wanted to ensure that I could keep that incredible feeling of joy as a memory forever. After the kids had finished their performance we worked on all week, the surge of contentment and cheerfulness I felt was something I hope to never forget and has helped me understand what true happiness is.

Peter Murphy (Down High School)

The Saphara 2019 LHD team provided an amazing start to the summer holiday period. My Saphara journey involved meeting incredible people both on the team and in SNEHA and Kaplani schools. It was an immensely enjoyable and moving experience in which I feel I have grown as a person. I will forever be thankful for this opportunity and the people I have met and grown to love. Saphara is the best thing I have done in my life and I hope to continue my journey on the same path. I will carry Saphara with me for the rest of my life and will forever be grateful for my experiences with the children I met and the team of which I was a part.

Anna McRoberts (Lurgan College)

I can honestly say this has been the single best experience of my life. To say coming on Saphara has been life changing is an understatement as I cannot really put it into words how much this trip has meant to me. I now have a completely different outlook on life since coming on Saphara. To be honest before this trip I was very sceptical about how much an untrained 17-year-old could to do for kids from a completely different background, culture and circumstance. But seeing the kids smiling and happy every day at SNEHA and Kaplani will be some of my happiest memories ever. I now know how much even a teenager can do for others. I think that’s what I found so upsetting about leaving. I knew I could do more for the kids at both schools, but especially at Kaplani with me being in Class 10 means that I will never be able to do more for them as their time at school is coming to an end. I truly wish all the kids I met these past weeks all the best in life - they truly deserve it. Coming back from Saphara I know now how much of a difference I can make. And I think that is my one wish to take home with me - that this won’t be the last time I will be able to make a difference for marginalised people. The ethos of making a difference will be one that I will carry forward in every life decision I will make from now on.

Matthew Martin (Sullivan Upper)

Despite the hardship faced by the children we have met on this trip, there wasn’t one moment spent with the pupils of Kaplani High School or SNEHA school that a smile wasn’t plastered across each and every one of their faces. Each child’s willingness to learn, determination and drive for success were inspiring and something I will never ever forget. Although some of the sights we saw were difficult to comprehend, the overriding feeling from the last 2 weeks spent as part of the LHD team of 2019 was that of joy. Whether that be the feeling of pure happiness walking through the corridors of SNEHA school as pupils run to greet you, the feeling as you enter a classroom of beaming faces or the sense of family between the 19 amazing people, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the last 16 days. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and hope I’ve had even a fraction of the effect on the children that they have had on me, as I can honestly say they have changed my outlook on life for good.

Cliodhna Carey (Down High School)

This trip has been both everything and nothing that I thought it would be. I’m coming home feeling inspired and motivated, but most importantly grateful for everything and everyone I have. Firstly, to the children we taught in SNEHA and Kaplani. It was a pleasure to contribute to the surge in the confidence of the children I worked with. In four short days teaching in Kaplani, I was immensely proud to be part of one girl’s journey and one of my favourite memories will forever be her speaking confidently at our end-of-week presentation. Another highlight for me has to be dancing in front of the entire school at SNEHA. There is something extremely powerful about the happiness which radiates through the lives of the children there, even though they are not as financially stable as we are. Their happiness reflects upon us and I can safely say that I have never felt as much joy in my life as I did at this particular moment in SNEHA school.

Secondly, to the team of amazing people who never failed to provide me with comfort, support and, when it was needed, tough love. You all make me want to be a better person and I am eternally grateful to Saphara for allowing me the opportunity to meet you all as I may not have otherwise. I have found brothers, sisters and friends for life on this trip. To all of the people mentioned above: you gave my Journey Purpose.

Aoife McConville (St. Ronan’s College)

Before coming to India, I had heard dozens of times from people who had been in previous years that Saphara would be the most incredible and life changing experience I would ever have. It wasn’t that I doubted this completely, but I admit I struggled to take the idea on board. Even after the first couple of days in Delhi, which I really enjoyed, I was still struggling to see the trip as a life changing experience like so many people had made it out to be. It wasn’t until after my first lesson with Class 1 at SNEHA that I started to see how this journey would change my life. Knowing that these children came from the most deprived of backgrounds, yet still came to school every day beaming with enthusiasm and positive energy was extremely humbling. When we visited the marginalised communities where over 80% of SNEHA’s pupils come from, it was incredibly eye opening, as to just how poor the children are. Therefore, I believe that the main change that this journey will make in my life, is to appreciate what I have and to never take anything for granted. I also want to be more positive because if the kids at SNEHA come to school with those big smiles despite where they come from, then I feel I have no right to moan or complain about any inconsequential issues in my life.

Harvey Jones (Sullivan Upper School)

I cannot begin to describe how much of an eye-opener this trip has been for me in so many ways; not only have I experienced a new and totally different culture but have also learned so much from so many amazing kids from severely impoverished backgrounds who have so much pride and joy in everything they have which shines through in their inspiring attitudes towards their education and ambitious futures. This has given me a new, more motivated outlook on my studies and I have been so moved by every last one of them through seeing how little they have yet how willing they are to give us so much. It is the best feeling ever when you smile at a pupil in the corridor and their face just lights up, maybe giving them a little bit of happiness but giving you so much more. We got to visit the marginalised community which really made me feel grateful for everything I have and want to be more simplistic in my life. It was also incredible to share all of these experiences with 18 like-minded teammates who made the trip so memorable for me.

