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India Jan 24

3rd February 2024

And that’s a wrap! What an emotional rollercoaster it has been and certainly today has been a mixture of happy tears and sad tears. We started a little later today as it has been sports day. Not a sports day just for Bhowanipore, but for all the schools. We had approximately 250 children and they LOVED it! We had so many happy faces and it was so amazing to see.

We started my day with breakfast and, as a farewell breakfast, we had curry. We then walked over to the cathedral for the last time and set up each station for the sports day. We had a parachute, skipping, skittles, throwing and catching, sack race and egg and spoon race. The children started arriving from 10am. Some came with parents, some came on a bus and some came on the back of a truck. They all came dressed in their school uniform and most importantly their smiles of excitement for the day.

Bhowanipore school started with the parachute and they went crazy for it - all they wanted to do was run underneath it. We played a couple of games, but the children just wanted to be children and run around with excitement of seeing a colourful parachute. We then tried the egg and spoon. Some children were amazing at this and some couldn’t quite grasp that you can’t hold the egg. Lots of fun was had by all nonetheless. It was then skipping and tug of war. Who knew a rope could cause such laugher and competition? It started with boys vs girls, but we then swapped teams to make them more fair. I think they would have been happy to stay on this activity all day. Shortly after 11:30, the magician arrived. The children all gathered in the shade and enjoyed a full meal from the CRS, whilst laughing away at the magician and ventriloquist. He was speaking in Bengali, so I didn’t understand what he was saying - but the children found him hilarious though! 

It was then for goodbyes. The part I have dreaded all week. We took a few pictures together and then the children set off on their way home. You asked me on Thursday what my highlight of the week was, and this day certainly came out tops. It was an emotional goodbye (trying to hide the tears behind my sunglasses), but as one of the teachers said ‘it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon’. The children and teachers I’ve met this week are absolutely phenomenal. The children’s love and enthusiasm for learning is simply amazing and it is clear that the school is doing something right in order to help these little people get a good enough education to access mainstream school. Each one of them is learning each day and they are truly an inspiration. 

I’ll be travelling back all day tomorrow with two aeroplane journeys - Kolkata to Dubai (4 hours) and then Dubai to Birmingham (7.5 hours). I’m looking forward to seeing you all on Monday!!

Over and out from India. 


2nd February 2024

Our final day at school. We got dropped off at school at 10am and was welcomed so warmly again. The children all stood up as we entered and said "good morning, Mam'. We got straight into our teaching and I taught the younger children simple addition to 10. We found some rocks outside and used these to help us with our maths. I asked the children to find 2 rocks and then asked how many they had left. The children could tell me how many they had left and how many altogether. We then had a go at building a number sentence using the plus and equals symbols. We then used a visual number line to work out these number sentences. All the children had a good go at this, and they were so proud of themselves when they did it. We then moved in to bigger numbers and used dice to help us create number sentences. We then had a short break and went outside, so the children could perform some leaving dances for us. The children were amazing! The girls came dressed in their dresses and saris too. The rest of the class performed a rehearsed song with actions - it was so lovely.  

The children then had their lunch. They were super lucky today - a lady who comes to visit from time to time, brought the children little boxes of food. The children were so grateful! We then did some geography and located the seven continents of the world. Most of the children didn’t know anything outside of Kolkata so it was amazing to teach them about our world and where we live too. We found the UK & India on a blown-up globe and then went outside to learn the continent's song. The children were so fantastic at this and picked it up really quickly. We went back inside and located this on a blank world map. 

Then the emotional part of leaving school for the last time. We were showered with love, a gift and one of the teachers went out to buy us a cake. We had one last photograph as a full school and said our goodbyes (even though we will see them at the sports day in the morning!). 

We then came back to our hotel, had dinner and a couple of ladies from the CRS came and did some henna for us. The girls who did this are part of the CRS project, so they came to show us their skills. 

It’s going to be a busy day for us tomorrow. We have 250 children coming together for a sports day. What a way to end a fantastic trip. 

1st February 2024

I'm not going to lie to you all, today has been emotional. I started my day with breakfast and a walk to the bus. Hopefully you got to see me trying to cross a very busy road! We got to school around 10am and dived straight in making friendship bracelets for you all back home. To encourage the children to practice their English skills, the children said the colours aloud and then had a go at plaiting the Indian colours together, just like you did. We then played a game to see who could estimate how many bracelets we had made. They made 117!!! They then had some lunch - today was jam and bread. 

