We were all very pleased to have had a well-deserved, long sleep after the couple of hours we got the night before, so were feeling much more refreshed to begin the day. As a group we met for breakfast in the hostel at 8.30, trying what they had on offer at the buffet-style breakfast – some Indian food but also cornflakes and bread with jam (which will be good when we don’t quite fancy spicy food at 8.30…). A team meeting then began shortly after at 9 where we discussed the plan for the day, the team were particularly excited about heading to boy’s town in the afternoon. Emma then gave her ‘thought for the day’, which is something done every day whilst in Chennai, each day a different person will be given this task. Emma talked about the challenges that we will face whilst participating in Chennai Challenge, we were then made to write down a challenge we wish to complete whilst we are in India. These challenges were put in a hat and each person then picked one out the hat. We now have the aim to complete not only our own challenge, but also someone else’s that we picked out the hat. For the newbies the challenges are much different than those that have been coming for a few years. One was to get an auto for less than 60 Rupees (the price we have been aiming for on some regular journeys), another was to lead a session at boy’s town. Whilst on the trip we will be putting up the challenges onto the wall of knowledge when we have completed them – the wall of knowledge is something we have created in Rob and Ewan’s room, with lots of information on that we should be aware of.
At around 10 we left the hostel and began walking to the Oasis head office, a very hot half an hour walk but a great experience to see more of the lively, busy city (especially for those who are experiencing Chennai for the first time). We were warmly welcomed into the Oasis head office, meeting all the various people who are working there. Oasis is a NGO (Non-Government Organisation) which focuses on empowering and developing communities in need. In Chennai they have a variety of different sessions that they run, we will be helping at, and in some cases leading, some of these sessions whilst we are here. They have football with takes place in the mornings for boys, sessions for under 12s, under 15s and also there is a league that they compete in for those over 15. For the last 15 minutes of each session they focus on life skills, where they each get given a snack and drink. They have recently given the boys complete football kits, this was particularly important as lots previously were playing in day to day clothes and shoes. Also, the leaders of the football discussed how it helped give them a sense of pride to be a part of something, as well as helping with their commitment. Other programmes they discussed were teaching English (something we are going to help with) and a tailoring course. The tailoring course can lead onto a tailoring enterprise scheme; it gives the women a chance for employment at a good wage – similar to fair trade that we are very familiar with back home. They have been making shoulder bags, laptop bags and clothes, which lots of the Chennai Challenge team are very keen to purchase (they have a Facebook page called Madras Fuse if anyone wants to take a look, and perhaps you could contact someone on the Chennai Challenge team to buy you one). The meeting with Oasis was really interesting and good to see what we are able to get involved in during the next few weeks. I think some are more excited for 6am football than others…
On the way back from Oasis, we grabbed lunch (samosas and snacks) and ate it at the hostel. We quickly changed into our Chennai Challenge t-shirts and got on the bus to head to boy’s town in Kotivakkam, the excitement levels were very high at this point. As we arrived we heard a few of the team member’s names be shouted who had visited before and it was obvious the boys were very excited to see the Chennai Challenge team. We met with Edwin who is head of the Kotivakkam school who talked about the school and what goes on, which is where the boys who live at the YMCA attend school. After that, we visited various classrooms getting a brilliant greeting from all the children. We then visited the building which the boys all stay in, heading to the roof to get a view of the whole site where Isaac explained the future plans for the site. It was then time to meet all the boys, those who have been previously were particularly excited to see some of the boys from past years. We had a very fun session with the boys, firstly introducing ourselves, singing a few songs and then playing a few games. It was an exciting few hours in an extremely hot room, so we were exhausted by the end.
We went back to Hotel Raaj Bhavan for dinner and then it was time to do a bit of shopping ready for Independence Day (15th). The girls spent a rather long time picking out a Chudidar (some even bought two) and were each measured to have them fitted, ready to collect to wear on Monday Whilst the guys headed to the Saravana store, a shopping experience that was very confusing but one they seemed to enjoy. It was then past 11 by the time the team got back and everyone was certainly ready for bed.
Thank you for reading my first blog for Chennai Challenge,