Tamzin Johnston (Down High School)

My Saphara journey has been the adventure of a lifetime. I truly cannot remember a time in my life when I have felt like I have had a better purpose in life than when I was in that classroom (whether it be at SNEHA or Kaplani) teaching. One of the things I was looking forward to most was getting to experience a new culture. Now I can truly say that that is the furthest thing from my mind as those children have just consumed my every thought. It sounds cliché but those kids have taught me more than I could have possibly tried to teach them in 4 days. On the day we went to visit the marginalised community, I was consumed with so much guilt, that they could be so happy and full of pride with the little they had and I couldn’t stop thinking that I complain a lot even with all the luxuries that I have at home. It has made me want to do more with my spare time at home as I know that I managed to make a difference to the kids both at SNEHA and Kaplani within the short space of 4 days. It has made me want to continue making a difference, no matter how big or small, to continue to help change people’s lives.

Rachel Bowkett (Lurgan College)

Before I came to India I was excited, but nervous and unsure of what this trip would hold and how I would fit into it both as a team member and as a teacher, but this doubt faded the minute I stepped into SNEHA school along with 18 of the most incredible young people I have ever met. As the pupils sat there keen to learn from you and wanting to do anything they could for you, my confidence in the classroom grew day by day; something that was mirrored by them in a hugely inspiring way. However, there is one theme that has been central to my journey with Saphara: love. In the corridors of SNEHA and Kaplani, the children radiate love and joy with their beaming smiles, and their positive disposition has been a huge inspiration to me. I’ve seen children who come from the most marginalised communities and who go through so much each day, still come into school each morning so eager to learn and happy to be there, and it has challenged me massively on whether I need to love my education like they do. Additionally, amongst the team there has been nothing but love and positivity, and I have made some real new friendships for which I am so grateful. The joy that I have felt over the last 16 days is unparalleled, and this special experience and the people I have encountered on it will be carried in my heart forever as a result.

Jonathan Boyd (Sullivan Upper School)

I think that part of the purpose of Saphara’s trips to India is shown through my experience at SNEHA school. My Class 1 pupils were initially shy and very hesitant to speak English. However, from Monday to Thursday I saw a clear progression in the pupils’ confidence, as by our last class the pupils were excitedly exclaiming words and phrases they had learnt in English. I understand from this that Saphara helps to spark self-belief in the wonderful children of India from the marginalised communities.

I am thankful for this opportunity in which I saw true happiness in places where it may not be expected to be found. I have seen people, who have a mere fraction of what essentials we possess, still live a good life filled with more love and contentment than us in N.I. This has encouraged me to place less focus on money and materialistic items that provide superficial happiness and induce a veiling sense of anxiety. I have learnt to care and emphasise the love and memories I have made and can make in my life. I have also been inspired to use what I have to support others, as this trip has shown me that what may seem simple can have the most effect.

Anna Cairns (Lurgan College)

Saphara has turned out to mean more to me than I ever thought it could. Teaching the children empowered me beyond belief, seeing their smiles everyday coming into school showing how courageous they were considering their circumstances and how keen they were to learn taught me so much. Seeing the children’s living conditions was such a contrast to their contentment and pride in everything they do and shows their resilience. This helped inspire me to rethink my outlook on life, to be more fearless and to be content with what I have no matter what. The pure happiness I saw in the children in the classes quickly reflected onto me and as soon as I walked onto the classrooms at both schools, I subconsciously left all my doubts and anxiety at the door and replaced it with a smile. The children have such a pure happiness and true kindness within them which leaps out and brings out the best in you without noticing and it is a magical feeling that is completely irreplaceable.

I can whole heartedly say that the people on my team hugely helped to make my trip. I can easily say I love every single individual on my team and it is safe to say I have made friends for life whom l would happily call family. The experience connected with parts of me I didn’t know it could, in ways I didn’t know it could. It was the best 16 days of my life, filled with the purest of joy and happiness. I will be forever grateful to the team of beautifully kind students, outstanding leaders and of course each and every single child at both SNEHA and Kaplani that helped me get to where I am now and made this trip so incredibly special for me.

Alice Cross (Down High School)

I can honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, that my Saphara journey has been an experience that will remain with me forever. From my amazing team, to the children and teachers we met in both SNEHA and Kaplani schools, every single second was filled with joy. The smiles were contagious. So was the laughter, and even on the days when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were greeted by even bigger smiles and even cheerier laughs the following day. Saphara has blessed my life in the most amazing way. Thanks to Saphara, my amazing team and everyone we worked with, the difficult days became the most rewarding. Saphara has given me new experiences and a new sense of purpose that I didn’t know I had, but I have also been blessed with new friendships that I know will last a lifetime. The journey was a rollercoaster, but it was the most rewarding experience of my life. It feels like only yesterday that I was stepping into the Indian heat for the first time, time truly has flown. And now, as we write our final reflections, I don’t feel like the journey is over yet, because the memories will be memories that I cherish forever.

Erin Dawson (Sullivan Upper School)

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