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Monday, 03 November 2014
The eighteen Sixth Form girls who travelled out to visit the SKCV Children’s Trust over half term are now back in the UK. However, the memories forged during their time in India will remain with them forever.
The Street Kids’ Community Village (SKCV) project was originally set up to give India’s street children a second chance. The charity provides children with education and medical care, as well as a place to live where they are safe and make their own rules as a community. It gives the children a real opportunity to rebuild their lives and escape extreme poverty. SKCV also runs a drop-in centre, night shelter and informal schools for street children who still live on the streets, India’s railway network, or in shanty towns.
Before embarking on the trip, the eighteen girls alone raised an amazing total of £1,800 from a variety of fundraising activities including sweet and cake sales and supermarket bag packing! The Girls’ Division as a whole raised an additional £1,600 on top, giving the School a great opportunity to directly assist the charity. The money was spent on a shelter in Prema Vihar Boys’ Village, audio-visual equipment including a giant screen for Amodini Girls’ Complex, and on special trips and gifts for the SKCV children while the Bolton School visitors were in India.
The Sixth Form girls and their teachers undertook an exhausting thirty-six hour trip to visit the charity in Vijayawada, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. However, many of the girls were in agreement that the arrival was one of their most treasured memories. Year 13 student Fran McDonald said, “We were greeted by the SKCV children when we arrived at the airport, and they had hand-made bunches of flowers for each of us. It felt really worthwhile when we got there and saw them.”
Annie Linfitt from Year 12 added, “After a thirty hour journey, we were really tired and just wanted to go to bed – we didn’t imagine that anything could make us so excited! We didn’t realise at the time, but we found out later that they’d been there all day waiting for us.”
The next day, after some well-earned rest at the hotel, the girls were taken to Prema Vihar Boys’ Village. They were given a grand tour of the village and had the opportunity to meet the former street children who now live and learn there.
“It was hard when we first met the children,” Fran said. “We didn’t realise how small and how young they were before we got there.”
Year 12 pupil Amy Kadodwala said, “It was emotional thinking about the situations they’d come from and the situations they’ve been in. When you were there, though, they were just so happy. Although their past situation was horrible, they were so full of joy now that it was infectious and you loved being there.”
On the second day of the trip, the Bolton School party visited Amodini, the Girls' Complex, where they again toured the facilities and met the children helped by the charity. The residents at Amodini were delighted to share their culture with the Sixth Formers by painting intricate henna patterns onto their hands and arms. In return, the Bolton School girls introduced loom bands to SKCV!
During the trip the girls also visited the Drop-In Centre, which is a vitally important part of the process of getting impoverished children off the streets. The Sixth Formers were able to meet some of the children who use the Centre, and discovered that while some will go on to join the Boys’ Village or Girls’ Complex, others will be reunited with their parents. The girls were really impressed with the work the Centre does; Sarah Richards from Year 13 said, “The Drop-In Centre is where they really start to get the children off the streets. It’s for children who aren’t yet part of the villages. We hadn’t really factored that in before we went out to India, so now we’re going to send more to them so that everyone benefits.”
The girls were able to help Amodini Girls’ Complex with preparations for Diwali, and were invited to join the celebrations, including a game of musical chairs! Many of the girls agreed with Katie Potts from Year 13, who said, “My favourite moment was probably the Diwali party at night in the Girls’ Village. We gave all of the girls individual pencil cases as a gift from all of us, and seeing their faces was fantastic. It was a really big celebration with lots of Indian culture and dancing.”
The girls used some of the money they had raised to buy each SKCV child a pencil case, and fill it with coloured pens, pencils and crayons. The girls carried these out to India with their luggage and spent one evening putting together each present. Sarah said, “We wanted them all to have different colours – not just one child to have all red, one to have all blue – so we each took responsibility for one item and passed the pencil cases along, making sure they had one of every colour, before we wrapped them up!”
The girls put together a grand total of 180 individually-wrapped pencil cases to hand out to the SKCV children, who were delighted with their presents!
The remaining money raised by the girls was spent on trips to the cinema for all of the SKCV boys and girls. This was certainly one of the highlights for the children themselves! Annie remembered the moment fondly: “When we told the boys we were taking them to the cinema they got so excited! When we were their age, going to the cinema was just a regular thing, but to them it was really something special.”
The SKCV children in return put on a fantastic show for the girls in the course of the trip, including a spectacular ‘peacock dance’. The girls really threw themselves into this opportunity to enjoy and engage with Indian culture, and even took part in some of the dancing themselves!
The remainder of the girls’ time in India was split between Amodini and Prema Vihar. Even though they were only there for a short time, the Sixth Form found themselves getting to know the children quite well through taking part in many different activities, including crafting, drawing and painting, making loom bands, and playing games – from cards to volleyball!
Remembering one moment from the trip, Annie said, “I was doing crafts with the girls, and we were writing our names in glitter, and one little girl put an 'M' and a 'P' – for Mataji and Pitaji, ‘mother’ and ‘father’, which are the names they use for the founder of SKCV and his wife. That really made me stop and think, and realise that they were all just so grateful and had so much adoration for these people who they had never met, but who have helped them so much.”
While in India, the girls were also given a tour of the temples in Vijayawada and were able to sample Indian culture. Amy said, “I’ve always wanted to go to India because my granddad is from India. It was also the opportunity to experience a different culture and way of live that was not to be missed.”
However, the time to say goodbye eventually came. Fran said, “Leaving the SKCV children was really difficult, especially the girls. We each built up a really close bond with a group of girls, so it was hard to leave them.”
Reflecting on the trip as a whole, Sarah said, “SKCV is making a huge difference. I was talking to some of the boys and one of them told me about a brother and sister who saw their mother die in a fire that their father caused. The whole family was trapped inside the house, so the children had nothing. When they came to SKCV they got food, education, friends – a new family, really. They get a whole life. It’s so important that they have somewhere to go. Also, they really appreciate everything that they have – especially education. They really want to be taught. I think children over here don’t really realise how important education is, but over there they love it! I was honoured, really, to be able to contribute and have the opportunity to help the children.”
“It was a life-changing experience and I’d never done anything like it before,” said Katie. “It was also an opportunity to point to stuff we could do and make connections. It’s definitely made us want to do more fundraising for specific things.”
The girls are now looking to raise enough money to send all of the SKCV children to the cinema again soon, as well as hoping to be able to send Christmas presents.
Bolton School has been involved with SKCV Children’s Trust for over ten years. This was the third trip to visit the charity, following previous expeditions in 2005 and 2011. The girls are really passionate to help the legacy continue. Sarah said, “We’re trying to encourage younger year-groups to get involved. We don’t want ours to be the last visit – we want it to go on and continue even after we’ve left the School.”
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