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Reflecting on a life-changing experience at Sangam

Last August 50 IGG members from around Ireland took part in a special trip to Sangam World Centre in Pune, India, to mark the start of IGG’s Senior Branch centenary. Here two members of Tralee Senior Branch reflect on the trip. First up is Ailbhe Mangan:

I had high expectations for our trip to India but, as soon as we were greeted by the Sangam staff, I knew my expectations would be exceeded. We were provided with a trip of a lifetime that opened my eyes to the amount poverty in the world.

On our journey I had the opportunity to work in a school for children with special needs. The children in this school were some of the most amazing kids I have ever met – they didn’t let their disability stop them from living their best lives. My highlight of working in the school was when a boy with a hearing impairment sat down beside us and started showing us sign language. He immediately lowered the communication barrier.

Outside of our work in the school we got to experience a completely different culture to the one we live in. I was astonished by how creative, beautiful and busy their way of life is!

Here Aine O’Sullivan shares her memory of the trip:

I cannot speak highly enough of our stay in India. It really was the trip of a lifetime! It was such an honour to travel as part of the national contingent of Irish Girl Guides celebrating 100 years of Senior Branch in Ireland.

Every minute of every day was just amazing but for me personally the community action projects that we participated in were the highlight of it all. I worked with an organisation called Door Step School, which provides education for children who would otherwise be unable to access any formal learning. I was simply blown away by how much the teachers were accomplishing with such few resources. They kindly allowed us to spend time with their students and, despite the language barrier (we got a few giggles when we attempted to introduce ourselves in their local language), we had so much fun with them. We made crafts, did some action songs and showed them a little bit about Ireland. It was so rewarding seeing the smiles on their faces and so tough saying goodbye.

Other noteworthy experiences included the thrilling rickshaw rides, climbing to the top of Tikona Fort in the pouring rain and finding an Irish pub in India. Special mention must also go to Tarabai, the 94-year-old lady who invited us into her home and told us of the time she met Lady Baden-Powell, the founder of Guiding.

On our final evening we had a celebration of Indian culture. All of us wore saris in every colour imaginable as we enjoyed an Indian-style feast, had henna done on our hands and danced the night away to Bollywood music.

I never would have predicted how sad I would be to leave India behind. Inspirational people and life-changing experiences aside, I really miss the food! I learned so much about being grateful for life and truly embracing every moment of it. I have discovered what I know will be a lifelong love of travel and helping others. I want to offer my most sincere thanks to everyone who made this trip possible. It may have only been 10 days but I will remember them forever.

“Phir Milenge”- See you soon!