Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

20th June 2007

Thakurpukur Project Report

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Its no secret to the people closest to me that I loathe the country I live in, I dont hide this fact and Im not ashamed to admit to it, Im sure there are more people who feel the same way. My dislike for Britain was one of the reasons fuelling my ambition to become a volunteer, but as the project progressed my reasons began to both broaden and deepen in meaning. I did not have many reasons to speak about, but the few I did I could have spoken about so passionately and truthfully it would not have made any difference. The typical volunteering cliché is wanting to make a change- yes we all wanted that, but I wanted something more. I wanted to stand back from the majority and say that I had done something about world poverty, and I am unlike the rest who acknowledge the desperateness of the situation but do nothing to help. If you live in ignorance, like most of us do then you can have a clear conscience, I however am not an ignorant person. I was unsure as to what would be expected of me as part of the team, but I knew I could offer my genuinely open heart and lively personality to the project, after all I believe that good actions made heartlessly is as bad as no action at all.

My fears were not of going away or leaving my family, my main concern was losing my passport (at least then, however, I wouldnt have had to come back to England). The idea that I was going to Kolkata was great, but the reality didnt come until much later the flight over there in fact! Because of this, I was scared of the actual day arriving, the day when I had to take all the advice and instructions and put them into action. When that day did come, I stood at the train station and distinctly remember thinking what the hell am I doing, the fear was evident as my link teacher came to cheer me up, and succeeded! Truthfully, I had no expectations of India since I tried to think of it as little as possible. My vague idea of India was heat, humidity and poverty. It was all of these things, and much more!

As a summary of my first impression of Kolkata I can confidently say I hated it. I suddenly realised I was about to spend a month in a hot and over populated city which reeked of a combination of currys, sweat and urine. I was now living in a place where I was as important as a cow! Believe me when I say, its a compliment. Soon enough we slipped into the regular routine. Mornings were spent teaching, the afternoon was filled with research and preparation for the following days lesson, whilst the evening was what we all looked forward to as being when we saw the Rainbow children. As much as we all enjoyed teaching, it was by far the most challenging thing about the trip. The Hindi speaking year fours were more than difficult to control, but a delight to teach once we had their attention. The problem arose when we realised that everyday for them consisted of colouring, playing and when they were learning it was only to write and re-write the alphabet continuously. After much discussion we decided the best way was to not break their routine, but to assist, and expand on their knowledge. Meanwhile we would make a scrapbook of the English phonetics (accompanied by the Hindi pronunciation) for the teachers to teach the children themselves.

The Thakurpukur project was a success, we established the sustainable project and funded a bookshelf in each classroom filled with 200 books for the students to read at their leisure. The only unfortunate thing being that the school was to be demolished and re-built within the year so we could not see our project in progress, but the sister promised to take pictures and keep us updated.

Anisha and crazy kids

My many memories of Kolkata I have, one stands out to have changed and affected me in a way I could never imagine. Firstly, we had met a man (Sandip) who asked us to his house to play music. We gratefully accepted and looked forward to it. Whilst there I found myself speaking with Sundeeps father, he innocently opened the family photo album and showed me his beautiful wife and explained how proud he was of his family. The conversation deepened and he told me of his older son Sundip, he had been horribly bullied at university to such a degree he wanted to end his life. I spoke with Sundip and his father and mother for an hour or so, and they gleamed smiles at me left, right and centre. Before we left, Sundip asked me anything I could give him to remember me by, I had only friendship bands that the Rainbow girls had given me, so I gave him one. When Sundip ran of to get pen and paper for my email address his mother began to cry and said thank you for befriending him, Im so grateful, I myself wanted to cry. I realised that I was his first friend, and may have changed his life for ever.

What I got out of the project is difficult to put into words; my attitude towards Britain has changed, I no longer hate it I just pity it. But more personally, the trip has made me appreciate just about everything good in my life. I appreciate a good education, I appreciate my family, and actually I understand now more than ever how important it is to take full advantage and enjoy life as much as possible. For every moment we spend upset or angry, is another moment of suffering for not just the girls in India but for all the third world countries. Another moment where we complain about our lives when their lives are so simple and disadvantaged but yet, they look through happy eyes, showing their gleaming white smiles to the rest of the world. What the Rainbow girls got from us I believe is mostly a fun playtime, but I hope they know that somebody cares. The Rainbow girls being orphans of course, they have known nothing but rejection. I hope they realise that we care and love them, and that they have changed our lives as much as we have theirs.

Being back in Manchester for me is extremely difficult. I find myself once again plunged back into the society which I strongly dislike. I find myself thinking even more so now, that some people are ignorant, and have no desire to change their lives for the better. As my friends and family talk about the latest technology or boast about the amount of money they spend on clothes, I think of the Rainbow girls and hope to god I will never forget that way of living. I would do anything to live their lives for them, if I could fly out there again this very instant I would do, and I would be much happier living there than I would do right now living here.

I intend on travelling much more when I go to University, and plans for a gap year are already in progress. My initial career plan to be a teacher has stayed the same, but now I am inclined to teach over-seas exactly like I have done this summer. In the society we live in now, I believe that young people have been negatively stereotyped. What our project has allowed us to do, is to break that stereotype and show that not all teenagers are the same. Many of us do want to help; its just unfortunate that very few have the means to do so. We are the first from our college to start the project, hopefully the younger students will see the opportunity and jump at the chance, just as we did, and change their lives for ever, just as it has done ours.


Image credit: rlri

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