During the Christmas holidays, a group of 21 Oundle pupils led by Spanish teacher Richard Charters visited India to spend time at Loyola School in Karnataka, a school for the Dalits, also known as ‘the Untouchables’ of the Indian caste system. Loyola School was constructed between 2006 and 2008 and is run by the Jesuits, supported by UK-based charities such as Supporting Dalit Children.
The intention of the trip was to build relations between Oundle and Loyola School and to raise money for new projects. Before travelling to India the pupils had been asked to raise £250 each for the school. Many pupils surpassed this figure with their fundraising events. Sarah Boyle (16) and Molly May Keston (16) organised a Concert for a Cause in September. Annabelle Lee (17) organised an afternoon tea classical concert and Thomas Lambton (16) spent 12 hours broadcasting on the school’s OSCAR radio in November.
Richard said: “The group took part in the school sports day and Balamela (a day of fun activities for rural village children). Some pupils spent time helping Slovakian doctors with their clinics in the villages. Under the expert tutelage of Oundle art teacher Mike Case, the pupils painted a huge mural of animals for one of the primary classes.”
The highlight for many of the Oundle pupils was experiencing the joy and happiness of children who had so little. Many felt that it put their own lives in context and gave them a different perspective on the issues they experienced at home. Being so close to Christmas, many felt that they had felt the true spirit of Christmas in the friendship of the Indian pupils and said that the experience had touched them greatly.
Pupil Jemima Burgess (17) said: “The sense of community within the school and villages greatly touched me. Neighbours rely heavily on each other and are like family.” Pupil Harriet Pymont (16) added: “The incredible work of the mission has enabled the Dalits to have aspirations and dreams. I was struck by their generosity and the warmness of their welcome and humbled that despite the simplicity of their lives how content they seemed to be.” Pupil George Elliot (16) said: “A highlight for me was the cricket match we organised – England v India – which resulted in a draw and brought us all close together in a bonding experience which was hugely enjoyable.”
The director of Loyola School, Father Francis D’Souza, commented: “The group’s presence at the school helped to raise the ambitions of the Indian children and break down barriers as well as re-energise our efforts to serve the Dalits and other deprived sectors of society.”
Richard hopes to run another trip in December 2016 and in the meantime Mike Case is collecting pictures from the trip which he hopes to publish as part of an official picture book that will be available to purchase and also used as part of a small exhibition.
Richard concluded: “The India trip proved a great success, with pupils reacting fantastically to the challenges of living in rural India. They shared experiences and laughter with many Indian children at Loyola school in Karnataka, breaking down barriers and coming away with new friends.”