Updated: Jul 19
After two long flights one of which was eight hours long and the other four, plus a crazy car journey, we finally made it to the Hotel Jevan at 5am. Day 1 involved exploring the streets of New Delhi. Christine took the boys to get fitted out with their new threads followed by lunch in McDonalds (no lettuce, no ice). We met our guide Sanjeev, who was an instant hit with everyone on the team and will be someone we will all struggle to say goodbye to. We then had the unique experience of travelling on Delhi’s metro system where we were taken to Westside to get the girls some Indian clothes.
Sanjeev lead us back onto the metro and to the Gandhi museum where all the of the students had a very informative time. After a bus journey back to the hotel we experienced our first authentic India curry.
Finally day one ended with a reflection on our first thoughts and emotions of India and prayer for God’s strength over the coming days.
After a short sleep we were up bright and early to get a bus to the Taj Mahal. We set out on our four hour bus journey to Agra where we had a well needed cold drink at the Hotel Trident. The Taj Mahal was a phenomenal experience but with temperatures reaching mid 40’s, it’s safe to say a few of us were left feeling toasty. We traveled back to the Trident and enjoyed an amazing buffet, readying us for a long journey back.
It was another early start, getting packed and fed before a six and a half hour train to Dehradun. The journey provided time for our team to bond over card games and communal naps.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by our first experience of an Indian monsoon, a site that would have got Frank Mitchell very excited. All bags were rammed into the vikrams along with some drenched bodies.
After drying off we took a small journey into the heart of Dehradun for a bit of grub and a wee exploration. The rest of our evening thankfully consisted of chill time alongside the excitement of lesson planning, readying us for our first day of teaching.
We are thankful for all of your prayers and ask that you continue to pray for God’s strength, energy and loved as we venture into SNEHA to teach.
Mark T and Lyndsey
Back at School
Today was our first day teaching at SNEHA, it was both nerve-wracking and exciting, even with some of the team having experienced it before.
The day started with a big lie in to 7am! Some of us tried the traditional Indian breakfast, which consisted of “Indian potato bread”, and various types of curry, others stuck with a trusty egg omelette and slice of toast.
We traveled to school in style on the Indian vikrams, no windows, no doors, three wheels and great fun. It is hard to get off a vikram without a big smile on your face. The roads were chaotic, even when there are road markings or traffic lights, no one seems to pay much notice. On our journey got a brief, yet eye opening insight into the lives of the locals and even passed the slums where our future students live. The chaos ended abruptly as we arrived in the oasis that is SNEHA School to see the bleachers full of smiling children. We greeted by Dr Reeta, the founder of SNEHA School. She is an outstanding and inspirational woman and the returners were very glad to see her again.
With last minute prep in the staff room, it was clear some people were handling the heat and humidity better than others. However, once we entered the classrooms, all the nerves and discomfort were long forgotten. The rooms were full of children who were so attentive, enthusiastic and keen to learn. These were traits we certainly were lacking during our own first periods at school! The five teachers in our class took smaller groups, which allowed us to get to know the kids better. All the teams left the classes on a high after spending time with these amazing children. The pupils radiated happiness, wand it was obvious how much they appreciate the opportunity to be able to attend school.
It is clear how big a difference all the donations make to SNEHA school, even seeing a science lab named after Saphara. It was an amazing start to teaching and it’s safe to say we are all looking forward to going back tomorrow.
This afternoon we’ve had some downtime, with some team members taking the time to catch up on sleep and others wandering through the packed streets of Dehradun. The markets were overwhelming with an amazing variety of smells, colours and sounds. We are all definitely looking forward to a well-deserved Chinese meal this evening, followed by some lesson planning for tomorrow and hopefully an early night.
Roisin and Jamie
Today was our second day in SNEHA School. After the amazing day we had yesterday, we were so excited to embark on today’s journey.
We commenced the day with breakfast before loading the vikrams with our teaching resources and other team members to head to the paradise that is SNEHA School. The journey was bumpy as per usual but everyone’s spirits were high, as we knew exactly what we were heading into. It’s always great to see the children skipping to school with excitement. This perfectly illustrates the impact that Saphara has on the lives of the students here in Dehradun. Each morning we are greeted with smiling faces and large waves from each pupil, which is a perfect start to our day.
