During the holidays, six students from John Pirie Secondary School and eight from Gladstone High School along with two teachers took part in a volunteer program in India through MEtoWE.
We all chose to apply for the program because we believed it would be a life-changing overseas experience to have our first impact on the world. Many of us also applied as we would be able to experience a new culture and immerse ourselves with a lifestyle which differs so greatly from our own.
It pushed us out of our comfort zone through all the activities and daily adventures we participated in. This was shown mostly during the leadership and team-building modules which were often intense, yet they managed to bring us together as a group and bring out the powerful leaders in all of us. Throughout our time in India, we worked on at a local R-12 school where we were breaking ground to build new facilities. We were able to dig out trenches and lay the foundations of new latrines. We were very lucky to immerse ourselves in the rich culture of India. We participated in a range of activities including learning about the caste system where status and respect is based purely on your last name, took part in Hindi lessons, henna workshops, Bollywood dancing and we even visited markets in Udaipur. A highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to dress in traditional attire for the final celebration night; a night none of us will forget.
We had the opportunity to create an action plan that would relate to a problem that we were facing in our community. We chose to focus solely within the school. The intention of our action plan is to focus on potential SACE completers in the next two years to achieve a 95-100 percent completion rate by combating social, racial and educational disadvantages with the use of varying tools. From the short visits to the Anganwadi to the water walks all the way to seeing the differences of living made us realise how fortunate we all are.
The impact it had on each of us was different, but the biggest similarity was knowing that the work we did in just 12 short days would impact the school children and the community forever. We went to India wanting to make a difference in the lives of people who are less fortunate than us; we went away as a group of young people wanting to help and came back as changed global citizens who are even more passionate about being part of the world society we are lucky to be in. Although we left the project to be completed by the next incoming group, we knew that once the facilities are finished it will allow children to attend school safely and would encourage more young people to stay in education and improve their life outcomes immensely.
We made unbreakable friendships, tasted amazing food, immersed ourselves in a culture we now have so much respect for, learnt Hindi, and most important, were able to make a difference to the lives of others.
This experience will be one we all cherish forever and the teachers were so impressed by our resilience, hard work and dedication. Volunteering and travel are the only things that cost money, but make you richer.
- A joint article by the students of Gladstone High School and John Pirie Secondary School: Brooke Cousins, Taylor Robson, Tahlia Chapman, Alice Jackson, Noah Zwar, Lucy Duffield, Rachael Hodgson, Lachie Hansen, Imogen Price, Leah Edwards, O’Reilly Gray, Ethan Nitz, Narumi Prescott, Jessica Phipps, Breeanna Warne.