Two days ago Team A had their last day in Chennai. The day began with a great thought for the day by Catlin in which she explained why she came on project and encouraged the team by reminding us that God has amazing plans for everyone. We all then explained our reasons for coming and not surprisingly many reasons included at lot of nagging from Cathy!!
Then team A and B split for preparation time for project programmes. Team A’s being the last programme at boys town. Whilst this was happening Rob, Yemma and ZamZam went to change money. As it was Sunday the usual money exchanger was shut. So we stood discussing our options, until a friendly Auto driver came and said he would take us to a place he knew. This then ended up as a 2hr hunt for a money exchanger. We seemed to go round in circles until we finally found a place. It then took 40 minutes to change the checks! The best part was when we got back to the YMCA and Rob gave the amount he thought was right for our drive and the driver turned to myself saying’ You know Tamil, tell him!’. How funny!
Team A then went for the last time to boys town and completed a great final programme of musical bumps, relay races, pin the tail on the donkey and a boys town banner. John, an older boy, taught me to write my name in Tamil, which impressed the other boys when I showed them. As we said goodbye, I turned around and saw Flo in floods of tears and a group of boys around her. I too found it really hard to say goodbye to the boys especially because they were pulling my arms and saying ‘no, you stay here, no England’, also a few of the older boys who I have got to know over the last two years in my Yellow team (Yelligiri) won’t be there next year. But being the machine I am, I dealt with this without tears, however by the time we were on the bus, Flo, Charlotte, Ellie and Barney were all in tears. This is part of the project that people who come find difficult, especially because they don’t realise how emotional this can be. We spend so much time with the boys and form great relationships, it is really hard to then say goodbye.
That evening we enjoyed a final meal with the leaders and Team B. Back at the YMCA we said our goodbyes to them, this time ZamZam joined in the tears with Flo. I found this really strange knowing that we would be going home yet the project hadn’t finished. It wasn’t a feeling I had expected to feel but I suppose it is because I am missing the fact that we won’t see the final meal with the boys or saying goodbye to Oasis and YMCA staff. Also I bonded with team B better than I expected to.
4am – Departure day
Charlotte and Ellie being the 16/17 yr old teenagers they are, needed to be woken up at 4:10am because they had not got up. So bleary eyed we departed for the airport. We checked in smoothly, got through security with no issues and sat for our ‘Thought for the day’ brought to us by Yemma. We discussed reverse culture shock and our thoughts about the project. 40 minutes later we were still discussing our thoughts and feelings, when we realised that we would need to be getting ready for boarding. Nick and Barney went to check the board and came back with bad news, our flight was delayed by an hour! At this point I began explaining the fact that we only had 2 and 1/2 hours to get our next plane which was now 1 and 1/2 hours, however this was still enough time. So we sat and played UNO where Nick beat us all and Yemma got her worst score of India this year!
9:30am – Boarding
We finally boarded our plane for Delhi yet our take off was another 30 minutes later. This meant we had to board our next flight in just an hour! Argh!! The team spent this plane journey sleeping and not worrying about the connecting flight.
12:30pm – Delhi Airport
We got to Delhi with 55 minutes to go. We ran off the plane and began our rush to the international flights. Flo, at this point, related our experience to a movie, she is so great! Whilst running I realised how big Delhi airport is – it took a good 10-15 minutes to get to the international flights section. We then had to fill in forms for immigration and get checked. This we did individually sending a pregnant Sarah first. The airport staff were also concerned that we got our flight and were supportive throughout the experience pointing us in the right direction. Once I was through, an airport supervisor told me that gate 3 was quite far and we would have to move fast. I followed Sarah and Flo through and got to security where the guard wanted to make pleasant conversation and thought I was a sportswoman! (Later I found out that he thought Nick was also a sportsman but a wrestler!)
1:20pm – Boarding about to close
Sarah, Flo and I got to the gate just in time. Being a good group leader I sent both to the plane and waited for the rest of the team. One airport supervisor came and supported me in my waiting asking about where I had been and was very interested in the project. Next to be seen running through the crowds were ZamZam, Charlotte and Ellie who I directed to the gate. Yes they were on the plane. The supervisor and myself were very concerned about the last two, Nick and Barney, so we began a very quick walk back to the security section. Suddenly we saw Nick and Barney running towards us and we were finally able to board the plane!
1:45pm – On the plane home
We did it – we were on the plane ready for the 8 hr journey back to England!
6:35pm – England
We arrived safe and sound. Saying goodbye was hard but we all vowed to keep in touch.
The Chennai Challenge project enables you to meet a wide range of people who you would possible never talk to in your normal life. Then you spend nearly 3 weeks with them 24/7 and you end up feeling like family. There is always someone to support you, laugh with, moan with and sometimes just sit with! Personally I love this part of the project, I love the team aspect as well as the feeling that you have made a difference to people’s lives.