Abbey CBS, Tipperary.




Providence School, Shillong.



Motto 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.

                                                                  Scott Adams.



In 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 mornings.

How did the Project in 2012 work out?


 In their own words:




“In TY we had many meetings about this Project. Now that I look back, they really helped me to understand the various aspects of it.”

“I felt a lot more confident about the teaching aspect because of all the lunchtimes and Saturday mornings that we spent in preparation.”

“It 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.”

“At 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”.

“The night before we left I was nervous but also excited. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was feeling”.



The 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 of  St Marys which to be our residence for the first two nights.


“When I first walked out of the airport in Calcutta, it really hit me that this is where it all begins”.

“The heat, the lines of yellow taxis and all the vibrant colours everywhere you looked”.

“Once 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”.

“The smells were the biggest thing that struck me – some alright and some others horrible. The sight of incredible was there for everyone to see”

“My 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”.





We spent a some time walking in Calcutta and using various modes of transport and observing life on the streets.

“There 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”.

“People 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”.

“People 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”.

“People living, working and sleeping where we were walking. It was unbelievable”.

“There is always something going on; something bright usually –flower markets, curry powder. Seeing these distract you from the poverty”.



Mother 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.

“It’s 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”.

“The museum in Motherhouse gave us a further insight into her life. Being able to stand beside Mother Teresa’s tomb was unbelievable”.

“There 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”.

“It really struck me, seeing what was on the streets just before, what a brave woman she was”.



On 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.

“Walking 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”.

“These 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 doing”.

“A 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”.




It 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.


“When I 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”.

“When 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”.

“It was an odd feeling to be expected by people who didn’t know your name”.

 “We 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 school”.





On 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.

“The 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”.

“The opening ceremony was nice as we were greeted with hand-made necklaces”.

“The first thing that struck me was how all the kids called you ‘Sir’. Even people older than you called you ‘Sir’”.

“These children who knew nothing about us were glad to have us there”.



At 10.30 on that Mon morning, the first groups from Class 4 arrived. Would all the planning and preparation be effective?


“On 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 to say”.

“I 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”.

“The first day of my teaching was a nervous one but also exciting”.

“For 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?”

“The kids were totally relaxed. They just wanted to learn. I was the babbling mess”.

“It 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 work”.



Each 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.

During 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”.

“It 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 to him”.

“The 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”.



We have much to learn from the outlook and attitudes of the children of Providence. They have a winning way in spite of their material shortcomings.


“From 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”.

“In 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 lives”.

“Their attitudes, friendly nature and work ethic are simply amazing”.

“The 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”.

“The 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 effort”.

“Outside the classroom they are mad for our attention and wanting us to play with them –chasing, skoi (dodge-ball) or marbles”.

“The 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”.




Novelty can wear off the teaching after the first few days. Then, commitment is called for and plenty of preparation

“It 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”.

“Sometimes, you cannot prepare enough especially with the higher classes. They go through 35 mins worth in 15 mins”.

“I found that there’s a great sense of satisfaction at the end of each day where I could say ‘They learnt something’”

“The teaching has brought out a different side of me. Every morning I looked forward to meeting the kids and facing the challenge again”.

“At 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”.

“Tough 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 in confidence”

“After my experience of teaching, I now know that it is not easy. The teachers here in Providence do an outstanding job”.

“I felt much better when the teachers said that they had the same problems with some students as I did”.


The 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 taking part.

“From 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 blues”.

“The 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”.





On 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 were welcome.

“Visiting 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”.

“The first 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 two rooms”.

“Uphill 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”.

“The parents always made us feel at home when we visited, insisting that we sit down and relax”.

“Some 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”.

“The kids are only too happy to bring you into their homes and meet their families”.



Br 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 Indian.

“He 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”.

“As 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”.

“From what I saw, all he does is give and give”.

“Finally 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”.

“At 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”.



We 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.

“I found that every Brother that I met was so calm and understanding. In Dum Dum they were teaching and the 

“Meeting 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 opposite”.

“I had never come across Brothers before I came to India. I could really see how dedicated they were to God and to helping other people”.

“These 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 freeflowing”


Friday 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.

“In the morning we had our final classes with the students and they presented lovely cards. I thought this was so kind and thoughtful”.

“It 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”.

“They had entertainment for us. I was amazed at the talent the kids have. It was so emotional”.

“When we 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”

“The 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”.

“Arriving 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”.

“The 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”.





Was it all worth the effort? Would you recommend it to others?


“I 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”.

“On this Project I have seen new things, felt things that I never felt before, met new amazing people and formed new friendships”.

“I’ve 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”.

“I 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”.