for Abbey India Project 2012
There is no such thing as a
small act of kindness.
Every act sends out ripples
with no logical end.
Feb 2012, the team for Abbey India Project was selected and
preparation started immediately. It involved examining the
vision of Edmund Rice and Mother Teresa and other relevant
material. It involved fundraising and after August we started
planning for the teaching aspect at lunchtime and on Saturday
did the Project in 2012 work out?
TY we had many meetings about this Project. Now that I look back,
they really helped me to understand the various aspects of it.”
felt a lot more confident about the teaching aspect because of all
the lunchtimes and Saturday mornings that we spent in
really began to sink in when we started planning for the teaching.
As the time for going came closer, the nerves of what I had
involved myself in really began to sink in.”
4 days to go, I packed, unpacked, packed again. I was full of
anticipation, sadness at leaving, nerves and excitement. It was
more impatience than anything”.
“In the days leading up to departure, I felt increasingly
apprehensive and nervous about taking on such a giant leap and
travelling so far away”.
night before we left I was nervous but also excited. I wasn’t
exactly sure how I was feeling”.
AIRPORT TO ST MARYS, DUM DUM.
30 minute journey from the airport to St Marys, Dum Dum is the
first glimpse of India. It creates an immediate impression from
the taxis outside the airport to the space inside the gates
Marys which to be our residence for the first two nights.
I first walked out of the airport in Calcutta, it really hit me
that this is where it all begins”.
heat, the lines of yellow taxis and all the vibrant colours
everywhere you looked”.
out of the airport the heat and the smells really struck me. The
driver told me ‘Don’t lean on the door’. Out on the road I
was shocked and also scared by the way that they drove. Continuous
blowing of horns, people everywhere, cars pulling out –
everything seemed chaotic”.
smells were the biggest thing that struck me – some alright and
some others horrible. The sight of incredible was there for
everyone to see”
first impression of Calcutta was a loud busy city – horns and
traffic whizzing by madly; people on the sides of roads cutting up
fish and slaughtering chickens; small shops and all selling the
same things; people all getting on with their lives as if nothing
was out of the ordinary”.
spent a some time walking in Calcutta and using various modes of
transport and observing life on the streets.
were people everywhere –people selling items at various stalls,
shops etc. I was surprised by the amount of businesses in the
city. The sights and the smells are ones that no picture or words
could describe. You need to be there to witness it”.
were everywhere; there was hardly space to move. I found the sheer
numbers of babies, children, people and elderly people sleeping
rough very distressing and I felt useless”.
just had a little stall and were trying to make a living. I found
it very sad to see people sleeping on the streets and trying not
to walk over anyone”.
living, working and sleeping where we were walking. It was
is always something going on; something bright usually –flower
markets, curry powder. Seeing these distract you from the
Teresa’s tomb is in Motherhouse and a place of pilgrimage. We
arrived there, viewed her simple room, visited the museum, prayed
at her plain tomb and attended the Mass for volunteers.
right beside a busy street. You can hear the traffic but at the
same time it’s blocked out by the peacefulness of the place”.
museum in Motherhouse gave us a further insight into her life.
Being able to stand beside Mother Teresa’s tomb was
is such a feeling of serenity and love there that it has to rub
off on you. In the museum you saw many things, but what sticks out
for me was the water bucket that Mother Teresa used to stay in
touch with poverty”.
really struck me, seeing what was on the streets just before, what
a brave woman she was”.
Saturday we arrived at the Home for the Dying in Kalighat. Jim
Maginnis spoke quietly to us about the people there and asked us
to meet them.
into the building and seeing first hand people who really have
nothing and nobody. Yet here they are being treated with respect
and with dignity”.
are people who have nothing and no one. We walked around and met
the sick men. We were told to smile at them because they had seen
enough sadness, but smiling was the last thing I felt like
sister (Missionary of Charity) told us that many people here when
offered housing by them, they turn it down in favour of the lives
they live on the streets with drugs. This shocked me”.
took a full day to transfer from Calcutta to Shillong – 1 hour
by plane and 4 hours by jeep up to a height of 5000 feet. Darkness
had fallen by the time Br Steve, some kids and teachers of
Providence welcomed us.
saw the gates of St Edmunds I started to shake with nerves. There
were some of the children and some of the teachers there to
welcome us. It felt weird being called ‘Sir’ by students that
I had just met”.
we got to Shillong, the kids greeted us, they were so kind and
wanted to carry everything for us. It really boosted my confidence
for the teaching”.
was an odd feeling to be expected by people who didn’t know your
met Br Steve and I got the impression that he was a good,
hardworking man who really wanted the best for the kids and the
Monday morning, Nov 5, we met all the kids of Providence. There
were bound to be nerves…into the unknown. But their welcome
softened the shock.
night before, I didn’t sleep well… excitement, apprehension,
cluelessness…. Who knows? The first assembly was a shock. We
were presented with sparkling garlands and went to our trades”.
opening ceremony was nice as we were greeted with hand-made
first thing that struck me was how all the kids called you
‘Sir’. Even people older than you called you ‘Sir’”.
children who knew nothing about us were glad to have us there”.