Normal routine is hopping off the vikrams, heading towards the staff room and prepping for the first lesson of the day. However, today was quite unique as we had the privilege of watching the nursery class singing and dancing to various songs during their outdoor class, which definitely inspired us to put our game-faces on and provide the best lesson possible for our two classes.
Our lessons, both inside and out of the classroom, were greatly enjoyed from what we could tell by the pupils’ facial expressions. But it was good to know that we weren't the only ones finding the heat tricky!
With all the excitement, the day went by really quickly. No sooner had our first lesson begun, than we were saying goodbye to our last class. We were sad to leave but we were also very excited because we knew that we would be returning tomorrow. We packed the vikrams and headed back to the hotel for a bite to eat before getting stuck into lesson planning. After lesson planning we got freshened up before heading out into Dehradun to enjoy a nice dinner in Salt and Cravings. The meal was great and the craic was even better but what surprised us was how little a sufficient meal costs here.
After the meal, we returned to the hotel and participated in our daily reflection, which is always a good way to share the team’s thoughts each day. However after a very lengthy and sweaty day we are all excited to hit the hay and see what tomorrow brings.
Moment of Fame
Our third day at SNEHA began with the typical 7:30am breakfast before leaving the hotel in the usual vikram convoy to school.
Like yesterday, we were lucky enough to watch the nursery class assembly, but today was our moment of fame as we were invited to properly get involved and we taught them 3 new songs. Despite the kids not knowing some of the words, they absolutely loved it and were so enthusiastic, as were the teachers.
After a brief stint in the staff room, where we quickly put together our last minute thoughts for the lessons, we departed for each of our first classes. We walked into classrooms full of warm greetings: smiles, laughs and waves. This was so encouraging for all of us, the relationships being formed with the kids are getting stronger everyday and these sorts of greetings makes this so much clearer.
Today all the classes saw a lot of new things as we continued to develop on our themes and introduce new ideas. From our personal class (Class 4), we were able to recap on everything the kids had learnt previously about animals, before introducing different habitats. Parts of what we were teaching seemed like common sense to the children, but it was great to see how quickly they picked up the new words and ideas we taught them.
The end of the teaching day presented another opportunity for vikram madness as we returned to the hotel. The vikram drivers are always delighted with the 100 rupees for the journey, which is the equivalent of 1 pound.
The afternoon allowed us some time off and to relax, before we planned our final lesson for the week, which will happen tomorrow. After this was done, a few brave lads faced the monsoon, and even sacrificing some flip flops along the way, in order to bring back dominoes pizza for dinner for the whole team.
After just completing reflections, we are all ready to get to bed and get as much sleep as possible before tomorrows classes.
Love Dave and Georgie
Great news this morning! Everyone was well and so everyone was excited for our first full team outing to SNEHA. Spirits were high on our usual morning Vikram ride, and when we arrived we were treated by the children with a full school assembly. This involved singing from the school but what we enjoyed most was the Indian dancing- especially the ambitious attempts by fellow members of our team!! Following the assembly the team were all full energy and raring to go and teach the children.
As we are both teaching science in class 6 (the best class) we enjoyed teaching them about magnetism. We taught an exciting lesson in which the kids embraced their inner scientist – wearing safety goggles topped this off! We finished our lesson with a competitive game of hangman lead by Elliot. The kids could not believe he was their age and everyone was in fits of giggle when Dave offered him up for marriage.
After chilling at our hotel for a while to recover from such a busy day of teaching, some of our boys took a trip in the Vikrams in quest of new flip flops to replace those lost in yesterdays antics (do not wear flip flops in a monsoon). Others took a trip around the local markets experiencing more of the Indian culture (and interesting smells).
Tonight for dinner we ventured out to a local Indian restaurant to try some local cuisine. Safe to say our eyes were bigger than our bellies, a lesson for next time. Everyone enjoyed being out as a full team and those who had been feeling unwell appreciated the food even more, being able to actually stomach more than just a slice of toast.
Another great day had by all, and we are all looking forward to a weekend in Musoorie to recharge and continue bonding as a team.
