When I get asked the question, “What was India like?” I simply reply, “Words cannot describe the experience. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
At the start of my gap year in September, I was looking for an opportunity to make taking a year out worthwhile. Can I just say, in my opinion I found the best there was!
I have always been interested in pursuing a career teaching. Knowing that the main beneficiaries of the India project were children attracted me to the opportunity. I cannot explain what it is, although when I see children progressing, developing, learning and flourishing through key parts of their life I become overwhelmed with satisfaction and pride. I didn’t know of anyone prior to departure or after I arrived home that had participated in such a unique experience. It was something different to all the rest out there; this was one of the reasons I travelled to India.
After 32 hours travelling curtsey of National Express, Etihad Airways and a TATA car I finally got to meet the amazing people I would be working with. Before I could even step a foot through the hostel door my bag was taken off of me and a bottle of water was handed to me. It was one of the most homely welcoming’s I had ever experienced. In the blink of an eye a group of boys had surrounded me, keen to shake my hand and introduce themself.
The first week was spent getting to know everyone, where we would be living and of course, India its self. As soon as I arrived I knew I had made the right choice. There was so much opportunity to have a positive impact on the boy’s lives and I was ready to embrace the experience and challenges ahead.
The placements were challenging to start. Prior to Elen’s arrival and mine, there had only been four other volunteers. It was therefore obvious, the project was still in its early days and people were still adjusting. This was by no means a negative in my eyes, it just meant I could have even more of a positive effect, not only on the children but also Silo India
My main role in India was to encourage learning and living a healthy lifestyle through sport. In actual fact, it was so much more than this. Both Elen and I moulded into big brother and sister material, and that is probably the easiest way to describe our role out there. Yes, we were teachers but it was clear they needed a lot more and it was so rewarding stepping up to the mark. We were friends, motivators, artists, carers; we had to be understanding and inspirational. These guys were so eager and enthusiastic to learn whatever came their way. To get stuck in to whatever they could and help wherever they were needed.
Although, it was as much of a learning curve for us as it was for them. To make things efficient, we had to be efficient. It was an opportunity to develop our skills from planning and organisation to communication and commitment.
The one thing you will not realise is how much they teach you, how much they inspire you and motivate you along the way.
Now, back in the UK I’m studying to become a primary school teacher. I worked on a summer camp in the USA this summer and now, following my Indian experience I am working closely with local children's charities.
My top tip for any future applicant is to go for it! Embrace the whole experience.