Becoming a Bright Sparks Trustee gave me the perfect excuse to visit India for the first time, a country that has always been on my bucket list.
So in February this year, I travelled to Chandigarh which is about an hour’s flying time north of New Delhi airport, to meet my fellow trustee ,Marion, who had already spent a couple of weeks there. As we drove from the airport I noticed how the streets were wide and open which surprised me until I learned that the city had been designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
We were lucky to be invited to stay in Mohali with one of the Indian trustees, Mrs Banka and her husband which is where I had my first experience of real Indian food. Despite my best efforts, I struggled with the spicy food and had to rather whimpishly ask for a milder version.
The next day we were off to visit the school in Mohali. The children in every class had prepared special welcoming songs, dances or recitals to greet us which were both impressive and charming. After that we spent time in individual classes helping with English lessons where all the children seemed very keen and eager to learn.
We also visited the secondary schools that children from Bright Sparks move on to and it was in one of these that I caught up with Suman , the girl I have been supporting financially to attend her small private school. We were able to have a brief chat and I learned of her interest in singing and was told by her teachers that she is one of their brightest pupils.
The next day we returned to the school and at closing time went with Rita, the headmistress to visit the colony where the children live. Seeing the difficult conditions they live in, small makeshift huts on the edge of a polluted and rubbish strewn river, it was amazing how they manage to appear at school each day dressed in their uniforms and looking clean and tidy.
While the school was the highlight of my visit, we also spent time with the other Indian Trustees , the teachers and some members of local organisations whom we hoped might support the school in future. Altogether it was a busy few days, but I was left with a much greater understanding of how the school worked , its social setting and the people who are involved with running it in India .
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