Lots of love,
Katy and Katie (Katie squared) xx
We were blessed with a slightly later start to the day with breakfast being served as late as 8 a.m.! With only a few of the team knowing what to expect from our trek, excitement was in the air. For the first time in about a week we were going to travel in actual cars, windows and doors included! Having travelled the roads before it was fun to watch the shock and horror of the other teams members as our driver took hairpin bends in fourth gear, narrowly avoiding oncoming cars, and in general mirroring a rollercoaster ride … but at much higher altitudes.
The views did not disappoint, nothing can compare to the sprawling mountains of the Himalayas and the surreal atmosphere created by the rolling clouds, which of course conceal the mountain town of Mussoorie … our home for the weekend.
Unlike the bustling streets of the hot and sweaty Dehradun, Mussoorie is reminiscent of a holiday retreat. The weather is a nice reminder of home and the tight streets are similar to an Indian alternative to Blackpool. For those who are familiar with the 2017 Team blogs, the name “Hotel Himalayan Club” should be very familiar. It holds a very special place in all of our hearts, but especially the boys as it was the birthplace of the now world famous sport “Himalayan Wall Ball”. After a quick wall ball session the LHD school team and ourselves set off for the trek to Petrani.
We were greeted by the legendary Mr. Surender Singh who as always was an amazing guide, telling us the stories of the families living in these hills as well as his own story of how he left behind a well-paid government job to pursue his true calling working for MGVS. After hearing about the exotic flora and fauna of these foothills we were glad to not come face to face with a leopard or a Himalayan black bear. It wouldn’t be a Saphara trek without getting caught in the monsoon rain but a quick rendition of ‘the funky chicken’ brightened the spirits and forced the rain to pass. It was a privilege to share the joy and pride of the Petrani residents, despite them sharing what little space they have with their animals. This is the village that Babita lives in, a Saphara scholarship student who is now undertaking her b.Ed with an aim to one day become a teacher and give back to her local community.
After the physically gruelling trek back up, the Saphara returnees’ received the good news that we could return to Kaplani before the school day ended. It truly was a blessing to walk back through the gates, to see the hidden haven concealed by the Himalayan mist. We were guided around the school by the headmaster, and unsurprisingly welcomed into every classroom with smiles that stretched from ear to ear. Safe to say this was easily reciprocated by us. It wasn’t long until the tears started as our individual classes and children remembered the Irish people who visited two years ago. To see the children who truly changed each of our lives two years on and so grown up was nothing short of surreal. Unfortunately, as it was then, saying goodbye is always the hardest part and so our 40-minute journey home with Surender felt more like 143 hours long.
We were treated to possibly the best butter chicken and naan for dinner, with a view of the cloudless Himalayas which literally cannot be beaten. To end the day the Saphara returnees led the aptly named ‘Trading Game’. Its no exaggeration to say the leader-like power went straight to all of our heads (especially the Banker a.k.a Mr Fitzpatrick). More importantly, however, we were able to discuss the meaning behind the hour of chaos and its real life implications, such as the exploitation of developing countries within the global economy. We hope that we left each of the school team members with an awareness of these issues and some idea of how they can help make a difference.
Tomorrow we’re off to Kaplani again to meet the Class 10 graduates and celebrate their amazing results.
Day 9 and 10
Saturday morning dawned bright and early for the university team as we had the early breakfast shift. Later in the morning we all gathered along with the school teams to listen to a talk from Christine and Surender about sustainable development. We talked in groups about the different things a rural village would need in order to survive; things we often take for granted such as water, sanitation and a steady income. These ideas were discussed with relation to the local area. Christine made the point of how we need to empower the local communities to avoid dependence. An example is the construction of a toilet facility in Donk village, instead of it being used as we may think it should be, it was used for goats! Christine discussed how changing beliefs was needed in the local communities to solve the open defecation problem, among others. We can’t just go in, telling the locals that what they’re doing is wrong , we need to help them understand that there are better ways to live that will cut down on disease and make life more comfortable.
