INDIA: One Year On

It’s been a year since I travelled to India with Stepping Stones Ministries to stay at their Children’s home in West Bengal and I think it’s about time I share the final story that I never told! Coincidentally, a few days ago I saw Richard, our team leader and founder of Stepping Stones. Richard had just returned from a trip to India to officially open the new girls’ home which was under construction while we were there last year, so I can also update you on what Stepping Stones have been doing in the last year!

Our final few days in India were mainly spent in Jharkhand, the poorest state in India, where we visited some remote villages and gave a health workshop to young mothers. The day we visited the village for the health workshop and accidentally gatecrashed a wedding turned out to be my favourite day of the entire trip because, even though the villagers were living in extreme poverty, they were really happy. There was only one man in the village who could speak any English but if there’s one thing I learned from this trip it’s that you don’t need a shared language to be able to communicate. While some members of the team were doing their health workshop with the women of the village, Tom was playing cricket with some of the children using a piece of wood and a mango seed and Lucy, Anna and I were having a dance lesson with the older girls. I wrote about this in more detail in a post last year but since it’s my favourite memory and ties in with the end of the trip I couldn’t resist mentioning it again – you can read more about the trip to Jharkhand in this previous blog post: http://bit.ly/2mI2Qwg.

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When we returned from Jharkhand, we only had one full day left to spend with the children at Bethel House and our wonderful hosts definitely made it a day for us all to remember. We spent the morning playing games with the children and they drew pictures and made cards for us to take home, there was a buzz in the air about a ‘secret’ event that the adults were planning for later in the afternoon.

The big event of the afternoon was a Holi ‘Festival of Colours’ party and water fight which was a real treat for the children and a fun cultural experience for us! Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated at the end of winter and the day of playing with colours is for partying and enjoyment. Our final day in India fell at the beginning of April and Bethel House is a Christian children’s home, so we weren’t actually celebrating the festival of Holi but rather embracing the enjoyment and celebration of the ‘Festival of Colours’ and experiencing part of Indian culture.

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The colour party turned water fight turned mud fight started with throwing the Holi paint and painting it on each other. It’s described as paint but it’s a coloured powder that has a chalky consistency once on your skin. The paint we had was a deep red and a vibrant bright green which looked beautiful captured in the air in photos but turned into a fake tan gone wrong shade of brown on the skin by the time we had finished and it had been mixed with water. Once the majority of paint had been thrown, the water balloons which the children had been filling up earlier that afternoon were released and the paint fight, which started out as just a little messy, got even messier. When the water balloons had all been thrown we then resorted to filling up buckets and water bottles and throwing water over each other which created a plentiful supply of mud around the outdoor water pump! By the time we were finished, everyone was incredibly muddy, soggy and covered in paint! We had been reassured that the brightly coloured powder would wash off easily but, especially when mixed with water and mud, it didn’t come off our very pale skin quite as easily as the children’s dark skin, I still had a green ear when I arrived home and the paint had permanently dyed Julie’s blonde hair red on one side!

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This time last year Stepping Stones were in the middle of a building project to build a new Bethany Home for the girls as they had been living in rented accommodation which they were rapidly outgrowing. When we left they were making good progress, the walls had grown a good few feet and ground floor was starting to take shape. They were hoping that the building would be finished a few months later in August 2016. One year on and Bethany Home is finally finished, the girls have moved in and are enjoying their new home. Due to running out of money (the charity were fundraising during the build) and building projects inevitably encountering hiccups along the way the building has only recently been completed and the girls were able to move in at the beginning of this year. Stepping Stones will now be able to take in up to twenty-three more disadvantaged and vulnerable girls in the new much bigger building and they have great ideas of more projects for the future.

You can read all of my India blog posts here: https://couragenerugitpastoujours.wordpress.com/category/india/

Find out more about the charity Stepping Stones and the work they do here: http://www.steppingstonesuk.org/

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