March 29, 2012 was the day I stepped onto a plane to India. It would be thirty three hours from the time we left Salt Lake City to reach the little village of Banjar in Himachal Pradesh, India. The village is North of India’s capitol New Delhi in the Himalayan Mountains. The travel was exhausting but well worth it. I felt so nervous but excited at the same time. It was nothing like I had expected, the grounds of Delhi were covered with trash, families walked on the side of the dirt roads next to elephants and camels. We drove two hours from Delhi and settled into our campsite.
â–º SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Our expedition team was broken into three smaller groups and assigned to one school. I was placed in the school farthest from camp. It required driving about five to ten minutes through the Himalayan Mountains, then a mile hike uphill to the school. The kids became more outgoing everyday and we began to fall in love with all of them. I taught them the English words with flash cards and then played games that required them to use the words in English. We played games, sang songs and danced with the kids. We did not even speak the same language, but I have never had a stronger connection with anyone.
We bought things like chalkboards, bookshelves, rugs and school supplies. We also purchased many of the children new shoes and jackets. We had one doctor with us that rotated through the schools doing health exams. Since he could not do everything himself, we were trained to do certain exams and would report any questionable things we saw.
The last day in our schools was bittersweet. We lined the kids up outside of the Kindergarten classroom and brought them in by twos. As they came in we gave them a bag filled with the things we had collected for them. Each child received an education kit, a hygiene kit, a stuffed animal, candy and the things we bought to fill their personal needs. As the kids left the room, my friend and I put penny necklaces around each of their necks and showed them that we had the same necklace. I put a necklace around each one of their necks and held back tears as they looked up at me with their big beautiful brown eyes.
After everything was distributed, I stepped outside and saw that everyone was crying just like I was. I walked over to the kids and gave them all a big hug and told them that I loved them. It broke my heart to see their eyes filled with tears. I was dreading the moment that we had to leave. I told myself I had to be strong and show them that everything would be alright. Walking down the trail, we could still hear the kids yelling goodbye. I turned around to see them all lined up at the top of the hill waving and crying as they watched us leave.
This was the best experience I have ever had. These people live such simple lives, yet they are the happiest people I have ever seen. Even though I was there to teach them, they taught me so much more. I appreciate everything I have so much more than I ever have. This experience has changed my life in a way I never would have imagined. Serving others has never been so important to me and these are memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.