After this we ventured to Kaplani to share in the graduation ceremony of Class 12 students as well as meet some of the scholarship students. This was incredibly special for everyone but especially the returning students on our team. Roisin and Robert who had taught this class two years ago and gave a great speech as part of the celebrations. Despite the misty weather, spirits were high as we chatted with the students. We then sang for them a song called Ten Thousand Reasons, which they seemed to really enjoy, before heading outside to get involved in some ‘social dances’ led by professional dancer, Gareth. The results of these students were incredible this year and it was so encouraging to hear about the bright futures ahead of them.
In the afternoon two groups made their way into the bustling town of Missouri. The earlier group ignored the warning signs and got caught in the torrential rain, which turned the streets into rivers. The later group was absolutely fine however, and had a lovely afternoon in the Tavern café before some souvenir shopping. In the evening, the whole group went out for a very enjoyable dinner to the Clocktower café, which has stunning views of the sunset over the mountains; before returning to an unexpected rave at the hotel. Western and Indian pop make a better mixture than perhaps imagined.
Sunday saw some weirdos getting up at 5am in an attempt to catch the sunrise, the clouds however rendered this attempt a failure leaving them disappointed and sleep deprived. We caught up with sleep, however, as we had a lie in to 9am(!) At 11:30am we all met together for an event called The Happening. It might sound slightly intimidating but it was a lovely and very emotional time for us to reflect on our experiences in India so far. Tears were shed and heartstrings were pulled, I think the team will agree it is now one of our favourite memories.
After that, there was another brief trip into Missouri for lunch before heading back down the mountain to Dehradun. This afternoon has been spent chilling and lesson planning before a great dinner in the hotel. We are buzzing for another week at SNEHA. Over n’ out.
Love Georgie and Mark
Today we left at 8 am sharp giving us time to visit the marginalised community the children of SNEHA have grown up in. This was a very challenging visit for the entire team who feel so much love for the children of SNEHA. Watching children walking through the polluted river the cramped conditions some families lived in was extremely difficult to process. Growing up in our comfortable homes in Northern Ireland could never have prepared us for the images we saw.
Straight after, we went back into our normal routine of teaching but visiting the community had changed our perspective. It really made us think about why SNEHA is so important and how valuable their time here truly is. Education is a massive part of Saphara. However, so is empowering these children through love and encouragement.
As it was a first day back from our weekend in Mussoorie the children were very excited to see us. Today in our science lesson we taught them about Chemistry and The Water Cycle. Many laughs were shared between the team and students as we bonded over different experiments. It is so wonderful to see the joy these kids have from education.
Today was also a great day of bonding for us as a team. It was Georgie’s birthday so we went out to celebrate. We then came back and spent a while reflecting on our day and
encouraging one another. As the days go on our team continues to grow closer. Thank you for all your prayer and support so far and just pray that over the final days we will give our all to these wonderful kids.
Girl and Boy Band
This morning started with torrential rain, but by the time we surfed our way through the Dehradun traffic, the sun had reappeared and 1000 amazing children were in immaculate lines and anticipating our assembly.
Ronjoy, the wonderful Sneha administrator, was the warm up ‘act’, introducing us and thanking us. Then our 18 strong boy (and girl) band took to the stage. It was incredible to see the beaming faces to these kids as we sang a blessing- ‘ten thousand reasons’ over them. Then Dave and Amelie stepped forward and the crowd didn’t quite go wild, but ‘All around the World’ could be described as our greatest hit! The whole of SNEHA were singing, dancing and spinning, it truly was ‘amazing’ and the presence of God’s joy and life was powerful.
There was a sense of urgency in our teaching today and we wanted every moment to count, doing our best to give time and significance to each of the children in our classes. Jellyfish, monsoons, sports, climates, Coke and Mento experiments were all on the curriculum, but even more was a meeting of hearts. There was so much fun in the games and activities with notes and cards from the kids and quite a lot of pipe-cleaner jewellery being gifted to us from the kids.
One of the wonderful initiatives that happens here in the school is the classes that provide training and skills for the mums of the kids in needle-work and Henna. At the end of school we all had the opportunity to buy some of the crafts and all the girls had beautiful Henna designs painted on their hands, while the guys had their names written in Sanskrit on their arms. This is a significant source of earning for the families of the SNEHA children. The journey home was delicate as we all struggled not to smudge our intricate designs, amazingly we all made it back to Hotel Relax with Henna in tact.
