06 Jan 2017

CAS Trip to India

Reflection by Ana Margarida

"Despite the wide range of activities and feelings I had the opportunity to experience in this past week in India; visiting, teaching, playing with and getting to know the children in the serepa school was undoubtedly the most rewarding and fulfilling day I spent here. The serepa school is located in a poor, rural village in Agra. As you approach the school walking through the streets you see extreme poverty, houses made solely out of natural resources, animals and people clearly suffering from malnutrition and various other contrasts to our regular life in Foz. However, in the midst of these contrasts lies the most important aspect of a persons life: happiness. As I walked with trainers and comfortable clothes through the village I passed by children bare foot with a strap of clothes. The children had dirt in their feet and dust in their face and the biggest smiles I have ever seen. When we entered the school, I was able to explore this new world in a greater depth.

The children only had two classrooms, two teachers, two boards, a small place to play outside and rugs. They didn't even have chairs or tables or a playground and still they were so happy, so grateful, so excited to see us come to them. They were so happy to know we were there for them, so grateful to be able to learn from us, so excited to play our games and sing our songs! It was a whole new world, not of poverty or decay, but a world of happiness and pure, genuine, untainted gratefulness and hope. I saw more hope beneath the eyes of children who have suffered more than most of us ever will in our lives, than I have ever seen in Foz at OBS in the last 13 years. Foz is a privileged, calm, rich both in resources and landscapes area in Porto. OBS is recognized as the best school in Porto with many resources and different opportunities to offer to the students. However, we are much more unhappy in the prestigious, calm lives we lead than the students in the serepa school who know nothing else outside their little, simple, chaotic universe.

This is the main lesson and comparison I have taken from this trip and is the most significant one I could have ever learnt. It is a lesson I hope to learn constantly and carry out throughout my life”.

"The digital divide and equality of access in India vs Portugal", by Rui and Filipe

IT has not developed at the same rate for everybody in all parts of the world, even within individual countries there are often groups or individuals who lack access to technology or services such as the internet. Often this is for economic reasons, IT and its related services are often expensive to buy and maintain, however lack of literacy and language skills, a lack of training or a lack of basic resources such as electricity may also cause problems and create a digital divide between the IT rich and the IT poor. Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don't or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet.

In our trip to India we’ve experienced a big difference regarding the IT access and digital divide between Agra and Porto. During our volunteering we could only use Wi-Fi in the airport, hotels and rarely in restaurants; however in Portugal the majority of the times everywhere Wi-Fi is available. In Agra the experience of extreme poverty was priceless, nothing compared to reading or hearing about it from Portugal until you really go there, and really understand how lucky and fortunate we are.

Where we visited there was a large digital divide, where our modern smart phones and laptops contrasted with their basic phones and poor internet access. On the other hand we didn’t go to the Silicon Valley of India (Bangalore) where the most advanced technology globally as it is known as the "IT City”. The city is based on a concentration of firms specialising in research and development, electronics and software production. The nickname was based on the Silicon Valley in San Francisco as it represents the major hub for information technology companies in the United States.

Overall the computer and internet access in Europe is almost universal and there is very little digital divide, but in India places like Agra often have poor internet connections while Bangalore is the IT City where computer access is readily available. So there is a large digital divide in India and inequality of access.

Friday 13th January 2017

This morning, Form 11 headed to the Sepera Primary School, a highly deprived school. They planned various activities and lessons for the children at the school. The children were fully excited with our visit and really enjoyed it. Our visit to the school attracted a lot of locals. We felt extremely humbled when we saw the smile in their faces, it was a very rewarding experience which we would love to go back and do it again and bring even for excitement to the children. In the afternoon we also visited Mother Teresa's Missionaries for charity where we interacted with very young orphans and female handicapped adults. We finnished the day off by visiting the marble factory where we got to see how they worked the marble, we did some shopping and we even got to do our own marble coasters.


Today, the day started bright and early with a long trip across Agra to the Elephant Care Center, where most of us enjoyed the long 6km walk with the peaceful giants, and cleaning their enclosures. We also had the unique experience of feeding them their 50kg of food. During the warm afternoon we had our "bodybuilder" mindset and carried heavy loads of sugarcanes.

During dusk we re-visited the Sepera village and witnessed the rehabilitation program of snake charmers first hand. We listened to their wonderful music and danced the special snake dance alongside the wonderful humble children of the village we grew fond of.


Today we started our day with a visit to Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Then we had our last activities with the elephants, taking them for a walk and feeding them. Tomorrow we head back to Delhi to catch our flight back to Portugal. 

Tuesday 10th January 2017

Today we got in contact with the rescued sloth bears. We managed to clean their ponds, feed them and clean their cages. In every activity, we brought ourselves together and worked efficiently and united as a team. It was a tiring and exhausting day but a great start to our service as it embodied team work, overcoming challenges, and most importantly helping others and the wildlife.


Monday 9th January 2017

We traveled to Agra by bus where we will spend most of our days volunteering. We had a tour on the Wildlife SOS facilities, the organization we are collaborating with. We are not only learning about the rescued animals, such as the sloth bears and elephants, but are also learning about how Wildlife SOS is rehabilitating the Kalandar Community.


We are about to head out to the city and we are all looking forward to it. Everyone has had some sort of sleep after our late arrival last night.

We have just landed at New Delhi. After a long queue at passport control we are now eagerly waiting for the bus to go to the hotel and get a good night's sleep.

Friday 5th January 2017

We had a good journey so far and everyone is very excited. 
The temperature here in Frankfurt is -6°C and we have used this time at the airport to grab something eat and rest. We are all looking forward to landing in Delhi and we will update as soon as we do.
Here is a photo of us at the airport.