Immersed in India

For the first time the Alliance of Girls' Schools joined with World Challenge to offer a 21 day expedition to India. St Mary’s College students Lily and Eleanor along with teacher Karen Walter, joined up with Collegiate and Ogilvie students to experience a trip of a lifetime. World Challenge offers expeditions in developing countries where students have the chance to undertake a community project, do a bushwalk and enjoy some recreational activities.

The students flew to Delhi and travelled to northern India where they started a six day trek at the foothills of the Himalayas.  The girls camped in tents but were supported by a group of porters who carried some of the gear and cooked amazing food (and also taught them to make great dahl and chapattis!). The trek passed through rhododendron, pine and oak forest, past small settlements and shrines, reaching an elevation of 2500m at the Kunjukharak Shrine before descending into a more populous farmland area. The views of the Himalayas in the distance were incredible.

The community project was in Choti Haldwini near the Jim Corbett National Park where the group spent five days working and visiting a local school. The team worked in a very poor village where they built a thatched roof for a family using traditional methods. It was rewarding work as they were able to finish the roof, buy and install an irrigation system for the village and build an incinerator. They also brought materials for the local school (much needed stationery and sports equipment) and spent a delightful day playing at the school (feeling like celebrities as they were literally swarmed by school children!). As a thank you the village women ‘hennaed’ the girls’ hands, which was a huge hit.

The last part of the Indian trip involved a lot of travel (think local bus, overnight train, rickshaw, elephant, crazy traffic, honking horns!) to the cities of Rishikesh, Jaipur and Agra. Highlights included a yoga class, attending a massive Hindu festival on the banks of the Ganges to celebrate Gandhi’s birthday and endless market shopping for the girls. Japiur was an incredible city. The team visited many of the historic sites in the old pink city including the momentous Amber Fort. On the last day they travelled to Agra, woken by the ‘call to prayer’, and were inside the Taj Mahal for sunrise. I think the students would strongly agree that it was breathtaking, every part of the building was exquisite.

The students were a credit to the school and showed great courage given the number of challenges they faced in terms of culture, travel and leadership. Not only was it a fantastic travel opportunity, but the students also gained lifetime teamwork and leadership skills as they were involved in planning accommodation, booking buses, making phone calls, (interpreting Hindi!), managing the budget and co-ordinating recreational activities. They also made some lifelong friends with students from other girls’ schools in Hobart.

Karen Walter
Senior Maths and Science Teacher