Saturday, 29 October 2016

Friday 28th October. Education, Education, Education.

We arrived at Seelampur, about 9-30....a daily miracle, Amanda prays every day for safe journeys.... and someone needs to. The roads here makes Scilily look gentle. The morning group singing was led by Subodh, the energetic committed christian ASHA leader of Seelampur centre.  The thought for the day was led by Ruth, very appropriately adapted to be perfect for ASHA. It was all the more  powerful to hear someone saying "expect miracles in your life "when the speaker is a grandmother. The work of God though ASHA has enabled 1600 slum kids to go to University which helps them get jobs so they have a chance to buy their family a home and be lifted out of poverty in one generation. That's miraculous to me. Joining us for the day was Phil Leighton (Friends of ASHA GB) and his grandson, Dan.  Another Granparent here.

Then we went to a poorer area of Seelampur slum, Block A , located by the river which floods regularly.ASHA has been building relationships there for 2 years and is now trusted. They have a mobile health clinic in a van, and helped the community lobby the MP to get water pumps. The ASHA college students give lessons in writing to the kids. When ASHA first came to this part of the slum very few, if any kids , attended school. Now 50% do. We met one bright girl who is in year 12 and has caught up so well she hopes to be the first from this area to go to College. Her Mum, a member of the ASHA initiated women's group, was so proud. ASHA health workers also monitor the weight of the under 5 s and distribute bananas and eggs , some are seriously underweight but they are showing weight gain gradually. I also saw folded blankets that had given to the community last winter by ASHA.  One of the slum dwellers thanked us for coming to visit, their smiles and Muslim greetings did suggest they were pleased we were there.

We returned to the ASHA centre for lunch, delicious eggy bread, spicy potatoes and bread and spreads. I chatted with Hina a student helped by ASHA who confidently explanned her plans to do a PhD . After lunch we had another treat, an experience of a life time - Elephant and camel rides. This was back at A Block slum and was awesome. The elephants sauntered along with 4 of us on top, and a youthful driver, one was a child like Mogli, sitting on his neck, guiding the elephant along a beautiful patch of vegetable growing land, v fertile just by the river. The money we paid for the rides we understood will go into the slum because the people from the slum run these rides. The would not accept payment from the 2 ASHA staff with us.

In the evening we went to the flat of Dr Kiran and Freddie Martin, ASHA's founders. We had a delicious curry buffet. Four ASHA students came with us. Peter was suitably impressed when he found out one of them had just got a First from Delhi University. One of the students, Shiv, danced and had us entranced. Michael Jackson's moonwalking incorporated into a kind of Hindi street dancing. Then he got us to join in......which was actually fun and chaotic. The students were very patient and tolerant with us as they tried to teach us moves. I have a feeling Kiran and Freddie's flat is a place of good food and fun parties, but mostly it was obvious the students had been their a lot and were much loved and part of the family.

I personally feel so grateful to have been able to come on this trip, and especially to have come with Peter. Any doubts about whether we would be of any service have gone. Watching the ASHA students interacting with our students confidently, encouraging each other to see Education as the ticket to future choices, for themselves and their younger siblings and friends, has given me even more respect for teachers everywhere and ASHA as an organisation.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A day of extremes

Usual breakfast of toast, and  porridge with idly as the Indian choice - delicious!  Then drove to Jeeva Naga a different slum which Amanda and Tommy had been to last year.

Great welcome then sat down to hear from all the children and students. They told us about how they were passing on information they learnt about diseases such as TB to people living in their lanes and how they were learning about ASHA values such as gratitude and putting them into practice.  The students spoke about how by being part of ASHA from a young age, they had been encouraged to study and do well at school so that they were able to go to Delhi university. So inspiring! And also they were now mentoring children in the slum to encourage them to achieve what they had done.

Then we went to afternoon tea at the British High Commisioner and his wife with some other teams of sixth formers from Northern Ireland. It was all rather posh in a huge house with a massive garden - including monkeys!  We were served lovely cakes, biscuits, cheese straws, proper tea, juice and a Bhaji type thing.  But the highlight for some was to find the signatures of William and Kate in the guest book as they had stayed earlier in the year.  So a bit of a contrast to the morning!

After that we fitted in some shopping before ending back at the YWCA for more food !

