Saturday 3rd February 2024
Our final day in Kolkata. Today has been special. We arranged a sports days for the children within the non-formal schools.
Behind St. Paul’s Cathedral is a grassed area - often used for weddings and celebration ceremonies. We were able to use it today for our activities.
Together, the 10 English teachers and I planned 6 different sporting activities for the children to engage in: sack races, egg and spoon, skipping, parachute games, tug of war and bowling.
Miss Lindley and I spent most of our morning with the children from Bhowanipore, spending around 20-30 mins on each different activity.
We had a break to allow to children to eat and watch our planned entertainment - a ventriloquist (who also included several magic tricks into his routine).
Seeing the children laugh and enjoy their morning was a fitting way to end our time in Kolkata. All week, we have been greeted with smiles, generosity and love.
Despite only being here for a short period, it was difficult saying goodbye to the teachers and children. Kolkata is a special place and the people here are incredible. 🖤
We leave the hotel at 5am tomorrow and travel to Kolkata airport for our flight home.
Egg and spoon
Parachute - most hadn't seen these before
Their wonderful headteacher (Jayasree is now 84)
Tug of war
Enjoying the ventriloquist and lunch
Together as one
Friday 2nd February 2024
Today was brilliant. We spent the day in school at Bhawanipore.
First, the children completed their preposition flashbacks (yes - I’ve tried to introduce the idea of revisiting prior learning), before learning about the present tense, using ‘is’, 'am' and ‘are’. Again, they were amazing!!!
Miss Lindley and I then were asked to sit and watch some of their dancing, which they’d clearly spent a long time rehearsing. It was incredible - I think we should try and learn some Indian-style dances at Stanton.
Once the children had finished dancing, we taught them the ‘continents song’. We then showed them where each continent was on the map and helped them to label it.
At the end of the day, I managed to meet many of the parents as they arrived to collect their children. This was nice as it meant I could tell them how special their children were.
This was our last day at Bhowanipore, and I was sad to leave. Thankfully, we have arranged a sports day for all of the schools to attend tomorrow. I cannot wait for that.
Teaching here is so much fun
One of their textbooks
Working extremely hard
A happy day
Thursday 1st February 2024
It was lovely to spend the day back at Bhowanipore today. The children and teachers gave us a warm welcome, and we wasted no time getting started. First we made the friendship bracelets, and then we used your recorded messages (which I had saved on our school iPad) to help teach the children some basic phrases in English. This meant that they were able to answer many of your questions - I’m looking forward to showing you their answers next week. We also made time for some skipping and colouring - which the children enjoyed.
After school, there was still time for us to visit one of the other CRS projects. We travelled to the school at Brace Bridge (one of the most deprived areas of Kolkata).
It is frightening how little these people have, yet they continue to amaze me with their kindness and generosity. When in the heart of the Brace Bridge community, I was offered food and water on countless occasions.
Lots of fun at Bhowanipore today
Thechildren were busy making your friendship bracelets
A warm welcome and goodbye from Brace Bridge
These boys were cheeky - just like many of you!
It's hard to imagine living here. We are very lucky.
Wednesday 31st January
The CRS don’t only support schools in the heart of Kolkata, they also reach out to children and women in more rural areas.
Today we visited Geonkhali. We set off early on our 3-hour journey out of the city and reached Geonkhali just after 10am.
Although 3 hours seems like a long time to be on a bus, the time flew by as there was so much to look at. Seeing the landscape change the further we travelled away from Kolkata was fascinating. I hope the photographs and videos help to show the many things we drove past on our journey.
Once we reached the outskirts of the village, the roads were too narrow for our bus, so locals took us on their rickshaws.
We were blessed with another warm welcome and first entered their church where the school children danced and read poems.
We then headed to the women’s empowerment building - a small room with fans on the ceiling and several sowing machines on tables. It was here where we met the ladies who were currently developing their embroidery and tapestry skills. They all told us their stories and were kind enough to show us their portfolios, which were all full of fantastic examples of the work they had produced.
Their work is funded and supported by the Cathedral Relief Service (CRS) and enables women and girls from this remote area of India to access some form of formal training. They are all working towards their diploma, and - once passed - will have a qualification that we allow them to earn money to support their independence. It was inspiring to see so many already doing that - making uniforms that were being sent to surrounding villages.
I told the ladies how inspiring they were and that I couldn’t wait to tell their story to you all back home. I am very much looking forward to doing that in person next week.
Next, we visited the school. The building is used to support the local children who are finding education particularly difficult. Classes are held in the evenings (once normal school has finished). The extra support that these children are getting is helping them to catch-up and increasing their chances of employment in the future.
We were treated to a lovely meal. I felt guilty for eating, as they had clearly gone to an awful lot of trouble to prepare it. The people there have so little but were willing to give so much today. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to visit, and I owe it to them and you to ensure you understand their story.
I’m back at Bhowanipore Cemetery School tomorrow and already cannot wait to see the children again. I’ve prepared the wool so that they can make you friendship bracelets to accompany the letters they wrote for you on Tuesday.
Houses on the outskirts of Kolkata
How great is this lorry!
One of the many vehicles seen driving down the motorway
A warm welcome inside the church
Women from the village with their incredible portfolios
Children at their school in Geohali
Incredible artwork from the school
Travelling at high speeds down the motorway!
Tuesday 30th January 2024
Back in school today.
After a chance to meet the children and also sit with the teachers and prepare some lessons yesterday, it was nice to turn up today with a plan.
At Bhowanipore, they like to start each day with prayer, followed by singing. All of the children and teachers did this together.
Like us at Stanton, Bhowanipore Cemetery School has 3 classes. After the prayers and singing, the children sat in their age-groups.