We took time with our preparations for our final day at SNEHA, wanting to make the best ending possible- also stocking up on tissues for the emotional farewells. Reflections were wonderful- everyone sharing how we have been inspired and how we can intentionally sustain our passion and connection to this transformational work in SNEHA. And our 'Best teacher ever' award went to the inspirational Georgie!!
Jane and Dave
Last Day of Sneha
Today began with the typical 7:30am breakfast before leaving for Sneha at 8. However, there was a special assembly, which included the entire school. After yesterday’s big hit performance of “All Around the World”, we didn’t have much choice in what our contribution to today’s assembly was going to be. This song has already become a favourite for all the children at the school, as well as the students! We were treated to various performances from pupils, featuring traditional Indian dancing which we got the chance to try ourselves.
Following the celebration assembly, we quickly grabbed our resources to get to our first class in time, to try and fit in as much time as possible with the children on our last day. Since this was our last class with all the children, we made the day as fun as possible, including games, songs and crafts. At this stage of the second week of teaching at Sneha, we have all got to know the classes we teach very well. Some children had therefore made cards saying goodbye or even gave us sweets or bracelets. This completely amazed all of us and is a testament to the nature of these children. From seeing their living conditions we are aware of how little they have and how much an effort this would be for them, but they are some of the kindest and most generous people we have ever met.
We found saying goodbye a very difficult task. It is clear that in our attempts to give them something through teaching, they have taught us much more in return, especially how to be genuinely happy regardless of material things. As a result of this, there were many promises of returning made by our team.
We returned from Sneha to quickly grab lunch and prepare for our six-hour train journey back to Delhi. While this is now the beginning of our travels back to Northern Ireland, our minds and prayers remain with the amazing children we have had the privilege to teach for the past fortnight.
Please pray for the team as we continue to travel home and thank you for all the prayers throughout our time in India.
Love from Jamie and David x
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:
Part of me thought that having been on a Saphara team once before, leaving this time might be easier. I was so wrong. But while it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the sadness of leaving these wonderful schools, it’s important to remember that we have all been given the chance to help make the lives of children who come from nothing, a little better. One moment in particular which will stay with me forever is when one of the young boys in my “Orange Team” in SNEHA Class 5B wrote the words “Apna Time Aayega” on the back of his workbook. Translated this means “my day shall come”, and this alone shows the tremendous faith and hope all the children have that their lives have endless possibilities. I am so extremely grateful for Christine, everyone at Saphara who made the trip possible, every single child at SNEHA and Kaplani schools and not to mention my amazing team members who made every moment of the trip unforgettable.
Looking back over the past few weeks there’s been so many memories and blessings - from moments with the team, hikes in the Himalayas, and singing about God’s love in assembly of 1000 kids. What shone through however, was the beautiful, strong and selfless nature of every child. After seeing the marginalised community, I found it difficult to comprehend how such joyful and generous kids could live in these conditions. But that was just a testament to their character and nature - how they see everything as a blessing, an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to share what they have. At first, I believed we would be the ones imparting knowledge each day, but they have taught me so much more and for that I am so thankful.
What an amazing trip! From forming strong bonds with the SNEHA kids, to having the privilege of teaching them, spending time with our wonderful team who were like family and getting to see wonderful sites such as the Taj Mahal. This trip is definitely a memorable one. When I arrived home yesterday, I already couldn’t stop thinking about the kids in my classes. Thanks, Saphara for this amazing opportunity!
Having the opportunity to go back to India this year has honestly been one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date. I am so thankful to have been able to both revisit some of the places and people I had met previously and also to form new relationships with the kids I was so fortunate to meet this time around. Both Kaplani and SNEHA hold such a special place in my heart and although we were there to teach, I feel as though I’ve learnt so much more in the past few weeks than I could have ever taught. My Saphara experience means so much to me and I am so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity, and I am sure my journey with Saphara does not end here.
My trip to India with Saphara has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Through two short weeks of teaching in SNEHA school, I’ve been taught by the children that money or possessions aren’t needed for happiness. Each one of the children were a testament to this and have encouraged me to live my life more simply and not to look for material things for happiness.