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Monkeying around

Hi everyone, Lily here!

Summarising today: we joyfully survived!

This morning, having fought the urge to "have just another 5 minutes" after the 3rd time, we dragged ourselves out of bed, and prepared (physically and mentally!) for the day ahead! We left the YWCA in taxis, with the expectation of a similar day to yesterday, that is: making crafts with the children or painting an underwater or jungle room! What we didn't expect though, was the craziness of the journey that lay ahead! In our car, we delegated tuneee control to Tommy, but upon our arrival at Seelampur, we were excitedly informed by the girls in the other car that an elephant had been spotted! Katie was super excited and hilarity ensued when Victoria also excitedly pointed out a "camel" that was actually a broom! 😂😂 After this, we entered a time of daily devotion lead by Subodh, singing in both English and Hindi, or at least attempting to! We then split into our teams, either doing a turtle craft with the boys or finishing off the painting, which was fantastic, if we do say so ourselves! :P

After this, while others continued with the painting, a few of us visited some more of the slum. We visited the homes of several Asha volunteers and workers, and sat in on part of a women's group meeting, learning about the work the women can do within the community when even slightly empowered! It was truly inspiring, and visiting one bedroom homes that housed up to 12 people at one time was a real reality check in my opinion! What amazed me most was that even though the houses weren't what we'd consider homes, the owners made every attempt to keep them clean and present them nicely; they felt such a sense of ownership over their small plot that they somehow transformed them from what could have been small bare shells into warm homes that accommodated their family life!! It was really amazing to see, and really reminded me to be grateful for my home, with electricity, clean water and my own bed! I have to say though, I was very glad that Asha workers accompanied us around, because I definitely would have got lost in all the twists and turns and alleyways of the slum!

After this, we returned to the Asha Centre for an awesome lunch spread, in which our end of the table experimented with crisp sandwiches, masala flavoured crisps (which I think only Ena enjoyed!) and nutella on banana 😂 side note: Katie's recipe for a great summer snack when the BBQ is out is a banana split - with the skin on - sliced in half, with nutella in the middle, and optional brandy poured on top, wrapped in tin foil, and BBQ'ed! Apparently goes down a treat!!

We then travelled from Seelampur to Old Delhi to go to the spice market! This was quite an unforgettable adventure, from the very start! After a lot of walking past the Red Fort (a beautiful red fort -hence the name- that in its prime I bet would have flourished with a lovely moat!) we just crossed the road to enter the market... Or attempted to... There's no such thing as "just crossing the road in Delhi"! It's a whole process, involving: stepping out in blind faith, some hand signalling for oncoming vehicles to stop, and some frantic running and weaving in between moving vehicles when all else fails!!So, having made it across the road with the help of some lovely students from Asha, we entered the main road of Old Delhi, along which there must have been hundreds of shops and stalls! We somehow managed to stick remotely together, despite the hundreds of people pushing and shoving and weaving in and out of the heaving crowd! It was completely wild, and to even understand remotely what it was like, you'd have to imagine Oxford Street, London, on Christmas Eve, with added motorcycles on pavements and the very real threat of pick pockets adding to the fun! So overall, a really crazy experience, both there and back! The actual stall itself with the spices was really lovely, selling everything from loose nuts and bagged spices! And, as a lovely surprise, they gave us some complimentary spices and rose water for our purchases, so that was an added team bonus! And best of all, we saw a monkey!! A wild monkey!! It was jumping around and swinging from the loose wires, and was a real treat to see, and was probably one of the cheeky highlights of my day!!

In conclusion, a blessed and full day, full of laughs and memories, and many new experiences as well as important reminders! Looking forward to tomorrow, and a good sleep on our rubberised coir beds! :D

Lily xx

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Tommy's Tuesday Tales

Tuesday 25th of October is a day that means different things to different people. To some, it means 6 days until Halloween, to others it means 2 months until Christmas, however for the team this year, it means cake to celebrate Peter's birthday.