We then gave the children a brain break and took them outside to do some skipping. They're getting good at this now! I think the highest score was 59.  Can any of you beat this at playtime tomorrow? After that, we went back inside. We then asked some questions you wanted to know the answer to e.g. what is the weather like? What is their favourite subject at school? The children practised speaking these sentences in full. The children loved to be able to tell us what their favourite things are. The children then started to get picked up by their parents/siblings, and then we made our way back. Mr Figg and I popped into the stationery shop on the way back to get some exercise books for school before heading back to CRS to be picked up for our afternoon visit. 

This afternoon, we went to visit another school in the suburbs of Kolkata. This school is even less fortunate than the school I am working at with very limited everything. The community is of 1000 people who all live by the side of the train tracks. It is congested, dirty and extremely dangerous. The families living here don't have homes like ours, instead they have hand-built shacks, if you like. They all live in close proximity to each other and their homes consist of one room - no bigger than the library. In these houses, perhaps 3+ people live with one bed. There is one water pump and one toilet for all 1000 people. There are no bins and so the whole community is piled with rubbish. The school was tiny, but it's a space for children to be safe from the train tracks. Saying this, all the residents were welcoming and happy for us to be there. I have attached some pictures below, and I think they just speak for themselves.

It was now time to head back. The half-hour bus journey allowed me time to reflect on the things that I had just seen. I was truly heartbroken by my experience here, and it made me realise how much I take for granted.

We arrived back at the hotel at around 16:45, so I had a quick shower and off we went to dinner. We ate at Dosa House this evening. We left as soon as we had finished because everyone was ready for their bed this evening. Tomorrow is my last day at school, before the sports day on Saturday. I hope you're all having a great week so far! 


31st January 2024

Wow. What a truly inspiring day. My alarm went off at 6am in time for breakfast at 7am. We had toast and an omelette (I may have had a breakfast bar from my snack table too, just to keep me going!). We got on the road at 8am and settled down for a 3-hour bus journey. A long drive isn't too bad when you have so much to see. We started to head out of the city and towards the rural areas. On the way, I saw cows and goats on the side of the road, men on top of buses and GRASS! It's so nice to see some greenery, something Kolkata city doesn't have a lot of. You could tell we were getting closer to our destination when the roads got less busy, and you heard a car horn less often. I was taken aback by the conditions some people along the way live in. Lots of people have hand built shacks at the side of the road, and for some, it's simply a piece of material.

We arrived. Well, so we thought... We jumped off the bus and got taken to our next form of transport - a tuktuk. The village we visited is called Geonkhali, and it doesn't have roads accessible to cars. We finally arrived, greeted by the warmest welcome from the residents and the project staff. We immediately got asked to sit and then got taken to the church, where the project manager delivered a short service along with some children reciting poems and performing dances.

We then walked across to a small building where we met the most amazing women. They greeted us with flower petals thrown over our heads. The Women's Empowerment Project helps women to access courses in tailoring and embroidery and, in turn, helps them to gain a source of income for themselves and their families. Women are taught these skills and their products are then sold. They also now help make the school uniform. They were so eager to show us their samples and were extremely proud of their achievements. One woman said "This has helped me become more independent and gives me some time for myself'. Truly inspiring!

It was then lunch, and we went over to the classroom and were given some curry, rice, popadoms and salad. They were so hospitable - I just wanted to get up and help! After lunch, it was time for the long journey back to the Bishop's Inn. It took slightly over 3 hours because of the traffic and so, of course, I had a snooze. It was then lunch and an early night again for me. I'm excited about being back at school again tomorrow. 

30th January 2024

Today has been so wonderful. We arrived at school at 10am (the traffic was terrible!) and it was lovely to walk in to see all the children learning. When we got there, the teachers were keen to let us get on and teach. However, we encouraged this to be a team approach, and we did this together. Mr Figg worked with the older pupils and I worked with the younger children. We soon set to work and had a go at drawing and labelling fruits. I wanted to extend their learning and vocabulary and, therefore, we made a sentence with the fruit we had just drawn. I taught the children to say and write 'I like...'. This then lead us nicely into our letter writing. 

Yesterday, we gave the children your letters. We thought it would be nice to teach them simple sentences to write back to you. We started our letters with 'Dear friend' and then they had a go at speaking and writing things such as 'My name is...' 'I have a dog'. The children were so keen to learn and were so enthusiastic. When the children had completed their writing, they drew a lovely picture of themselves to go with it. When we had finished English, the children sat down on the floor to eat their lunch. They had a slice of bread and a bowl of milk. After speaking to many others, who are located at different CRS schools, said our children are very lucky to even get a lunch. The children were all extremely grateful to their teachers, and they headed home when we left at 12:30.

