The countdown to the life changing trip to India began in April 2015 when I got an email describing that I won a place on the scholarship to India; words cannot describe how ecstatic I was that I managed to win such an amazing opportunity. The journey began on the 4th of August, where I travelled to Heathrow Airport to meet facilitators and the other 28 individuals who would be sharing my experience. After two long plane flights, we finally arrived in Udaipur, India and I couldn’t wait to see the amazing sights that India had to offer.
Throughout the stay we were accommodated in an area used frequently by Free the Children; the Aravalli Centre. We stayed in permanent tents supplied with tents and normal bathroom facilities, and I got to share it with other girls from the trip. Every morning we started off with yoga which was run by Kapil our instructor and Free the Children in-country team member who looked after us throughout the whole trip. It was amazing how a short 30 minutes of yoga made us relaxed for the day ahead.
Most of our days were spent on the building site. We worked on two sites; Verdana, a primary school and Kalthana, a secondary school. At Verdana we levelled off the ground, dug holes in preparation for a wall, and made cement. In Kalthana we increased the height of a wall, made cement, and actually got to do some demolishing of an old classroom to leave space for a new one. The building wasn’t easy but we were determined to make a change in the community that were we so warmly welcomed in.
Our free time was spent around the Aravalli centre surrounded by lakes and mountains. We played a lot of sports, relaxed by the lake and in the evening spent time reflecting on the day and doing activities to get us thinking about how to effectively help those in need. Some of the additional activities included samosa making, Bollywood dancing, tie die painting and an art lesson from a local artist.
An eye opening day for me was the water walk. We visited a lady who lived in a house smaller than most of the bedrooms that children in England live in. She shares it with her husband and daughter but they don’t even have a bathroom! She is lucky- she has access to water which is just a couple of hundred meters away from her, but it’s not clean. She uses the handmade containers, which are very fragile to carry water back to her house. To experience how difficult it is to carry water we took the containers and carried back some water. It was very heavy, and most of us spilled half along the way even though we only walked a couple hundred meters. Some women have to walk around 5km just to get water that essentially makes them very ill because they are not aware that it has to be boiled beforehand.
There was some sightseeing days to the Kumbhalgarh fort, a local temple as well as a trip back to Udaipur to do some shopping and this was our opportunity to take a break from the building and enjoy the beautiful sights of Rajasthan. On the last day at Vardana we played with the kids and took loads of photos. It was a really emotional time for each and every participant of the trip because we really made close bonds with the kids and it was hard to leave them behind. However, I knew that I was leaving with a memory of kids who taught me that the most important thing in life is to be happy.
This trip was an absolutely amazing experience, one that will remain with me for life. Thank you for everyone who was involved in making this a phenomenal experience and for the other 28 members, who went from strangers to friends for life.
Deputy Head Girl and Chair of School Council