We woke up at the painfully early time of 7am, which was rough... Really rough. We had to force ourselves out of bed and through the "shower" (personally I would prefer the more appropriate "dribble") making sure we remember to keep our mouths shut lest we ingest any of the water. Having completed this palaver, it was time for breakfast, meaning the usual toast (or frightened bread), porridge, eggs, fruit or curry, and when we all had finished this we made our way back up to room 309, (Tommy and Amanda's room) for our daily devotion. After singing some songs, including a spiritual medley of Oh When the Saints, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Sing Sing Sing all being sung at the same time, practising for our tea, performance at Kiran and Freddie's house on Friday. After a short thought for the day, and some notices, we were ready to go.

As we emerged from the YWCA, a sight of pure horror met our eyes... A new driver. This was terrifying as how would we know how mental he was on the roads?! It was quickly discovered that he was perfectly safe, which was a relief. The trip to Seelampur was easy and quick, and we arrived shortly after 9.30.

Subodh and the Asha team, including Shiv who wasn't there yesterday met us, and we had a small prayer meeting, with a few songs of worship in both Hindi and English which was quite hard to keep track of. Then after this, we had the really special opportunity to pray for people who wanted it, whether it be for healing, or for starting a new career, or provision of a new house. Then after this we divided up into teams. Katie led some sporting games (being a PE teacher) outside with the boys, and from, inside, we could hear nothing but shrieks of joy, and the other two teams were doing more painting of the jungle or fish room.

At 12.00, we all went round the slum. We sat in some peoples' houses and heard their stories and were able to pray. This was amazing, as we could see the joy and love the people had for their communities, despite having very little material things. I should add at this point that while we were doing this, Aideen was at Asha HQ poly clinic shadowing the doctor, which was apparently very interesting, as it was 'very efficient and kind'. Then after visiting and praying for 2 houses, we returned back for lunch.

This was bread, eggs, spread, and fruit and was again delicious. Then having eaten this, we made more progress on the two rooms for painting (I should add, with some really superb songs blasting out at immense volume), and John and Ena did some musical games with the girls, which went down an absolute treat. After this, there was a craft activity of decorating fish to hang in the fish room when we are done. After a cracking day, we were all tired and were able to get back into the cars and return home to the YWCA for relaxing, dinner and cake. All in all, a super day.

- Tommy

Monday, 24 October 2016

First Day in Seelampur Slum!

Today we had an early start, so as to reach Seelampur, the slum in which we will be spending most of our time, early. After an energising breakfast and a meeting, we prepared to leave. Unfortunately, there was a vehicle delay; however, we still arrived more or less on time, despite startling road conditions.

On arrival in the slum, we entered the Asha centre and were greeted with confetti and a warm welcome; next we were introduced to the team and the Asha volunteers, including local women who had undergone three months of basic medical training to treat those in their community. We also presented them with a fantastically manufactured Monopoly game that Karen had produced using the pictures from our team building day. After a back and forth sing-song with children, youth, volunteers and leaders, which was full of smiles, we split into groups and began to paint murals on the walls of two rooms and do craft work with the children.

Despite my hilariously hideous drawing and painting in our 'Under the Sea' mural, we appear to be making good progress and are hoping to finish on Wednesday. Our other mural has a jungle theme, and is also going very well. The children were very excited by the craft activities, to the extent that they were running into the room where I was painting to show us their wonderful creations! After a delicious lunch, with fruit, crisps and drinks provided for us, we rotated our activities. One group went on a visit to some of the homes in the slum, while the others did more painting and craft, this time with the girls (as the students only go to school for half the day, the girls in the morning and the boys in the afternoon).

We also completed 'Shields of Honour' with the youth. This began with each student filling out basic information about themselves; information about their study and future aims; and the challenges they currently faced (for most, this was the small size of their home and/or financial issues). Then we got them to sit in a circle and read through them one by one; for each one, we asked the group why they thought the person reading was special. This was filled in in the centre of the paper shield, under the heading, 'I'm special because:'. One girl was told she was a great dancer, and Lara made her get up and do a demonstration - the other girls were not lying! We hope this was a motivational activity.

We ended with another sing song, including dancing, which was great fun and enjoyed by all. The positivity and happiness present in this community, despite the poverty all around them, was inspirational. We were sad to leave, but look forward to seeing everyone again tomorrow! A trip to the Cottage Emporium, followed by a delicious meal at a South Indian restaurant, for which most of us opted for tasty dosai pancakes, closed off a long, but unforgettable and inspirational day. We hope to do more work both with and for those served by Asha tomorrow, as well as music games. Until then, goodnight!


