Day 5: Independence Day

Day 5: Independence Day
A day of independence for India and a day of being the guests of honour for the Chennai Challenge team. In the morning we split into 3 groups- this is so the team could attend as many YMCAs as we could; celebrating this important day with them. I was in a team of four which included myself, Rob, Chloe and Debbie. We left at 7am wearing our handmade chuddidars- feeling very excited. I really didn`t know what we were walking into however I was looking forward to seeing the children and was curious about how the morning was going to go.
We arrived at Boys Town to be greeted by one of the secretaries Anand, and then by the Chair of Kottivakkam YMCA. We had a brief discussion about the work that has been done and the projects they are considering to undertake to improve the education and well being of the children that attend the school and those who live on the site. As we were talking, it was lovely to hear how the members of the YMCA cared about these projects. Potentially building a new flood-proof school could prevent damage to equipment and homes of the boys. It was encouraging to hear how grateful they were for the projects Chennai Challenge has previously supported them with. I was amazed at the amount of support and work undertaken by Chennai Challenge in previous years and could see how beneficial it was and the difference it makes to the boys and YMCA staff.
First, we attended the flag hoist at the Boys home. We were eagerly greeted by the children plus members of staff. The children looked so smart and happy, they wore all white uniform that had a pinned flag to their shirt. During the speech, Edwin (Secretary of Kotivakkam branch) spoke about the good work of others (I think but it was in Tamil so I might be wrong!) and mentioned the Chennai Challenge team. After this the children sang the Indian national anthem. All the children sang with pride…they were very loud! The flag was hoisted up, then everybody made a pledge.
Next, we were led to the YMCA Women`s Hostel to again celebrate Independence day with them. Edwin made a speech about the work of the hostel. Once again the national anthem was sung, flag hoisted and the pledge was made. The group of ladies who were at the ceremony were very happy to be there with huge smiles on their faces while they sang. Finally we walked over for the last ceremony: the school.
As we were walking along side the school walls, we could see that the children’s play area had been decorated with bunting and all of the children were dressed in white. We walked into the school to be bombarded with smiley, excited, and loud children ready for the ceremony. Once again, there was a pledge, speeches and the anthem before the flag hoisting. Finally we were lead to the school hall where we were placed on stage in front of everyone. It was as if we were celebrities. For a few minutes we sat unaware of what was going to happen. This can happen a lot in India… Nothing can be guaranteed ;). Then came the dances, drama as well as presentations. Our team members were presented with gorgeous shawls followed by a huge cheer from the children. It was incredible.
Finally came breakfast; we were given a small breakfast tiffin selection which concerned me slightly as I have not been a fan of the spicy food however was presently surprised when I tried the idly… which apparently team members didn`t rate.
The other team members enjoyed a similar experience and a brave Suzanne even made a speech. It was a fantastic morning which is definitely a highlight of the project so far.
The afternoon for the team was a busy planning, preparing and resourcing one before yet again more food!
Rachel

P.S. Rob has asked us (Myself, Chloe and Emma) to choreograph a dance for the campfire… exciting!!! I wonder what we will come up with?

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