St. Joan of Arc’s Visit to Udayan
February saw eight girls and two teachers from St Joan of Arc School in Rickmansworth, UK come to India to visit Udayan (the school’s charity) and spend two weeks with us. Sophia McDonnell, Student President at St Joan’s tells us about their experiences:
‘On our first day at Udayan we received a fantastic and overwhelming traditional marigold reception. We were presented with gorgeous orange marigold garlands, and were welcomed with singing and photos; we all felt like royalty! The departure ceremony was also unforgettable; the smiling faces of the children and staff were uplifting; it was a personally touching moment for me. The group could not only see their appreciation for us, but felt our appreciation for them.These memories of Udayan have remained with each and everyone of us now back in the UK.
The continuous work Udayan does for children of leprosy sufferers is outstanding. I speak on behalf of the group when I say that the hard work and love exuded by Udayan has caused us to all think about our own responsibility to care for one another. Our days spent with the children were filled with laughter, learning and dancing! We merged both Bengali and English dance and culture, but I’d have to say the choreographed Bollywood routines put our floss and cha-cha slide to shame. We did enjoy rehashing and performing Aankh Marey on our final night.
We tried to immerse ourselves in the daily routine at Udayan: the 5am wake-ups were hard for some as well as the karate, running, stretches, praying and singing all before breakfast! It was lovely to see how the children were so grateful for what Udayan provided for them, and how they all looked after each other as one big family. We witnessed first-hand throughout our time at Udayan and Kolkata that family, religion and friendship were far more valuable than the materialistic items they owned; a true life lesson that changed our perspectives.
Seeing how self-sufficient Udayan actually is was not only a hit for the geography students, but provided us with fresh, delicious and flavoursome meals every day, for breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner – we were never hungry. The hospitality of all the staff was truly visible throughout our meal times. They were fabulous hosts!
Whilst spending time at Udayan we were able to see how the money St Joan’s has raised has been spent through the refurbishment of cottages, purchasing of bunk beds and more importantly keeping the doors of Udayan open. It was great to see the impact Udayan is making for the children of leprosy sufferers.
Udayan has created so many memories which will stay with our group forever, and I can say with 100% honesty that we all miss the people there incredibly! We miss your dancing, kindness, laughter, intelligence, hospitality and love, and we wish everyone at Udayan the best for the future.
To Dipak, the staff, children and students at Udayan, you have all touched our hearts in ways we cannot describe. We can’t wait to return! From all your sisters, brothers and Bachchan at St Joan of Arc – THANK YOU!’