Testimonial from

Last summer I took part in a life-changing experience; one which will stay with me forever. Throughout my time studying GCSE geography I became increasingly interested in concerns regarding development. Our topic focussed on measurements governments had taken at both a regional and national scale. The case study regarding Kerala stood out of the multiple case studies Kerala stood out the most as being the most efficient and strategic, for example introducing social benefits in order the curb the population growth. Whilst researching opportunities for volunteering abroad; I came across Global Vision International. Around this time I read an article that had been published in the Daily Telegraph on the topic of opportunities for teens during the summer holidays. One of these focussed on disaster relief in the Himalayas, organised by GVI. After researching I discovered the wide range of experiences that GVI has to offer. Once I found out that Kerala was one of the many trips on offer I decided to contact GVI and find out some first-hand information. GVI were very friendly and helpful, providing plentiful advice and information about the volunteering work I would be participating in during my visit to Kerala. Shortly after this, I secured my place on the trip and began booking flights. My first week abroad consisted of volunteering in Raksha, a local school for children with special needs located within Fort Kochi. Throughout this time we stayed at a homestay where we were kindly catered for by a lovely couple who provided a homely and friendly environment. We began our volunteering work at the school a couple of days after our arrival and planned to create a Sensory Garden for the children many of whom suffered from a sensory disability. Our aim was for the garden to consist of a vegetable patch allowing the school to grow their own vegetables and herbs which they could then use in cooking their own school meals. We also began to design a mosaic and a mural which we planned to paint onto an empty grey wall, creating a splash of colour. Many of the children became intrigued with the work we doing and happily joined in. On one afternoon a young boy discovered what fun it was to break up tiles for the mosaic. His face lit up each time he managed to break up the tiles into smaller and smaller pieces. During my time at Raksha I had the opportunity to meet some of the younger children. I was fascinated how each child had developed their own way of learning. For example, one little boy would place all the flashing toys underneath the trampoline and then lie on top and watch them. I loved every minute of volunteering at Raksha and taking part in the project. I found that interacting with the children and working alongside the staff made me feel as if we had really made a difference. Our evenings usually involved an activity of some sort, for example learning a few phrases in Malayalam (the local language) or learning to cook a traditional meal. The language class was certainly challenging as Malayalam is one of the most difficult languages in the world but it was good fun. I learnt how to cook an amazing traditional Keralan meal during the cooking class and I now cook it regularly for my family. During my second week we travelled 146 km north to Wayanad, a district in Kerala, well renowned for its rolling hills surrounded by tea plantations. We spent five days trekking beneath a blanket of lush green rainforests. This endless, luscious glow of vegetation provided an extreme contrast to the urban sprawl of Fort Kochi and was one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Prior to my trip to India, I had recently participated in Ten Tors, an annual event that takes place on Dartmoor, a local national park. During this event approximately four hundred teams of teenagers trek over 35 miles of moorland over a two day period carrying all their equipment. I found that this experience contributed greatly towards days of trekking in Wayanad. Whilst trekking across this green sea of tea plantations and rainforest we had the opportunity to visit a small tribe of indigenous people living in the depths of this tropical forest. All of the children were very shy and hid from us almost immediately but we had chance to talk to one of the tribesman via our guide who translated for the man. The tribesman was nearly one hundred but didn’t look a day over fifty. Our guide explained how the man had lived his whole life away from civilisation surviving on only unprocessed food and hunting only when required, never consuming more than necessary or drinking alcohol. On another occasion after several days trekking across Wayanad, we spent the night on a family owned banana plantation. Their home was beautiful, built in a traditional style, and hundreds of years old. The family had an entire room dedicated to their family God where a ceremony had recently taken place. This shrine was filled with golden statues and numerous paintings of the God and a candle would always be burning. The whole family took part in this ritual. First, the man of house would light some incense before placing some food in the room for the deceased family spirits to eat. Next, each member of the family would eat a piece of the food. The belief is that by sharing this food the family would maintain their bonds forever. Global Vision International helped me every step of the way from the planning stages of my trip right up to the end ensuring my time in India was both enjoyable and memorable. I learnt so much about the country, the people who live there, their customs and traditions. Spending time with the families and the children at the school helped me gain a true perspective of my life back here in England. I have made lasting friendships with the people I met during my trip to India and would like to plan to go on another trip with GVI to one of their other many locations around the world at some point in the near future.

-