Shónagh Smith Team Thoughtshop 2018

This summer I had the absolute privilege of traveling to India and working with the most incredible people I have ever met.

On the 21st of June, myself and 8 other volunteers landed in the very hot, very humid & very busy Kolkata.

After meeting our fab coordinator at the airport, we got our first real glimpse of the city & a bus ride I'll never forget to our new home.

Nervous but excited?
The locals were so incredibly welcoming, kind and helpful. It wasn't long until we started to call Kolkata home.

We had the absolute honour in working with the incredible Thoughtshop Foundation.

They're a non-profit, social communication organisation. They work hard to motivate, educate and initiate change in communities in and around Kolkata. They tackle social issues such as gender inequality, child labour, trafficking, reproductive health and school enrolment to name a few.

In these communities, there are Youth Resource Cells (YRC's). These are run by the most inspiring, motivating youth mentors. Most of which, are our age. The work they do for Thoughtshop, their community, their families and alongside their own education is nothing short of incredible.

Our mentors; Archana, Nilam, Lucy, Suman, Sangita, Susmita and Moumita to name but a few, became some of our best friends over the program. They taught us so much more than we could've ever taught them.

Myself and my amazing teaching partner Katie had two VERY energetic YRC's.

Youth Voice was just one massive ball of energy, they definitely tested our stamina trying to keep up with them. I've never met children so engaging & eager to learn. We split the class in two because of the huge range of abilities and ages! I taught the 2-8 year olds and Katie had the 8-19 year olds.
Drishtikon was our more rural placement. It took us about two hours to get there but we were always greeted with children running to meet us off the auto with flowers and a fight over who was going to hold our hands on the walk back. We had two classes here, all of the children were aged between 7-18 years old. Their energy was insane. They had a passion for dancing and definitely put our 1,2,3's to shame.
The views from the rooftop where we taught one of our Drishtikon classes in the beautiful Narayanpur.

Along side the ABC's, phonics, nouns and verbs, there was plenty of time for games, LOTS of songs and countless dances.

Towards the end of the placement we had some very special, very memorable days with our YRC's.

We brought Youth Voice to Science City on a school trip. The bus journey, the dinosaur ride, the aquarium... the excitement on their faces is something I will never ever forget.
With our more rural YRC we had a sports day with football, bubbles and face-paint!

Lots and lots of face-paint....

Possibly the scariest lions you'll ever see.
We spent Independence day with both our YRC's. We attended a flag raising ceremony in the morning and then our mentors dressed us in traditional Saris that evening. We were so honored to be included in their celebrations!

Every few weeks, a group volunteers from our team got the opportunity to travel to the Sundarbans to teach in one of the extremely rural YRC's, Swapno.

After half a day on various modes of transport, we arrived in the very beautiful and very sunny Namkhana.

We stayed in our mentors home, giving us the unique opportunity to experience what living with an Indian family was like.

It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The children were so excited and eager to learn. Its very rare that they ever get volunteers because of how rural they are!

It wasn't all work though, after class you would come home to a house full of people just as energetic and wild as the kids you just left.

Team Thoughtshop. The most amazing, incredibly genuine, hilarious, inspiring, bunch that I had the absolute privilege of living with for 8 weeks.

Not to forget competitive..
"So what if I pray like a girl, flower deser, niether male or female. all are onein child" - Garihat et al. 2018

It isn't everyday you get the opportunity to travel around India with a group of amazing people like that.

During our days off we made friends at the local nightclub, visited a 'monkey temple', did some escape rooms, flew to Delhi and did a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and OF course saw Mamma Mia 2. On our last weekend, just after the placement was over, we all flew to Jaipur & visited some Elephants before half the team went home.

The rest of us stayed on to travel for two weeks. I would 100% recommend it if its an option for you! It was a brilliant opportunity to explore other cultures and traditions in India

Our first of many over-night, interesting train journeys.
Delhi - Agra- Jaipur - Jodhpur - Udaipur - Mumbai - Goa

Not forgetting meeting some new interesting friends along the way..

Saying goodbye to Chai Man, Thoughtshop, our YRC's, Vanilla Woods and Kolkata was one of the most difficult things I have ever done but we were assured by all of our mentors that it wasn't a goodbye just a see you later!

This summer has been by far the best thing I have ever done, no words, pictures or videos could ever completely sum it up. If you have ever thought about volunteering abroad definitely apply with SUAS. You've got nothing to lose but everything to gain in doing so!

10/10 would recommend to a friend xo

Created By
ShOnagh Smith

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