Unlike Stanton, Bhowanipore only has 1 classroom, so the children sat in different parts of the same room. Their first task was to begin writing their letters to you all back home. I was extremely impressed with their handwriting.
After writing their letters, I worked with one class and we looked at prepositions. It was impressive to see how quickly they picked things up. The prepositions we focused on were: on, in, over, under, below and into. By the end of the lesson, they could all write sentences using these words.
Whilst I was busy looking at prepositions, Miss Lindley worked alongside another class and focused on sentence structure.
At lunch, the children sat on the floor in their classroom and ate their lunch - two slices of white bread and a bowl of milk.
It was great to speak to you all at school today and I hope you enjoyed the walk through Kolkata with me this morning - thank you for helping me cross the road and find people to give my food parcels to.
Learning about the prepositions: in, on, over, below, under, into and above
Bread and milk for lunch
Miss Lindley working hard
Monday 29th January 2024
Well, today has been simply AMAZING.
After breakfast (omelette, chapati and vegetable curry), we headed straight to the projects, arriving at Bhowanipore Cemetery School just after 9am. We were treated to an incredible welcome - dancing, singing and flowers.
I saw some familiar faces from 4 years ago and was elated (and slightly overwhelmed) by the news that Ravi (the little boy I told you about in Collective Worship) along with many of his classmates have made it into state school and are doing well.
It wasn’t long before they wanted me to teach (despite hoping to watch the teachers from India in action first).
First, I read one of their poems with them - which I found in their English comprehension books. To help them understand the words, I used lots of actions. The poem was all about the wind - so there was lots of huffing, puffing and wavy arms!
We then gave the children your letters and friendship bracelets - they loved them!!! They are looking forward to writing back to you and making friendship bracelets for me to bring home for you all.
Next, we went outside onto the cemetery path and used our large skipping rope. The children loved this and despite finding it difficult at first (I don’t think they have ever done it before), they soon got the hang of it.
The record number of skips was 59 (and they counted them all in English). Try back at school tomorrow lunchtime and let me know if anyone beats it.
After skipping, we went back inside the classroom for some maths and English.
Once the children had gone home, we then accompanied the teachers from India to a training centre, where we worked together to plan the lessons for the remainder of the week. It was really interesting to hear about their weekly timetable and what subjects they learn. Like us, they learn English, maths, science, history, geography and art.
Having completed all of the planning, there was still time left in the day to visit the Mother House. The house was built by Mother Teresa in 1950. She lived and worked there from 1953 until her death in 1997. Seeing her tomb and reading about all of her incredible work was extremely moving.
Part of the fabulous welcome we received when arriving at school
The children tying their new friendship bracelets
Maths is the same all over the world
Having fun with numbers
Sunday 28th January 2024
Today started with a service at St Paul’s Cathedral. Afterwards, we caught a boat which took us along the River Ganges where I managed to get lots of photos that will help the Year 5s and 6s with their geography topic this term - pollution, wildlife, trade, transport, leisure, religion. You name it, the River Ganges has it! An incredible place.
There was enough time before our evening meal to squeeze a trip around the Queen Victoria memorial gardens - where, as well as the incredible marble architecture, I saw giant bats!
Tomorrow, we finally get to go back to Bhowanipore Cemetery School and meet the children and teachers.
Order of service from St Paul's Cathedral
Locals bathing in the River Ganges
A Ganges tour boat
Vidyasagar Setu. The longest cabled-stayed bridge in India
The Queen Victoria Memorial and Gardens
Saturday 27th January 2024
Wow! Today has been a bit of a blur. Due to the time difference and the two flights, Friday turned into Saturday without us knowing much about it. Kolkata is five and a half hours ahead of Stanton, which meant that somewhere along the way we missed out on sleep.
Once we landed in Kolkata, we were met by our friends from the Cathedral Relief Service (CRS), who kindly took us to our accommodation (which was about a 45 minute coach trip from the airport).
There was time for a quick change and some breakfast (omelette) and then we were back on the (busy) road again, heading for St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The CRS team met us there and we listened to their presentation - it was inspiring to hear about all of the incredible work they are doing to support education, health and women’s empowerment. They also highlighted the importance of our school’s involvement in their project and differences we can make to the ‘poorest of the poor’. I can't wait to go into school on Monday and meet the teachers and children - I'll send you lots of videos!
After the Cathedral, we headed to a Jain Temple. As you’ve probably noticed from the videos I’ve posted - Kolkata is a noisy city(!!). Yet, as you step into the walled gardens surrounding the temple, you are hit with a sense of tranquillity. There’s a calmness in the air and everyone seems to slow down and pay attention to what's around them.
Having only managed 2 hours sleep since 6am on Friday, it’s now time for bed (it’s 7:30pm here in Kolkata - I bet I’ll be asleep before many of you tonight).
Jain Temple - a peaceful place in the heart of Kolkata
St Paul's Cathedral (looking a lot whiter than in 2020 now that it's been painted)
Busy streets of Kolkata
Friday 26th January 2024
Today is the day! 6am wake up call and a journey to Birmingham airport. We arrived at 9:30, checked in, went through security, enjoyed a cup of coffee and have now boarded the aeroplane and are ready for take off. We have a 7 hour flight to Dubai and then another 4 and a half hours to Kolkata.
On 26th January 2024 Mr Figg (and Mrs Lindley from Rowsley) will be travelling to Kolkata, India to visit Bhowanipore Cemetery School. They will be spending 10 days in Kolkata supporting the teachers and pupils in the school. This project is important for our pupils at Stanton as it provides them with experiences of another culture, as well as learning about the similarities and differences between these pupils in India and us. Whilst Mr Figg is away we will be live-streaming with him as much as we can so that our pupils can listen to what he has been up to and ask him questions. Check back here for updates from Mr Figg!