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India adventure changes lives

A ‘once in a lifetime’ experience has given a group of youngsters from east London the chance to taste life in a different country. The six young volunteers, who were all aged between 11 and 14, spent two weeks in Rajasthan, India teaching English to primary school children from poor rural communities and helping in an
orphanage.

The Beyond Boundaries programme was part of the government’s Inspiring Communities scheme that aims to broaden young people’s horizons. It was delivered through the Basti Ram project, with all of the volunteers coming from schools in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. They were able to use their experiences to achieve the ASDAN International Short Course and some of the students are now progressing to Certificate of Personal Effectiveness Level 2.

Basti Ram

Before they left, the group organised a number of fundraising events, such as selling ice lollies, cleaning cars and holding non-uniform days at school. This raised almost £1,000, which will go towards a mobile school in India – the school will be used to reach remote communities that do not currently have access to education. Katherine Eveleigh, Basti Ram development officer, said: “All schools in the borough were sent details of the scheme and there was an application process and interview for the young people to go through. One of the conditions was that they had never travelled previously.

“They committed to taking part in 12 weekly workshops, where they did ASDAN work to prepare for the trip – such as learning basic Hindi phrases, cooking and eating Indian food, research and team building and learning about the culture of the area of India where they were going.”

During the venture, some of the young people spent time working in a day care centre, while in the evening they were based at an orphanage for 100 boys. They also had workshops in cooking and Henna art and went on trips to palaces and temples. Katherine added: “The group found the experience fantastic. It was quite a challenge and quite emotional at times, especially as they became very attached to the children at the orphanage. They want to continue volunteering as a group. They have been suggesting that they could run workshops for other young people teaching something they have learnt already, such as a Henna or Indian cookery. One of the things they learnt was to be accepting of others who are different, so there would be an anti-bullying message, too.”