India 2016: An Incredible Experience

By Jess Lewis

In September we were told that we were going to be given the chance to apply for the India Team. In order to get in we would have to write a letter to Mrs Shippey, in which we explained our reasons for wanting to participate, and then  go to a small interview. Within a month of writing these letters, the team had been selected and we began fundraising. Mrs Shippey had already given us a briefing about how much we needed to raise so we started working towards our goal of 16,000 CHF straight away, which was raised through bake sales, discos, and sponsored activities.

From October through to March, we had a bake sale, or some other fundraising event every week. It was a lot of work and it took up a lot of our time but we all enjoyed every second of it.

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The India Team and other volunteers after the Black and White Disco.

Thankfully we didn’t have to do it all on our own as we had a lot of help from volunteers. We also did lots of fundraising with the teams from the other campuses (LGB and Nations), where we got to know each other and we all made some great friends. The fundraising was such a big part of the trip, it showed us how we worked together in a team and brought us much closer. March came around in the blink of an eye, and before we knew it, we were cramming in bake sales and teachers lunches in order to raise the last bit of money we needed.

On March 16 we got to the airport bright and early to start our journey to Chennai. We took a short plane to Frankfurt where we then got on a 9-hour flight to Chennai airport. As soon as we stepped off the plane the atmosphere was already completely different to the one we left in Frankfurt. For starters it was absolutely boiling and you could practically drink the air it was so humid. We were then ushered through security and onto a bus to our hotel.

The next day was spent looking around Chennai and taking in the completely different culture and atmosphere as the difference came as a huge shock to most of us. There was so much traffic and so many people but there was something wonderful about the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the big things we noticed was how many people were begging on the streets and how much littler was scattered over the roads and pavements. We got our first taste of traditional Indian food at lunch where we tried a meal called Dosa. We then went to look around a Hindu temple while they were in the middle of preparing for a festival. After a long day we drove to the train station and got on a nine-hour night-train to Kodi.

Kodaikanal was completely different to Chennai, it was much quieter, and, as it was in the mountains, it was also cooler. Over the next 8 days we spent our time working in the crèches: Peachtree, Little Lillies and Grace Kids. We all chose a crèche that we would work at for the week but we were also offered other projects we could get involved in, such as working in the nearby tribal village, rebuilding houses, installing cook stoves and taking some of the kids to the hospital for a check up.

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Some of the children at one of the crèches.

In each crèche there were different jobs to do, but we all got to spend a lot of time playing with the kids and helping the 5 year olds preparing for their graduation to primary school. The graduation was a big ceremony, which we got to attend, and some of the students even got to participate in. At the graduation we also presented the families of the kids with shoes, blankets and school supplies for the graduates. On the night before we left the teachers threw us a farewell dinner where all the teachers from the crèches danced a couple of beautiful traditional dances for us in order to say thank you. When it came to leaving Kodaikanal, we all found it hard to go. After saying goodbye we hopped on a bus and started our very long journey down to Chennai.

For the next 3 days we spent the majority of our time on the bus driving but we also stopped off in some hotels in Mahabalipuram and did some sightseeing. We went to see 5 different temples and got to take in our last piece of India before we had to go back home. Before we knew it we were back in Chennai ready to get on our flight back to Geneva.

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Visting one of the temples.

One of the best things about going to India was seeing how great a difference the money we raised could make. Ecolint completely funds Peach Tree crèche with its 50 kids aging from 3-5. The main role of these crèches is to introduce children to education in the right way and without these Crèches, the mothers of these children wouldn’t be able to go out and work, as they would have to stay at home and look after them. Lots of the money also goes towards the projects we do in the crèches like buying paint brushes and paint,or paying for the roof to be plastered.

My experience in India is one that I will never forget, I had the most wonderful time and we all made some great friends. On behalf of the India Team 2016, we would like to say a huge thank you to Mrs Shippey, Mme Conchard, Mr Edwards and all the teachers from the other campuses for making this trip possible. My only advice to other students who want to join the India team in future years is that you must be motivated and enthusiastic for this trip as it is a lot of hard work but in the end it is completely worth it.   

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