P.s. In other team news, congratulations to Thomas Clegg for gaining an offer today to study Geography at the University of Bristol!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A day of sightseeing...

Good Afternoon, Katie here!

After 3 good nights sleep (for me anyway!) we were up and breakfasted for our meeting at 930am. A few of us were brave enough to try the Indian potato curry for breakfast - it definitely had a kick to start the morning. Our meeting summarised the plan for the day after reassuring words from the Bible and couple of songs. (Don't think we will be entering any choir competitions soon!).

Our first stop on our day of sight seeing was Humayun's tomb. This is in an incredible, sandstone original version of the Taj Mahal, it left us all a little speechless. As you walk around the grounds and the impressive tomb you are struck by a sense of calm and peace. There was quiet, birds chirping and small hushed tones between groups - not even a car horn to be heard! The building was made from sandstone and marble and each grate was formed of a unique pattern followed through the main tomb and the adjoining rooms to family members. The quiet reflected the tranquility and importance of the grounds and building itself; allowing each of us to have some time and thoughts to ourselves.

After this we endured yet another 'experience' on New Delhi's roads and their road system will never fail to amaze me. Saying that, we all feel very safe with our drivers and we are currently up to a total of 6 in the competition of spotting a Tuk-tuk with the most number of people of on. Khan market was our next stop and more middle class with recognisable British shops and a sense of safety from the vast number of security guards outside restaurants and shops. We went to "The Big Chill" for lunch which from the outside looks like a dilapidated doorway but holds host to a morden style American diner. The amazing food continues (Peter very kindly shared his Oreo cheesecake with the entire group) and all of us were desperate to have the salads on the side of our plates but thought better of it; except Maverick Ruth of course!

Next on the list was of stops was the Lotus Temple. This is the house of worship for the Baha'i faith, a faith founded in Persia in the 19th Century. The building was completed in 1986 which was evident from the impressive structure, clean lines and Morden architecture. It stuck me as to how accepting Delhi is in regards to religion, having visited several different places of worship for varying religions in the short time we have been here already; something we can all learn from.

My favourite stop was next, the Qutb-complex. Here housed the Qutb-minar, a beautiful 72.5m tall pillar which was constructed at the end of the 12th century. The minar is also constructed of sandstone, except the top two layers which are covered in marble after the previous top tower was damaged by lightening. Lightening damage struck (pun intended) twice more but thankfully it remains in tact as the tallest minar known in the world. There were other incredible monuments to look at here, one was a small building that marks the beginning of Islamic architecture as we know it today. Additionally there was an un-rusting iron pillar that had been moved to the areas in the 11th century. The 24ft pillar has a large percentage of phosphorous in its outside layer which has led to the lack of rusting and it weighs an extraordinary 6000kg! The pillar, originally holding a statue of Vishnu has been lost/removed from now. We also saw the abandoned attempts of another minar, designed to be grander and twice the size, however it remains at 25m of rubble as not future generation wanted to take it on after the founder passed away - a sad tale indeed.

Interestingly all taxis here have a sticker that says "this taxi respects women"; a government initiative to reduce the number of sexual attacks in taxis on women by taxi drivers. Each sticker has a code relating to the taxi and all taxi drivers have had to had training and passed a test, a very good idea indeed.

We are off for dinner at the YWCA later today, some already swapping to the Chinese side of the menu to branch away from curry. No doubt we all will at some point this holiday!

Hope all is well at home - sending our love xx

Monday, 3 October 2016

Delhi Trip 2016 . We had a refreshing and fun team building day on Saturday 1st 0ctober. This was planned to brilliant precision by Victoria and Tim. We were using the theme of Monopoly because ASHA have asked us to bring board games with us. We went to various Monopoly favourites that I had never actually been to before. We found out that Vine Street used to have the largest police station in Europe because it was a street of Brothels. It's now a tiny cul de sac. Scott showed us the site of the Reformers tree in Hyde Park , for the Park Lane stop, and he told us the history, which was very encouraging.  The rain was light and held off mostly. We all went home having had a lovely day. Please pray for good health for us on the trip and that we can serve God while we are there.if anyone can download a photo to this that would be great ? Thx.