After hearing all about the Saphara trip to India and the impact it has made on people I am close too, I can confirm it 100% lives up to expectations. The last two and a half weeks has been without any exaggeration one of the best experiences of my life so far. Although our role in India was of teacher, I feel like I have been taught so much by the kids, who are so incredibly enthusiastic, kind and generous. I am so grateful for the memories and bonds I have been able to make on this trip and know they will not fade quickly. Dr Reeta has turned SNEHA into an oasis for all and I have absolutely no doubt I will be back. Thank you so much to Saphara for this amazing opportunity.
India has been the craziest experience of my life. I was quite nervous going over to a country which I knew very little of to teach kids something which i'm not an expert in. However I had the best time teaching and getting to know the kids. The smiles on their faces made the whole journey so worthwhile and it meant so much to me to add a little happiness into their lives. The team was amazing and I have made some lifelong friends through it. My prayer is that God will continue to work in SNEHA and Kaplani and that those who are continuing the work would feel blessed by God's presence. Thank you to Christine and Saphara for an amazing experience which I will never forget!!
My second journey to India with Saphara has been nothing short of incredible. In the two weeks we spent at SNEHA school I completely fell back in love with it. Every single person there radiates happiness despite the circumstances. I feel so lucky to be able to be a part of another Saphara team and being able to help these kids in any way I can. It’s been an amazing and eye-opening journey with a great team – I am very thankful.
Everything about India is completely new for me and I've loved every minute of it- there have been so many memories packed into just a couple of weeks. It’s been an absolute privilege to spend time with the kids at SNEHA, who radiate so much joy despite having nothing. I think it's impossible to spend time there without leaving with a massive smile on your face.
I had a life-changing experience in India and I am so thankful for my time there. When I visited the marginalised community, I found it difficult to process how little these people have when others including myself have more than enough with a comfortable home to come back to. Visiting SNEHA, the school built to give children from this community an education was such a blessing! I was part of a team, teaching Science to Class 6 and the energy the children had was overwhelming. Each day the children were so excited to learn, many of them said that school was their favourite place - literally like heaven to them. I will never forget the children at SNEHA - they have a special place in my heart! Despite having so little, the children at SNEHA are extremely loving, generous and full of life. One day I was carrying a number of bags and Jasvinder when he saw this ran over, took them off me and carried them up to class with a big smile. As I was leaving, I was presented, with huge smiles by a number of girls, a small snack bar which they had bought together for me. I found it extremely difficult leaving the children as I have a lot of love for them. I am extremely thankful for the work of Saphara and blessed that I was able to work with them on this trip. Thanks Saphara for supporting these wonderful kids at a school where they are loved and made to feel special.
Ever since I came back from India the first time, I knew that I had to go back! However, I never could have pictured a team as amazing to return with! India is an adventure that has so many ups and downs and it was a privilege to have the team who constantly encouraged me to give each day my best! There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve made memories to last a lifetime.... or at least until I go out again for the third time! Although, to think that we get to have this adventure all while making a massively positive impact on the lives of disadvantaged children can only be described as an honour.
A second trip as part of a Saphara team was nothing short of a dream come true. To have the privilege of returning to both Kaplani and SNEHA (my favourite places on Earth) was nothing short of amazing. To have the kids at Kaplani remember my name 2 years after I taught them left me speechless and emotional. I get an incredible feeling from being at both schools that I have never experienced anywhere else. The bonds we all form with these children over such a short period of time are what make goodbyes so difficult. The tears shed are the furthest thing from sadness yet something we cannot contain. Another life-changing journey completed and I can assure you that I will not let this be the end.
My time in India has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It was challenging in many ways with the intense heat, the noisiness of the streets, and the traffic to name but a few. It was most difficult, however, to see the injustice of such poverty that is normal for the people living in the disadvantaged community we were working alongside. What put everything into perspective for me, was seeing the joy, sheer determination and zest for life that each of the children had. It was a privilege to able to teach them and show them just some of the love they deserve so much. As I return home and appreciate everything I’ve taken for granted, I am so grateful I’ve had this opportunity to grow as a person. Experiencing the beautiful sights, people and the terrific Indian culture along with the wonderful team that I’ve grown close to will stay with me forever.