Fundraiser for India
Firstly, we raised a super amount of money for our India appeal last Thursday 16th January with our Danceathon and cake bake sale. The Enterprise Ambassadors did a sterling job planning, organising and leading the event, raising an amazing £444.60 on the day. A really big thank you to everyone who supported this and for your very generous donations. Also, a big thank you for all the kind gifts that the children have brought in for me to take to the children where I will be based. I will make sure I get plenty of photographs of the children receiving these gifts.
This money will partly go to supporting Brace Bridge - The Doorstep School where the Diocese in Kolkata are aiming to build a more substantial building for the children in this very poor area of Kolkata to attend. Presently it is a small area made of bamboo poles and a tarpaulin roof. This school is situated right next to a busy railway line and only a few steps away from the front entrances of people's 'houses'. The rest of the money will be utilised supporting the school that I will be based in called Mahamaya out in a village about three hours drive out of Kolkata. Myself and another teacher will be staying with a host family for most of the week and teaching at this school, alongside supporting the existing teachers with professional development and resources.
Mahamaya has one classroom, 110 children ranging from 3 years to 9+ years and the building is still only part built which will also house a Woman's Empowerment Centre.
I will endeavour to keep this page up to date as my journey and experience in India begins and develops over the week and we will be sharing this with the children at school whilst I am away - please do take a look too when you get the chance.
Day 1 Saturday 25th January
I have finally arrived in Kolkata travelling through the night from Birmingham to Dubai and then onto Kolkata airport arriving approximately 7:45 am Kolkata time (& we are 5 and a half hours ahead). It was like being propelled onto a roller coaster ride as we raced through the very busy, hectic and chaotic streets of Kolkata in our mini bus to our hotel. The amazing sights, sounds (mainly beeping horns) and smells engulfed us as soon as we stepped out of the airport. Updates will follow as we are heading out to explore the area and then an early night to catch up on some sleep, before an early start for a 8:30am meeting at Kolkata Cathedral tomorrow morning.
Day 2 started early with a two hour meeting at St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata at 8:30am. It was then on to the Cathedral Relief Service where we met the staff of the Diocese working force who link with Derby Diocese and run the programmes in schools and health to support the vulnerable children and women of Kolkata.
After a traditional Indian lunch, we walked to Queen Victoria Memorial before a quick turn a round and then off for a boat trip down the River Ganges. This was incredible, seeing people wash and bathe in the river (not something I would be rushing to do!) as litter and pollution stream into it. The whole place was vibrant and alive with noise, colour and smells of Indian spice filling the air.
It was then back to prepare for the training day ahead tomorrow with the the teachers from the Indian schools and pack again ready for myself and another teacher to head off to Mayamaha a village three hours out of Kolkata for three days.
(Please see the photographs below from today.)
I will aim to update over the next few days whilst away at my school, however, we are not sure if there will be the internet, so it maybe later on in the week when I able to catch up.
I have now returned from Mahamaya and back with the internet so will endeavour to catch up with my news.
Day 3 27th January
The day to meet the teachers and begin the joint training sessions. We included lots of English based activities with plenty of song and rhyme. Most of the teachers from the schools had very limited English if any at all. Fortunately, as my Bengali is not that good (!), we had translators on hand to help us on our way. It was then time to leave the main group and Zoe (another teacher from Scargill Primary) and myself headed off for a 3-hour car ride to the village of Mahamaya (40 km away), which was a challenge before we even set off squeezing 6 people, four cases, two huge blankets and several lots of flowers all into one jeep! This was an experience never to be forgotten with constant beeping of horns, cars, bikes, scooters, dogs, walkers Tut Tuts, tractors and cows coming in all directions…it certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted!
It was then time to embrace a true real experience of Indian culture and life, being hosted by an Indian family and ready to meet the children early in the morning as school runs from 7am until 10:30am. A delicious home cooked Indian meal of Dahl, rice, an aubergine like vegetable, followed by freshly picked pomegranates was had.
Day 4 28th January
The local cockerel ensured we were up and ready for an early start to the exciting venture into Mahamaya School. The children started arriving from 6:30am and school started at 7am. The children were inquisitive of their visitors and politely lined up after taking their flip flops off ready to sing their morning song and say good morning to their teachers and us. In one classroom about the size of half of hall, 4 classes sat side by side to each other with their teacher sat on the floor facing them. The children were aged from 2 to about 9 years old and the morning’s teaching consisted of reading and reciting in Bengali, writing the \Bengali alphabet out on slate, reading in English and practising the English alphabet. The children amazed us with their ability to be able to read with no reading programme or phonics in place, with often an inconsistent education. The older group were carrying out comprehensions in Bengali and in English whilst another group were practising their grid multiplication and formal multiplication and place value. Some of the Bengali numbers look like ours but are different numbers for example the number 8 is number 4 in Bengali – It was a little confusing at times to say the least. Children have to bring their own paper and pens to school (the school does provide some if the children haven’t got any. Most of the younger children in Nursery and Reception wrote on a slate (no emergent writing, they are straight in with pencil grip and letter/number formation.
