Five teenagers from a Garston secondary school spent two weeks in India in February on a character-building trip teaching children in a school attached to an orphanage.
Pupils from Stanborough Secondary School have been involved in annual trips to India for the past twenty years since recently-retired science teacher Kish Poddar took a group of 14 students to a small orphanage in Thally in Tamil Nadu to build a chicken shed to help the orphanage become more self-sufficient. The second project undertaken the following year was to paint the newly constructed boys dormitory, sponsored by the UK based Charity STOP International for the same orphanage.
For the next seven years the annual trips involved helping with basic construction work and decorating in various orphanages in Tamil Nadu state as part of the students’ coursework for the International Baccalaureate examination although one year they acted as volunteers at an eye camp in northern India. After this it was decided to give the Year 10 students the opportunity to help underprivileged youngsters in the children’s homes.
After months of preparation, planning lessons and gathering resources – with the help and advice of the English teacher who accompanied the group – five students ( three boys and two girls) and three staff (including Mr. Poddar) from the school travelled to India during the February Half Term break to start two weeks of teaching at the BESSO Primary school delivering ten 40-minute lessons each day for eight days.
Returning students have always claimed to find the opportunity a very special experience and this year’s group proved to be no exception. As one, summing up the views of the rest of the group, said, “Year after year I would sit on the same Stanborough chairs and listen to the previous Year 10 students explain how this trip changed their lives. However, I did not really believe that a trip could really be that moving. I loved seeing the children so happy and enthusiastic with so little and in the end it was very hard for me to let them go. This experience has touched my heart and I would surely love to come again.”
Organiser Mr. Poddar explained that the school’s director felt that the orphans benefited from the experience as well by having their ties with the UK strengthened and having English-speaking natives teaching their lessons. The teachers benefited by observing a different teaching style and being exposed to new resources. That the children enjoyed having the students each year was obvious from the way they remembered and asked about those who had visited them during previous years.
He added, “During their time in India the students had a set routine of waking up and lights out times, meal times and recreation times and had to put up with the novel experience of a mobile phone curfew from 10:30 pm to 7:30 am by handing in their phones to the staff. To make the trip more enjoyable the timetable included two days of sightseeing and one day of shopping. The team visited the Maharajah’s Palace in Bangalore and the beautiful Bannerghetta Wildlife Safari Park and Zoo.”
Explaining the rationale behind the scheme Mr. Poddar continued, “These trips are designed for the physical, mental and spiritual growth and development of the students. Humanitarian projects such as these play an enormous role in building character. We believe that Stanborough School leads from the front in this area.”