Making a Difference
Making a Difference is a wonderful opportunity for recent past Wesley pupils. The College is seeking to support of 2019 or 2020, or past pupils who completed 6th Year in the College in the years 2015-2018. This support will comprise a financial contribution towards their endeavour to enable them to undertake their making a difference project. Check out the application form here. Have a read of some of the projects that the 175 Making a Difference has helped out over recent months.
Simon Jennings - Morocco
My trip to Morocco started with me waiting in line in the immigration hall at Fes airport hoping I had filled in my entrance form correctly. As it turned out I hadn’t - I had left the address blank. I reasoned that since I didn’t know the address of the place, how could I possibly be expected to write it down. Eventually, I made it through and met up with Cindy (one of the house parents from the orphanage) and a couple of the younger children. We went to their car and set off towards the orphanage which was an hour’s drive away in the mid-Atlas mountains. During the drive, the kids were chatting away to me so I didn’t get much chance to take in my surroundings!! Finally, we arrived at the orphanage which was to be my home for the next 19 days. The first few days passed in a blur of card games, entertaining the younger kids and settling into the apartment I had been given. At some point during the first days I ended up giving some of the children piano lessons, although I have no idea how to teach the piano!!! I also did Sunday School with them which I had prepared for!
While I was there, the project the orphanage was running in the village was in full swing. The house of a family had been destroyed in a flood some weeks earlier and the orphanage was providing them with a home on the campus while the house was rebuilt, financial aid and workers to build the house. The house was nearing completion during my stay - they were pouring concrete on the roof and the downstairs walls needed plastering.
One day, the youngest child, Nora, brought a friend from the village, Melek, to play. As it happened Melek didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Arabic, so I smiled at her. Then Nora and I showed her the baby frogs we had caught earlier. Melek had a very sweet smile so you can imagine my surprise when I saw her smiling for the first time as she attempted to crush one of the baby frogs under the boot of a smiling mechanic doll. She failed, if that is any consolation, and moved on to other things like trying to catch chicks and trying to get me to do things for her. The only problems with that were: we didn’t speak the same language and Mas it was during reading time we couldn’t make any noise, so communication was limited to frantically pointing at different things and acting out what was wished for. That time it turned out she wanted a cup of water.
Every evening I organised what can best be described as stealth games, but rarely ever just plain hide and seek. Anyway, we went and hid while attempting to complete the goal of the game. One evening, a group of us found a marvellous spot to hide (which later turned out to be out of bounds). It was working well until two of the boys (Rayane and Zak) decided to leave. We told them not to come back if they left. They left and you’d never guess but they came back, bringing with them a squad of people who were “on” so everyone in the hiding spot was caught and the secret was out. Another time I went to hide, and Nora and her friend Melek wanted to hide with me. I agreed and then we found a marvellous place to hide. Some time went by and no one had found us. Nora then suggested she would be a lookout and tell me if anyone was coming. It didn’t take long and someone came (I wonder why?) so we ran for it, but the little girls couldn’t run fast enough so I threw them over my shoulder and sprinted to safety. Another time a similar thing happened but we didn’t make it. That time it was all my fault!
One day a few of the kids and I decided to build a treehouse (a house under a tree). Rayane collected wood while the rest of us cleared the area. We hammered the poles into the ground and joined planks between them creating a fenced off area. Then we put blankets on the ground and the treehouse was complete (but improvements were always taking place). Rayane even made a gate for the treehouse, which worked most of the time. Not long after, the creators of the treehouse formed “The Society”. “The Society” was dedicated to raising money for the orphanage and its interests. We held meetings in the treehouse and as a result of the meeting decided we would hold a bracelet sale. During the first day of the society we raised 10 dirhams and the next day raised even more. We made signs and someone even came up with a chant. “HELP THE SOCIETY, HELP THE SOCIETY!”. As you can see everyone was very enthusiastic about the society. I don’t know if the society still functions and has remained true to its founding ideas, but it was definitely good fun while I was there, and in case you are wondering, I witnessed them donate the money they raised, so they did not keep it for themselves.
Quite often, during the times I wasn’t doing anything with the kids we would go on walks. These were very enjoyable and very long. On the first walk we ended up walking through the forest and then saw some apes. They got very close, then one of them grabbed an empty crisp bag from one of the kids, only to be disappointed by the contents. Later, during the same walk, Anwar started falling behind and so I fell back with him. As it turned out we became very late for lunch, so they sent out the van to bring us back. Oops.