It was ten our turn to teach and have some fun – the children were very excited and giddy to see us standing at the front and their teachers at the side ready to join in with the children. We did lots of singing and rhyme (Heads and Shoulders was a real favourite and even more so with the teachers, we couldn’t sing it enough!) finishing with dear Zoo story which they were hooked into and even the teachers were shouting out the animal in excitement before the children. This was a real privilege seeing beaming smiles and enlightened eyes to children who live in difficult circumstances.
School was dismissed and each child found their pair of flip flops which they always remove before entering a room out of respect and finishing with a sung prayer and thank you. School was over by 10:30am!
We had the opportunity to see what traditional Indian life is like in a small village outside of Kolkata. Cows and goats roamed the little village paths and children played simply and happily. Houses ranged from tin hut and corrugated rooves, to brick built houses. Most house look unfinished and there were many building projects unfinished. The village is mainly made up of Hindu and Christian families. We saw woman sat on in front of their houses embroidering intricate work onto saris and threading tiny beads to beautiful material. Children and adults were out in the rice fields gathering rice and up above there were banana, mango, guava and coconut trees in abundance.
We sat with Nilima our host whilst she cooked a traditional Indian Dahl meal outside in a clay oven fired by fallen leaves and had the joy of eating it afterwards. It was then time to plan and work on the next day ahead before being fed again with dahl, rice, egg omelette and tomato sauce all for supper at 9:45!!
Day 5 29th January
An early start to the day 5:45am start for a 6:45 start in the classroom. Only 18 of the children were there today compared to 60 yesterday due to a Hindu festival in the village. Yesterday we saw families erecting ‘make-shift’ temples in the most vibrant colours ready for the festival ahead and music sung through the village until late last night. Just as we arrived in the classroom the skies opened and there was a huge downpour which lasted the day; with no drainage system in the village the water levels soon rose.
Even though the average temperature is about 23 degrees (just perfect for us) the children all come wrapped up in hats, scarves and jumpers due to it being their winter time. The colours on their clothes are always so vibrant and there is a splash of colour wherever you look. We took the whole session today teaching English through song, verse and reading. The children (and the teachers) love the repetitive songs especially with actions and we sensed a little friendly competition between the children and the teachers to who could get the words and actions the quickest. ‘Dear Zoo’ was a real favourite as they loved to shout out the animal before it was shown. We shared stories that were written in English and Bengali, so the children could get a good understanding of the story and the English words; these resources including arrange of phonics and key information posters and words will be given to the school for them to continue after we have left (this is what part of the money raised by our school has purchased for Mahamaya).
After a quick break for even more Indian food, we were whisked away in a Toto (like a Tut tut) through the village, past the rice fields to visit three further schools. Another Primary School where Nilima our host is the Headteacher and then onto a girls’ high school and boys’ high school. The school, streets and roads again were just one blur of tremendous colour as it was a Hindu Festival day. The Goddess was enshrined in mini temples with a goose and deer which are key characters in the Hindu story relating to this Goddess and festival. Every Hindu shrine had a vast amount of different offerings that people had brought to offer to the Goddess; from flowers to fruit to art sculptures and stones. The day is equivalent to our Valentine’s Day and all the girls and boys were dressed up in their beautiful Indian costume and Saris radiant with colour. The streets were a cacophony of noise: beeps, music and chatter, street sellers and food a sensory injection.
We met the past Headteacher of the Primary School who was 86 and still rode his bicycle around the village visiting the school. Everywhere we visited we were seated straight away and offered fruit and food. We weaved are way through the hectic and buzzing streets, often breathing in as there seems to be no rules or systems apart from constantly beeping their horns and weaving in and out of all the traffic. After then meeting the Headteacher of the girls’ school and being offered even more fruit and food we headed back in the Toto along the busy streets and into the village of Mahamaya.
Day 6 Thursday 30th January
Our final day in Mahamaya and it was the celebration of the official opening by Kolkata's Bishop of the school. The preparation started early about 5:30am and the house was full and busy from making huge (think The Giant Porridge Pot story) cooking pots making a vast amount of curry, to garlands being strung and balloons being blown up. There were flowers everywhere especially marigolds that they string together to make beautiful garlands by the dozen. National TV turned up and we even got the privilege of cutting the ribbons to open the school. The children were a buzz with excitement. Dances and recitals in Bengali were given by the children and a blessing was given to the school. We managed to give all your wonderful gifts to the children which required crowd control, as they were so excited and thrilled to be receiving gifts! It was then time for us all to eat: curry, roti, dahl, fruit before packing our things into the car and heading back on the 4 hour journey to KolKata.
Day 7 Friday 31st January
Brace Bridge - some photographs I will update more later.
Day 8 and 9 Friday 31st continued +Saturday 1st February
4:30am Kolkata time and getting ready to leave what has been an incredibly amazing experience.
Mother Teresa House visit Friday and a fun filled sports day Saturday with over 500 children from all the schools - it was a real joy to be part of!
Please take a look at some of the PowerPoints that we have shared with the children and used as part of our Collective Worship: embedding global awareness, diversity and our Christian values.