10.30 on that Mon morning, the first groups from Class 4 arrived.
Would all the planning and preparation be effective?
the first morning of teaching I was the most nervous that I have
ever been. I remember feeling so awkward when I ran out of things
started with Class 4. It went well. I had a lot prepared so I
wasn’t too nervous. I was amazed to see how eager all the kids
were to learn”.
first day of my teaching was a nervous one but also exciting”.
each class, I had either not enough work prepared or it was too
easy for them. I definitely did panic wondering was I speaking at
the right pace for them and was my writing readable?”
kids were totally relaxed. They just wanted to learn. I was the
was nerve racking. I didn’t know what to expect or what to
prepare. As the classes started I relaxed a bit more. I got on
with it. The children made it easy they were so cheerful and
willing to learn”.
“I was really nervous and apprehensive about
that first morning. I think the kids were looking forward to the
change because they were so enthusiastic and willing to do the
morning from 8.30 till 10.15 the older students in Providence
teach one of their trades on a one-to-one basis. We were expected
to be able to produce items in candlemaking, rexene, bagmaking,
confectioery, savoury cooking, papermaking or screenprinting
within the two weeks.
the tour around the trades I really noticed the quality of the
goods they made. I remember a small boy of 5 or 6 using a massive
knife that I wouldn’t dream of using myself”.
was nice to see how self-dependent all the kids were and how the
school was teaching them skills that they could later use in life.
While in the trades, the Providence student is boss and I listen
choice of trades in Providence is amazing. They improvise and
waste nothing. When I started I made lots of mistakes, but I
improved –slowly but surely”.
KIDS IN PROVIDENCE
have much to learn from the outlook and attitudes of the children
of Providence. They have a winning way in spite of their material
the outset, I found that every child was pleasant, friendly and
polite. Because they are so nice, it makes me want to do my very
best for them in each class”.
class most are so eager to learn that their personality falls by
the wayside especially in the higher classes. But kids at play are
so different. You see a whole person – competitive, chatty,
outgoing and active. It was hard to hear about some of their
attitudes, friendly nature and work ethic are simply amazing”.
first thing I noticed about them is that they are very polite and
very respectful. They have massive respect for each other, which
you wouldn’t see at home”.
kids in Providence are unbelievable. They’re truly remarkable.
They’re so polite and nice. They can have so little but be so
happy. It’s hard to understand what keeps them going. They have
so much energy and spirit that I want to give them my very best
the classroom they are mad for our attention and wanting us to
play with them –chasing, skoi (dodge-ball) or marbles”.
attitude each of them have towards their educationis unbelievable
– this was proven when we visited their homes and saw the
distance they travel to school and their attitude in school”.
OVER THE TWO WEEKS.
can wear off the teaching after the first few days. Then,
commitment is called for and plenty of preparation
is very tiring work with all of the preparation and then execution
in a manner that each child can grasp. Every child in each class
has different abilities and that must be taken into account”.
you cannot prepare enough especially with the higher classes. They
go through 35 mins worth in 15 mins”.
found that there’s a great sense of satisfaction at the end of
each day where I could say ‘They learnt something’”
teaching has brought out a different side of me. Every morning I
looked forward to meeting the kids and facing the challenge
the start of the Project I was very nervous about teaching. But as
the days passed I began to feel more relaxed and found it easier.
Some classes were harder than others”.
work. It’s tiring work from planning the night before to putting
the plan into action. It’s exhausting, but worthwhile when you
start seeing them starting to understand and smiling and growing
my experience of teaching, I now know that it is not easy. The
teachers here in Providence do an outstanding job”.
felt much better when the teachers said that they had the same
problems with some students as I did”.
weekend was to recover and build up energy for the second week. On
Saturday we went to Shillong Peak, to a rural picnic park and to
Elephant falls. Sunday was predominated by the massive procession
of the Blessed Sacrament in Shillong with over 100,000 people
the Peak, Shillong just sprawled from hill to hill and spilling
into the valleys. It wasn’t the dull grey of other cities but
green trees dotted everywhere splashed with reds, yellows and
weekend was a great way to recharge after a full week of teaching.
