Day 3 – together at last!

The full team was reunited as after a delay on the flight the remaining team members arrived early in the morning. Met at the airport by Isaac they arrived at the YMCA in time for breakfast.

What followed was then a packed, busy and enjoyable day. The schedule first of all took us to meet staff members at Oasis, as we introduced ourselves and Mat explained to the team the work that Oasis does in Chennai.

A brief meeting with the General Secretary at YMCA was followed by a trip to Kottivakkum, the site of the destitute home. A brief description from Isaac and Rob of the various activities they have on site (School, sports, working women’s hostel, destitute home), preceded an introductory session to the Boys at the destitute home. Isaac and Rob led songs and silliness introduce our team to the Boys. There was a lot of energy spent and a lot of fun had. It is always wonderful to see how simple things (Isaac and Rob?) can give such joy.  At the end a cup of tea was gratefully received!

After dinner a well earned rest was taken.

Throughout the day Shawndell stayed at the YMCA as she was slightly unwell, and Oli had a trip to the doctors with an ear infection! Hopefully nothing too serious

Caitlin’s view:

 The third was when things truly got exciting! After the whole team had been reunited and warmly greeted by both the Oasis team and the YMCA General Secretary, we prepared for our first trip to Kottivakkum. We were all very excited for this trip but I don’t think any of us were prepared for how crazy, fun, heart-warming and extremely hot it would be! A ridiculous game of ‘Where’s Andy?’ left the boys in fits of laughter as Rob and Isaac tried to decipher which small Indian boy could possibly be missing team member Andy! The team then finished the day with a well-deserved meal, topped with lots of very sugary ice cream and milkshake.

Parsana’s view:

The day I arrived at 8am! A very long flight but it is fine we finally arrived woohoo! It was a very productive and extremely tiring day; no time for rest but that was fine. We met the Oasis team in the morning, we found out about all the amazing work they do for the community. At this point I knew how worthwhile this trip is going to be, the team greeted us with a rose each which was very lovely. After this we met the general secretary of YMCA who also greeted us with kind words.

In the afternoon we took a trip to boy’s town to meet the destitute boys, the highlight of the day. I was amazed by how happy the boys were and how fun and meaningful that visit was. My emotions were all over the place at this point, I was really excited to meet the boys. We saw the previous work Chennai challenge had done for the destitute boys including building toilets. We played a lot of games with the boys including the name game and yes they all remembered my name by the end, woohoo!

Day 2 – Different experiences

On the second day of this year’s project we had a slightly different experience. Those who had been left behind with visas issues found to great relief that a visa had been granted, and so they could travel. So they travelled! Catching the same flight, just a day later.

Those who had travelled were welcomed by Isaac and had a time of ‘orientation’ as they spent the day doing a variety of things for the first time: crossing the road on the busy Indian streets, eating masala dosa, riding in Auto rickshaws. Here is what some team members thought of it:

Caitlin’s view:

 Our first day in India was highly different to what any of us were expecting! Our concern at having our project leader stuck in the UK was greatly eased by Isaac’s wisdom and we were quickly distracted by crazy colours and chaos of Indian streets (even early in the morning)! After a quick recharge at the YMCA hostel, we were took out into the streets of Chennai for the first time – this was a relatively terrifying experience to begin with but with Isaac’s help we quickly got used to it and safely made our way to our first Indian meal which everyone enjoyed much more than expected. Our second day in India was filled with chaos, colour and adventure and left the team feeling overwhelmed but very excited for what was to come.

Janeena’s view:

As we all touched down into Chennai airport I could sense the excitement and enthusiasm among us of the volunteers, despite our tiring journey . The first thing that hit us all as we arrived at the airport was the Indian heat and of the course the hectic crowds of local people. It was early hours of the morning and the roads and streets were full of local traders opening up their businesses. After arriving at the YMCA hostel and having a few hours to quickly recover, we ventured out to a local restaurant to tuck into our first south Indian style lunch- this was definitely mouth-watering! The following day, we were all reunited with our remaining team members who were slightly delayed. Both teams gathered together to discuss their plan of actions for the next few weeks on project, and we both cannot wait to get the ground running.

