On Saturday I returned home from an incredible 2 week trip to India . For 20 years my school has had a link with an organisation called Goodwill which runs 3 orphanages and a tribal outreach programme in the Tamil Nadu region of Southern India and every year a group of pupils have the opportunity to visit the area and help with these projects. I had never been to India before, and for those of you who haven't the best way to describe it is that it is an assault on all your senses - the smells, noises, colours and tastes hit you immediately. There is nothing bland about India or its culture.
After almost 36hrs of non stop travelling including a 14hr minibus journey we arrived at Thandigudi Orphanage. We were all knackered but the welcome we received from the children wiped the memories of the journey from our minds
Before take off
Our first meal in India - eating breakfast off a banana leaf with our hands of course!
The incredible landscape was breathtaking
Da India Crew!!!
Thankfully we had the weekend to recover from jetlag and prepare for the lessons we would be teaching during the following week. On the Sunday night we visited the senior girls orphanage down on the plains. Once again the welcome we received was incredible. We spent the evening chatting with the girls, making bracelets, watching some traditional dances and performing our entertainment for the girls.
For the first week we taught at the primary school which is attached to Thandigudi Orphanage. We mainly did creative tasks such as acting and arts and crafts as the children rarely have the opportunity to do them as it is not part of their syllabus.
After a week of teaching we left the orphanage to visit some of the other projects Goodwill fund. We started by heading to the senior boys orphanage which, like the girls home, is on the plains. Here we had a more relaxed day. We played the annual England vs India cricket match which England won thanks to Ed who scored 82 not out - becoming a god in the eyes of the boys who ran to shake his hand whenever he scored a 6. We stayed the night and then visited Awake, another orphanage, unlike the other 3 we visited this was not funded by Goodwill. It was also different as it had both boys and girls ranging from 7-21 making it feel more like a family than an orphanage.
Once we had had lunch it was back on the bus and up into to the hills once more this time to visit the Tribal Outreach Programme (TORP) situated in the tiny village of K C Patti. Below is a picture of our "bus" just in case anyone was mistaken and thought it was a luxury coach!!
At TORP we visited some of the local tribal villages and saw some of the projects which our fundraising would be going to. We also met an inspirational woman, Dr Mary, who runs a medical clinic in K C Patti which provides primary medical care to the tribal villages in the hills. I think everyone in the group was struck by her commitment and passion in helping those who need it the most.
We returned to Thandigudi for our last day. To celebrate the orphanage organised a sports day for the children and even we took part in some of the races. Later in the afternoon there was a concert for which the children had prepared some dances. We also performed, with the Cha Cha Slide and We Will Rock You both making an appearance!
Far too quickly the day came to say a sad goodbye and head home. In the morning we handed out presents to all the children and after lunch we were on our way. On the bus down the mountain there wasn't a dry eye it is amazing how quickly you can form attachments.
In Madurai we visited the Temple and had supper at a hotel before catching the sleeper train to Trivandrum . The sleeper train was much better than I expected and I managed to sleep for the whole 7hr journey. We arrived in Trivandrum at 6am and made our way to the coastal town of Kovalam where we spent our last day. Once we had had breakfast everyone ventured out to the shops and by the end of the day most had become skilled hagglers!
Waking up at 12:30 am was a shock but I think we were all looking forward to returning home. However, what would become apparent was that our return journey would be anything but smooth. A 20 minute delay at Trivandrum meant that we arrived in Abu Dhabi later than planned and thus missed our parking slot. We landed at 7:20am and the gate for our next flight didn't close still 8:00am so no-one was too bothered. The mood became more panicked when after spending 30 minutes on the runway we were still no closer to parking. We were reassured by the captain that all connecting flights would be held - sadly this was not to be the case. At 8:15 we finally left the plane and discovered the flight to LHR had already left. Thankfully we managed to get seats on a flight to Manchester and Ethiad then paid for a Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester to LHR. Everyone was relieved when we touched down at Heathrow. However, this was short lived as we soon discovered that the majority of the group's bags were still Abu Dhabi. After an hour of paperwork we finally made it to the arrival hall and were greeted by our families. A hectic end to an incredibly busy trip.
Thanks to everyone who sponsored my 8.4km swim or bought T-shirts. In total the group raised over £12,000 for Goodwill which will make a considerable difference to the projects we visited. Below is the link to a video my friend made about the trip - it really gives you a feel for how amazing our experience was. X