On Sunday we attended Mass in the cathedral and later joined the
Brothers in the Procession. I have never seen anything like it. I
never realised how much religion meant to the people here”.
“The countryside is beautiful – conifer
trees and streams. A truly magical place. I got to see more of the
countryside, not just its cities. On Sunday we went to the
Eucharistic procession with over 100,000 people there. Religion
means so much these people”.
a number of days we travelled home wirth the kids…sometimes a
long walk on rough ground. Each evening we visited 4 or 5 homes
and met the mothers usually. Language was aproblem but we knew we
the homes of the children is an experience that will live with me
forever. The distance to Providence is huge and everyday they walk
to and from school”.
day we walked for over an hour to the kids’ homes – and they
were the close ones. I remember one house had nine people in just
and downhill in flip-flops or sandals. It’s tough going. One
house had a room with 5 beds in it. Another home had big gaps in
the walls where you could see out”.
parents always made us feel at home when we visited, insisting
that we sit down and relax”.
of them had no front doors. They were sometimes living in one big
open room. It made me feel selfish having my own room just for
sleeping. They have the whole family living, eating and sleeping
in one room”.
kids are only too happy to bring you into their homes and meet
Steve is the powerhouse behind Providence. (He also teaches
full-time in St Edmunds). He does make a definite impression on
all who come in contact with him, student or teacher, Irish or
is a very modest man and does his work without looking for
publicity. This is what I find most admirable because it shows
that his reasons for doing this great work are so genuine”.
the days went by, I grew to like him. He has a great sense of
humour. He really cares about the children in Providence. He’s
always joking and interacting with them”.
I saw, all he does is give and give”.
meeting the man we had heard so much about. Seeing him with the
kids at school you can see that he has a great deal of passion for
the work he does and love for the children he works with”.
the start when I first met Br Steve, I must admit I was a bit
scared when he told us that we would make mistakes etc. As the
days went by, I saw him in a different light – he was so
friendly towards all the kids playing with them and joking about.
I feel without Br Steve, Providence School would not be the same.
He is genuinely all about the kids and puts them first”.
resided in the Scholasticate where 10 Brothers live – 8 of them
studying in adjacent St Edmunds College. Our paths crossed and for
most it was the first time meeting Christian Brothers.
found that every Brother that I met was so calm and understanding.
In Dum Dum they were teaching and the
them really helped me to see the real work behind the life of a
Christian Brother. I thought that they (young Brothers in the
Schol) would be quiet and shy, but they were the complete
had never come across Brothers before I came to India. I could
really see how dedicated they were to God and to helping other
Brothers were one of the things that shocked me when we arrived
here. They are all so down to earth”.
“With the Brothers in the Schol (in their
twenties) I didn’t expect the conversation to be so
Nov 16 was our last day in Providence. Classes were shortened to
facilitate an entertainment programme in the afternoon and a final
farewell. It was a day of talent and of emotion.
the morning we had our final classes with the students and they
presented lovely cards. I thought this was so kind and
really got emotional when the kids came up to say their final
goodbyes. It made me really feel special that I had made a
difference in their lives”.
had entertainment for us. I was amazed at the talent the kids
have. It was so emotional”.
went up to the school that afternoon to see the send-off that the
kids had prepared for us, my heart melted like butter…hearing
all the songs with the meaningful lyrics and the poetry. It was
all so amazing. Then the hardest part came when we had to say
goodbye to each and every student. It would take a heart of stone
not to have cried”
hall was transformed from a communal classroom to a ceremonial
hall…like a catterpillar into a butterfly. You know
something’s going to get you when you’re in bits before the
first song is over”.
back up in the school and seeing the whole place transformed and
full with kids, it hit me ‘This is over, We are leaving’ I
began to get emotional immediately. The show that the kids put on
for us was unreal with real talent. Everything was perfect even
the song choices”.
goodbyes were tough. It was hard to fight back tears; you just had
to let them out. It’s amazing how attached you get to people
that you only know for two weeks. Really emotional”.
it all worth the effort? Would you recommend it to others?
think it’s too early to judge if it has changed my life but I
hope I have changed some of theirs. People going forward for the
Project need to be open-minded, patient and have perseverance”.
this Project I have seen new things, felt things that I never felt
before, met new amazing people and formed new friendships”.
never felt so proud of anything I’ve ever done. A big statement
but the only words I can think of to sum it up. All the
preparation during lunches and at weekends is a must. If we
didn’t have we would’ve been lost”.
would say it was the most worthwhile thing I have done in my life.
Now, I have a real sense of satisfaction. I would really recommend
it to people who are interested. It is so worth the effort but
there is a nice bit of work involved”.