The Culture & Talent by Raveena

After all the hard work in planning this adventure, despite the extreme heat, minor injuries and a few punctured tyres, we’ve made it! Dare I say, the words ‘trip of a lifetime’ is an understatement.

Over the course of the trip, I could see that there was unity not only in our team, but also in the CARE centres that we visited. There was also determination and a drive to succeed amongst the children and young adults we met, all of whom were undoubtedly appreciative of the support they were receiving through CARE.

On our first full day at Navchetan, we began the day with a dose of exercise and stretching. We formed a large circle in the playground and I begun leading the routine with 9 Rickshawalas but by the end, about 20 children had come to join us. To them, it didn’t matter whether they had a disability or not, they adapted and got involved in whatever way they could. Again their liveliness and concern for their peers was noticeable on our final night in Bhuj during the Sangeet night. It started off with a talented team of musicians from the school singing a few prayers and Garba songs but before long I got up with a couple of the other Rickshawalas to begin doing Garba around the school hall. Again,disability, be it visually impairment or physical handicap, was not a limiting factor for any of the children and they participated by either watching and following their friends, or just dancing around holding our hands. There was such a positive energy and vibe that was created and at that moment I felt so proud of the children and proud to be a part of the CARE community.This shows that having a disability does not and should not be a barrier to living in an integrated society, wherever you are in the world.

10 days later we reached Chandigarh and were fortunate to attend the inauguration of  the official partnership of CAREducation Trust and the Mehar Baba Trust in Bassi Pathana, Fategarh Sahib, Punjab. This partnership is in support of a vocational studies centre for young individuals in the local area where students are provided with english, computing and networking training as well as well as embroidery, stitching and designing work. This in turn gives these students the ability to stand on their own two feet and support their families. In the craftwork centre, each student completes a six month course, learning different types of embroidery stitches, beading and designing, after which they sit an exam to ensure quality of work. The determination to succeed amongst these students was admirable and all the handwork was definitely of a high standard and as a result many of it is sold in a material shop, adjacent to the training centre, generating a source of income. Aarti, Janvi and I had a go at some of the beading and I think we can all easily say that it’s much harder than it looks. This whole process of learning and selling appealed to me because it shows that many ancient practices are still thriving today and are being passed through the generations.

On our way back to Chandigarh,we stopped off at a daily hockey training club for many underprivileged children aged between 5 and 12 in the locality. The discipline of the children was something I’ve never seen before. As the team approached, they lined up, girls on one side and boys on the other and greeted each and every one of us with a handshake and the words ‘ Good Afternoon/Namaste Ma’am/Sir my name is…….Pleased to meet you.’ The kindness and hospitality of the children was so sincere and when they went off to carry on with their training, I quickly realised that their unity within their teams and commitment to the game was the reason why selected students every year were being put forward to be a part of the national team. This I’m sure is welcomed by their proud parents and ongoing support from their peers, especially when these children are excelling in a national sport but sadly with diminishing popularity.

After our final few days of driving Surya, Laila and Basanti, I don’t think I can put into words the overwhelming feeling of completing our journey. I l was lucky enough to do the final drive from our hotel in Manali to the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural School where we were welcomed by an array of smiles and greeted by the students and teachers in the traditional Buddhist style.

The talent of the students was incredible, being a dancer myself I understand how difficult it is to perform many different routines consecutively but these kids did that flawlessly, that too on a rocky uneven ground, it was amazing! I mean I love dancing but these kids would be the ones getting the audience on their feet, not me! It wasn’t long before the music was pumping and we were eager to join them on the dancefloor. I have never seen so many kids so happy to see us and before I knew it I had crowds of them dancing around me and copying my every move! What touched me is that they knew all the words and all the dance moves to every item song in Bollywood, my favourite being ‘Aaj Kal Tere Mere’ from the film Bhramachari which is way before our time! That has to be the best party I have ever been to, shame it had to end but I would love to go and do it all over again!

The following day we went back to the school and some of the older girls taught me traditional Ladakhi & Nepali dances. Those moments of laughter and stories from the girls have given me the motivation to go back again and learn lots more different styles of dancing in some extravagant but elegant costumes! As the trip grew to a close, I remember waving goodbye to the kids and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we think we have access to and know everything but even a few days in a completely different environment has so much to offer.’ I’m so proud of the children I have met along the way who each have their own talents which they are so keen to share with us, keeping the Indian culture and tradition alive.

This trip has taught me that wherever you are in the world, each and every child has the right to education and when given that right, it should not be taken for granted. I have seen with my own eyes how the smile on every child’s face tells a different story and that they are truly grateful of the opportunities they are given to excel. In my view, knowledge that is shared is the foundation of our future so lets help each child in the world to reach the skies with their potential.

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