Tuesday was Souk (market) day, so early in the morning a few of us (including some of the locals) got into an ancient van which smelt like sheep and goats and drove down the hill to the market. It was huge, with stalls almost as far as the eye could see. All sorts of things were being sold: freshly slaughtered chickens, exhausts and starter motors, hand woven rugs and blankets, fresh vegetables, cutlery, pots, pans, plates and bowls and even a huge section for livestock. Our first job was to buy some melon, so Mehdi led us past many stalls with perfectly fine-looking melons until we arrived at a trusted supplier, who cut each of us off a piece to try. It was good so we bought one of his melons. Then we dropped the skin of the melon we had tried on the ground, which was apparently what everyone did, and continued on our way. After making a few other purchases we passed through the livestock market, which was huge because the feast Eid al-Adha would be happening soon so many people needed to buy sheep to sacrifice.
Fast forward to the feast, and people from the village of all ages had gathered in various places to watch the sheep being sacrificed. It was a big occasion for the people in the village and someone even brought out mint tea and cakes to accompany the spectacle. Where I was two sheep were slaughtered. Later that day, someone from the village dropped round a bag full of sheep parts to the orphanage. Unfortunately, I was returning to Ireland so didn’t get to taste any!!
My plane home was early in the morning two days after the Feast. I left, telling the kids truthfully that I would love to return soon. I loved the time I spent in Morocco and it was even better that I was able to go as a part of Wesley 175. As a result, a huge contribution was made to the orphanage and to the family whose house was destroyed in the floods. As for me, I was able to make a difference in the lives of the children by spending time playing games with them, talking with them and perhaps even teaching them. I would certainly encourage anyone who is thinking of doing something similar to go ahead - the memories and experiences will stick around.
Ilona Liechtenstein - India
I have now been living in Pedda Kottala, a village in South-eastern India, for nearly a month. On Sunday I will be taking the night train to Vijayawada, 320km north of here and a big city. It will be such a different experience living in a big city instead of a rural village surrounded by farms.
I will miss the farmers bringing me fresh buffalo milk in the mornings and the monkeys jumping around the houses stealing unguarded food and even entering the school classrooms when the doors are left open! I will not miss the snakes coming in from the fields, even dangerous Cobras and Pythons, which scare me to death but which the local people bravely fight off with sticks!
I will find it very difficult saying goodbye to everyone here as I have become really close to all the teachers and children over the last month.
The teaching was sometimes exhausting and difficult as some classes had more than 30 pupils making it hard to control them all. The common method here is to beat the loud pupils with a stick but they soon realised I wouldn’t use a stick so they started becoming a bit cheeky, especially the younger children! It was challenging making them understand my lessons as their English was not very good and I can’t speak Telugu. Their school week is also very long with 6 days from 9am until 4pm even for the 6 year olds!
However, I also saw how hard they worked for me. It is great to see that the children here actually want to learn and enjoy coming to school unlike Europeans who constantly express how much they hate school and studying.
It was also good to spend time with the children outside of school on Sundays or in the afternoons and during break-time. While we complain about needing new phones, more Xbox games or new TV shows, the children here build their own kites and toys out of newspaper and rubbish they find. They are so creative in their constant attempts to invent new games.
The Teachers are lovely too and keep inviting me to their houses. In school they always look so beautiful in their bright saris with golden earrings and necklaces, like elegant ladies. This is in sharp contrast to their basic living conditions. Most of the houses I visited consist of 2 tiny rooms: a bedroom containing one bed in which all the family sleep together and sometimes a small TV in a corner and maybe a wardrobe or just piles of sari cloths and books; and a kitchen with an old gas stove and a few old pots and pans. To eat we just sat in a circle on the floor around the pots and eat using our hands (something I found quite difficult at first but then came to learn). Bathrooms are usually tiny sheds outside and they go to the river to wash their clothes.
Even though they live such a simple life they are all so generous offering me everything they have and cooking me the most amazing meals with different rices, chapatis, curries, chutneys and sweets.
Not only did the teachers invite me to their homes, but also some of the pupil’s parents, people from the village, and some of the people I meet at our daily Mass (at 6am every day and the Church is always filled with kids, young and old people). I was even invited to 2 different Hindu marriages, a Bishop’s visit in a nearby town, and Birthday parties too!
The people here keep asking me if I will come back to visit them again and it is so hard not being able to give them a proper answer. I keep telling them that I will try my best and maybe come back after College, but who knows if I will ever be able to return to this tiny remote village again.
I will keep you posted with news when I reach Vijayawada and until then goodbye.