DSC_0031

Day 1 – Which would have been fine

Today was the first day of the 2017Chennai Challenge project, and can be summed up with “It would have been fine but..”.

So we were to all to meet at Heathrow between 10.00 and 10.30am, which would have been fine but then we had a couple of team members delayed by 45 minutes. This was a slight inconvenience and put the post security – pre flight meal at risk, but we could cope, time was allowed for in the schedule.

So off we went to check in, which would have been fine but due to a misunderstanding some of the team members had not printed the correct bit for the visa. The fabulous BA staff were really helpful and got us access to a printer, so we could sort this problem out.

This would have been fine but, there was another problem with a visa. Even though it had ‘granted’ printed on it, the passport number did not match the passport, oh no! A single missing digit caused a large amount of stress, tears and change to happen. A solution was found, reapply for the visa and travel tomorrow. Rob can stay as well, Sammi can lead the team and Isaac will meet them in Chennai and guide them for a day.

This would have been fine but, with all the shenanigans the rest of the team now had 6 minutes to get through security and on to the flight! Again the great work of BA staff got them rushed through security, moments after they thought no one was getting on at all.

This would have been fine but, two of the team members had to go back at some point for a bag and DID miss the flight! Now they were trapped past security and had to wait to be escorted back through arrivals.

So now, it is fine, we just have a different start – 6 team members are in flight on the way to Chennai, and tomorrow 4 more will join them, having spent a night in a Heathrow hotel. All the way through the British Airways staff were fantastic, helpful and professional, I cannot praise them enough!

Certainly a challenging start, but hopefully that is our drama over for the trip?

 Thanks for reading,

Rob

 

The last day

Where has 3 weeks gone?! I can’t believe it has come around already, what an experience it has been.

In the morning, the team split up into different groups. Rob, Emma and Chloe went to Kottivakkam School to donate a range of resources to support the children’s learning including English books which will help them with their English lessons. Afterwards, they went to various shops to by notebooks, stationary and medicines for the Boys who live in the destitute home. Whilst they were there, one of the jobs left for the team was to buy gifts for the boys for their gift bags, so we went shopping in Saravana Stores (craziest shop ever).

Then the final evening came (something we all were dreading!). All of us had dressed in our Indian wear ready to celebrate our last night with the boys all except Emma who had, had a request to wear a shirt and jeans. After a loooooongbus journey (which felt like a lifetime), we had arrived at Boys Town and made our way to the hall. We were greeted with a huge roar of happy children- it was amazing! Each and every one of them were so happy to see us, and we were just as happy to see them (just not as loud ;)).

Firstly, we sat the boys down and spoke to them about how lovely it had been getting to know them. We expressed how much we have grown to love every one of them and that we will remember so many happy memories we have shared together. We then gave out gifts, books and resources to them individually – it felt amazing to give them gifts.

After our little ceremony, the boys sat on the floor ready for dinner. Chennai Challenge always pay for the boys to have a tasty meal on the last day and we got to serve them! We then joined them and enjoyed our last meal around these amazing boys.

Once we had finished the huge portion of food for dinner, we were asked by the boys to perform a dance. Luckily, we had already got a performance ready to show and it was all systems go(once we got the speaker to work haha!). After that we had to say our goodbyes – it was hard but it felt good to end our trip on a high.

I felt lots of emotions on the last day as I was really looking forward to see my family and friends and tell them all about the amazing work we have done. ButI also felt sad to be leaving such a beautiful place and the inspiring adults and children we have grown close bonds with over the past 3 weeks. I feel that I have got a new perspective of life, that by helping others through our kind and loving actions in turn helps us achieve happiness. Even though some of the people only had little to live off, they were so happy to welcome our team like a family and shower us with small tokens of gratitude, which made me think about our culture back home…would I do the same? This trip has made my year and I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone.

Thanks for reading, Rachelx