I’ve mentioned it a couple of times and I guess now is the time to write about my trip to India. I was 19 and had decided that taking a gap year was the best option and so off I went to stay with family friends in Bangalore for 3 whole months. It was a massive step for me, going without my family to a country where I knew two people. And it was a massive eye opener…
I went to a city called Bangalore which is in the State of Karnataka, and I worked at a school called the Parikrma Humanity Foundation. It was a school that took in children from underprivileged backgrounds and gave them an education. There were certain rules that went with entry to the school. Orphaned & abandoned children, children from slum households with income less than Rs. 3000 per month. (US$55), below 6 years and there was a special emphasis on the girl child. The school gives them the books and the uniform for free and they are also provided with three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and then a protein type porridge at the end of the day before they return home. The school is keen for students to have a rounded education and they are actively encouraged to go to University and there are many mentor programmes in place to encourage further study and to support students into the world of work. Also the school works with the families to provide further opportunities to parents who need help. This included a beauty school being run at the school for the mothers so they could gain some vocational training.
I worked as a teacher there for the whole of the term and then the summer school which the school also provide to make sure that the children are up to scratch for the upcoming year. I worked teaching remedial maths and English to the students that were struggling. This was usually small group work. I have to be honest, most of the students I taught were very bright, but very naughty and the teachers saw me as a way of getting the naughty students out of the class. This was kind of OK though because actually what they needed was to be stimulated in a different way for them to engage with the curriculum. A lot of the teaching at the school was learning by wrote, this doesn’t work for a lot of people, so we had a lot of fun playing games and things like that! I generally worked with grade 6/7/8, it was fun, and at least I could manage the Maths that they were doing!
I was also tasked with engaging some of the older boys in football. They were often very talented at the sport but due to their grades they were told that they weren’t allowed to play for the school team. This seemed kind of unfair to me and while I did understand it, I wasn’t keen on the idea. However I would get to spend my afternoons playing football in the sun with them, so I wasn’t complaining. I bought them a futsal while I was there because they kept losing their football to the neighbours, and a futsal bounces less, it appeared to be a good investment.
The school was based in the middle of the Nanjappa Reddy Layout, which is an interesting collection of houses and also businesses as well as the occasional temple. I would walk to work from the house I was staying at every morning. It was a great walk and I would get to see a lot of general Indian culture on the way. From women wearing Saris to do work in the boiling hot sun, to the packed Indian buses, random cows in the road and rickshaws coming from all direction. There were moment when I was choosing between a cow and a rickshaw as to what I wanted to get close to to avoid crashes… not an ideal choice I’ll say that now.
I had a lot of fun in India. It was certainly an experience I will never forget. I went to a few of the different schools that the Parikrma Humanity Foundation run, I was lucky enough to be part of their 10th Annual Day, which was a huge celebration with all four schools participating, the teachers dancing ending in effectively a flash mob at the end (the stage was literally shaking). I went to the Huawei offices to fundraise for the charity. I went to Indian markets, a dogs day and multiple fancy lunches and brunches with my host family. I really saw both sides of India. The rich who can afford drivers and to go to all you can eat brunches with bottomless gin (I was not complaining at this) and then the poor who were living in conditions that weren’t great. I saw that the rich are often willing to make a change in India when they are given an obvious and transparent opportunity. Bangalore is an interesting city, with areas of huge wealth and areas of poverty. It was an eye opening trip, especially to experience on my own. I would love to return now and see how much more I can tackle!
India taught me a massive amount about my views on lots of things, also taught me that I can actually tackle being abroad on my own, at 19 in a country such as India it was occasionally a little scary, that’s for sure….