After our usual breakfast of toast and eggs on Thursday, we headed to the school and continued helping the contractors build the wall inside the hole. While we were doing this, a group of students started walking around the playground information and holding signs, practising for some sort of event. After speaking to the principal, we found out that they were going to a rally attended by five local schools. In India a significant number of people use ultrasounds to find out the sex of their baby and then terminate the pregnancy if it turns out to be a girl. The government have therefore banned the use of ultrasounds for this purpose, but selective abortions of girls still take place. The school children were therefore taking part in a rally to raise awareness of the issue and to highlight the importance and benefits of having girls in the family. I think I speak for the team when I say how proud we were of the students and how privileged we felt to be working in their school.
After school we carried on with the sports club and the maths help club, both of which were very successful. While some of the girls were waiting for their parents to collect them, they taught us their favourite hand clapping songs and routines, some of which we remembered from our own childhoods. 'A sailor went to sea', 'boom, snap, clap' and many others were a fun and relaxing end to a great day. The principal even filmed Rachel and his daughter doing 'soul sister number nine' and is going to put the video on YouTube. Ashley had been at home ill, but still managed to get the spoon for accidentally turning the shower on while fully dressed.
There was a melancholy mood at breakfast on Friday as we all knew Emily would soon be going home. After getting ready for school we all gathered in reception and said our goodbyes - Emily would be getting a plane to Delhi later in the day. As soon as we got to the school we realised how strange it felt to have a person missing from the team, even though we'd always known Emily was going to leave half way through the project. Now we keep checking we've got everyone because it feels like the group isn't complete.
It turned out the contractors didn't need all of us to help mix concrete and build the wall at the same time so we decided to help out in as many lessons as we could. During the day we ended up teaching English and assisting in maths, science and music lessons. I think we all enjoyed the more varied work when continuously switching between construction and teaching and are looking forward to next week when we're on the timetable for more lessons. We also taught some lessons when the teachers were busy doing other things around the school so classes were left with no teacher. I found these classes the most challenging as we had no plan at all and had to try and come up with an interesting and informative lesson at a moment's notice.
By the end of the day we were all exhausted and ready for the relaxing weekend ahead of us. Over dinner we decided that the spoon would go to Rebecca for filming a millipede crawling around for two minutes.
Saturday was Raksha Bandhan, a celebration of the relationship between brothers and sisters. The buses were all free for women so they could go and visit their brothers and give them gifts. The brothers then give their sisters gifts in return. We all thought this was a really sweet celebration, but didn't realise that it meant a lot of women had taken the day off work and that meant there were not enough staff at the spa we wanted to go to. However, we walked into town and managed to find a spa which was open. We spent the day getting pampered with papaya facials, head massages and much more. It was a lovely relaxing oasis in the middle of a busy town centre. However, I do want to apologise again to Joey who waited patiently for us all to finish our treatments, although he did get his own head massage and a slightly different hairstyle.
After going back to the guest house to freshen up and change into our suits (and take just a few pictures in front of the mountains), we headed to The Lounge. The volunteer group we met at the start of our trip had recommended it as a restaurant which served western food. Although we are all loving the food here, the pizza and pasta was a change from our usual curry and dahl and was appreciated by everyone. Lily received the spoon for deciding she didn't like the long sleeves on her suit and altering it herself.
We had a lie-in and a relaxed day on Sunday. Everyone was happy to just walk around town and visit a few shops before returning to the guest house to prepare for another week's volunteering at the school.
About the school
Speaking of the school, we've realised that we haven't actually said that much about it. Dhauladhar Convent School (DCS) is a co-educational school for students aged 4 - 16 in Bhawarna and it takes us approximately 25 minutes to drive there from our guest house in Palampur. The school has been supported by DUCK for the past three years although we are the first year doing construction work - the previous groups decorated and painted the classrooms as well as teaching. Here are a few words from the principal about the work we're doing in his school this year:
"The volunteers in DCS this time are very young and don't seem muscular, but the project this time needs some muscular volunteers.
“Before the beginning of digging the underground water tank and lifting/carrying material from outside the road to the school which was really a very tough job, I was really worried if these people could do it; would they be able to do all of the physical work. But they proved me wrong.
“Oh my God, what an enthusiastic and determined team they are which is led by Meg. Each member is mentally very strong without carrying about their wounds (which they get while working) and tiredness; they are working continuously and achieving their goals.
“The school will never forget these beautiful faces even after their departure and we will always be thankful for their great help in sorting our water issues.”