We headed back to CRS and had an hour before we were getting picked up again, so I got to video call you and see all of your lovely faces. We then set off on our way to New Market. The journey was, again, interesting, and slightly dangerous, but we made it there in one piece. Wow. New Market is BUSY. Busy with cars, buses, cyclists, motorbikes, people and dogs (so many dogs). We had a wander around for a while and then arrived at Blue & Beyond, which is where we ate tea. To be honest, I was just grateful to be out of the, what seemed to be, organised chaos! You'll all be pleased to know that I TRIED MY FIRST CURRY! And it was delicious (non-spicy, of course!).

29th January 2024

It was so lovely to talk to you all earlier! Another busy day. It's been my first day at Bhawanipur school today. We arrived shortly after 9:30 and was greeted by the most amazing children and teachers. They had been practising lots of songs and dances for us, and it was lovely to be welcomed with such warmth, including flowers!

The school is in a cemetery (where most of the children live, along with the slums over the road) - it is one singular room, where 40 children learn. The teachers allowed Mr Figg and I to get to know the children a little, through some poems and actions, and then we took the children outside and did some skipping and counting. The children got really good at skipping by the end - they loved it! The children had their lunch at school. They had a sandwich and a banana. Their school day finished at 12:30. 

We then travelled back with the teachers to CRS and had an afternoon of planning together for the week ahead. It was great to see what they teach and how they teach it. We came up with some ideas of what we are going to teach and how we will work together. 

After saying goodbye to the teachers for the day, we headed out to visit Mother House, where Mother Teresa lived and died. Taking photos wasn't allowed inside, but this is the house from the outside. When we went in, I expected it to be quiet and peaceful. However, the street it is on is extremely loud! We went to visit her tomb (where you can take pictures) and also saw her bedroom and prayer room. The journey there was quite eye-opening. The streets we passed were full of rubbish and the pavements were home to many people. I know someone asked during the call earlier what it is like - I've attached a picture below for you to see for yourself.  

When we got back around 5pm, we went to visit the Bishop, whose house we are staying at. He spoke about the work he does for Kolkata and the diocese. We had a coffee and some cake before we went for dinner at 7pm. 

28th January 2024 - A trip down the Ganges 

Breakfast was at 7:30. It was curry! After breakfast, we headed to Paul's Cathedral for 8:30 for a morning service. The service was traditional and we enjoyed lots of singing! The cathedral is beautiful inside, but unfortunately we couldn't take pictures to show you. After the service, we took a short walk to Victoria Park Memorial. We then got picked up around 11am for our boat trip. The boat took us down the Ganges. 

Tomorrow is a big day - it's our first day in school! I will aim to call you between 10am-11am.


27th January 2924 - Finding our bearings...

Today is our first day in Kolkata - with major jet lag! We travelled from the airport to The Bishop's Inn and arrived around 10am (my time and 4:30am your time). We had breakfast and then everyone went to catch up on some sleep. At 13:30, we went to CRS and Rig (the director of the CRS charity we are working with) gave us a presentation all about the project they run and the impact they have on so many young children and women. It was so inspiring to hear about the amazing work they do for so many. 

After our meeting, we took a bus to Jain Temple. Wow, what a bus journey!!! But you'll be pleased to know, we made it there and back in one piece! The temple was beautiful inside, but we weren't allowed to take any pictures. The outside is just as beautiful though! We arrived back at 18:00, we had tea and then I headed to bed for an early night - to hopefully catch up on lots of missed sleep.


26th January 2024 - The journey begins...

Today is the day! 6am wake up call and journey to Birmingham airport. We arrived at 9:30, checked in, through security, enjoyed a cup of tea and now boarded the aeroplane ready to take off. We have a 7 hour flight to Dubai and then another 4 and a half hours to Kolkata. 

On 26th January 2024 Miss Lindley (and Mr Figg from Stanton) will be travelling to Kolkata, India to visit Bhowanipore Cemetery School. They will be spending 10 days in Kolkata supporting the teachers and pupils in the school. This project is important for our pupils at Rowsley as it provides them with experiences of another culture, as well as learning about the similarities and differences between these pupils in India and us. Whilst Miss Lindley is away we will be live streaming with her as much as we can so that our pupils can listen to what she has been up to and ask her questions. Check back here for updates!