It was a cold but thankfully dry February morning. The time was six am on Sunday 16 February, when a team of Stanborough School students, staff and two parents, eight in number, met at the school to begin a life changing trip to warm tropical India. The mission was to teach for two weeks, at the BESSO Nursery and Primary school, which has 62 orphan pupils and was started by a young couple Mr and Mrs Ganesh.
The five Year 10 pupils together with their teachers had been planning and preparing for this trip since the previous September. The preparation included raising funds by participating in a 24 hour sponsored badminton, carol singing in the local supermarket, surviving vaccinations, shopping for the orphans, lesson preparation and the packing. With all the preparations completed the team were ferried to London Heathrow airport to board a flight to Bangalore. With all the check in formalities completed they proceeded to the Gate for boarding. When the call for boarding went out one of the team members discovered that she did not have her passport or boarding pass. There was a frenzy of frantic searching but without success. So we gathered together for there was only One who would be able to sort this little dilemma out at such short notice. We prayed that He would intervene and let us find the documents to enable us to board the flight.
We retraced the steps that she remembered she had taken and one of them led to a dust bin. She had already looked there twice without any success but nevertheless we went through the motion of emptying the dustbin with passengers moving all around us. Having got to the bottom there was no passport or boarding pass. Next to it was a second dustbin for recycled plastic but she was sure that she had not put it in there. We started emptying the second one and within seconds there was the passport waiting to be rescued at the bottom. We picked up the passport and next to it was the boarding pass. They were both thrown away inadvertently. To say that there was elation and relief would be an understatement. There were hugs and tears of joy and gratitude to the One who delivered as He had promised so many times before. As soon as we were seated on the plane we huddled together and thanked Him for confirming at the start of our adventure that we had nothing to fear about the trip because He was going to be with us and bless us with His presence. And that is how it proceeded day after day.
The Stanborough pupils each chose the year group they wished to teach, Nathan Year 1, Eve Year 2, Paul Year 3, Christopher Year 4 and Aswin Year 5. They had taken resources from England, prepared the lessons in the evenings and like seasoned teachers delivered a whole day’s lessons to the orphans. Each day began at 9 am with worship with the children. The timetable for the day was nine periods of 40 minutes each with breaks for lunch and play. This went on for two weeks. Each day the visiting teachers became more innovative and creative than the day before. What was so encouraging to watch was the bond they formed with the orphan children. On the first day they made name tags which speeded up the bonding and within two days they were scooping up the children in their arms and playing with them during any break in teaching. As the days past the visiting teachers became more and more involved in the teaching and in the welfare of the orphans. Even when on a sightseeing trip they seemed to be consumed with buying specific gifts for each child in their class. These Year 10 pupils turned out to become devoted teachers to their cohorts even if it was just for a short time.
On one day towards the end, we planned a picnic to the zoo. Needless to say, because this is an infrequent occurrence, the children were very excited – all dressed up in their socks and shoes and well pressed uniforms. One of the volunteers from England generously financed the whole event. Everyone had a wonderful day out. On the final day the school organised the Annual Sports Day in which the visitors from Stanborough School served as judges, time keepers and track officials which was a new but fun experience for them. After the prizes were awarded, we had a party for all the children and staff. We had pre-ordered the food from a local restaurant. It was one of their favourite menus –masala dosai, idli sambar, coconut chutney, payasum and ladoo for dessert. The Stanborough team served the food. What impressed the visitors was when the children received their food on stainless steel plates, they went to their place on the floor, sat down and waited for everyone to be served before singing grace and only then did they tuck in. And to their hearts content too.
It was interesting and at the same time moving to learn how this trip had affected the Stanborough students and staff. Paul commented that he “gained a better appreciation of basic things like clean water, food, a roof over my head” and a “general appreciation of how much God has blessed me.” Eva said that “this trip to the beautiful country of India has been the most life changing experience I have ever had. I gained a pure joy which only God can give through the cheerful eyes of the young orphans. I also learnt to appreciate small blessings and unseen ones, for life and breathe and everything and everyone I take for granted”.
Christopher said “I have gained an appreciation for teachers, a new view point on life and I have made some great new friends. I have gained a better appetite and I am now less picky with what I eat.” Aswin said “I have recognised how lucky I am. As friends we’ve all grown closer and learned a little more about each other. I learnt a lot about myself. I gained an appreciation for teachers.” Nathan learned how to deal with spicy food, how to be organised and how to be a teacher. He also said he gained weight.
The adults too shared their experiences. Vanesa said, “I fell in love with their bright eyes and their smiles and with how open their hearts are. This trip taught me a lot. But mostly how simple the Gospel really is. How powerful love is”. “Zeny” I thank Jesus for all the blessings I have in life. I truly learned to be happy and content with what I have”. Mira said, “she gained a lot of things but probably the most was realising how blessed I am. I am really thankful that I have Jesus is my life and this trip really opened my eyes, that if I want to be a follower of Jesus I should change some things.”
By God’s grace we all arrived safely back. Some of the students did not want to return home but having joined their families back in cold wet England, they had already learnt to cherish and value their own more than ever.[Kish Poddar]
Garston pupils parents and staff return from India orphanage school trip