Local students help Indian child centres

By Victoria White

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Three childcare centres in India were restored by Iona college students, including head girl Olivia McLeod (left), Kate Karika and Amy Martin, pictured with some children from the town of Palampur.
Three childcare centres in India were restored by Iona college students, including head girl Olivia McLeod (left), Kate Karika and Amy Martin, pictured with some children from the town of Palampur.

Armed with a few tools, two teachers, and some "number 8 wire", 17 Iona College students gave up their school holidays to restore childcare centres in India.

It was the idea of head girl Olivia McLeod and prefect Holly Black, which they hoped would give students the opportunity to experience a different culture, and provide help to isolated and under-resourced communities.

Before travelling to the Himalayan foothills in the April school holidays with teachers Scott Mogey and Sarah Thorpe, students had fundraised, acquired tools and materials, and chosen projects.

Olivia said they had decided they wanted to work with children as much as possible, and immerse themselves in the community "so that we could get a feel for their culture and way of life".

They renovated three childcare centres in three small villages within the town of Palampur.Without the centres, mothers could not leave their children and go to work in the tea plantations.

Olivia said "We knew as soon as we got there we had a lot to achieve in the days we were there as they were run down and in a state of disrepair."

After realising they did not have sufficient tools or materials to do the job they "tried a number 8 wire approach", she said.

"Our ladder was two chairs on top of each other assisted by a table, our painting extension handles were branches from trees taped firmly on to our painting rollers".

Knowing locals were depending on them to renovate the centres gave them a lot of motivation to work hard, Olivia said.

The trip built teamwork and brought them close together, she said.

"It taught us about tolerance and resilience, and it opened our eyes to how blessed we are for the simple things we take for granted."

Principal Shannon Warren said the students had her full support immediately, and she wanted the opportunities the college provided to make students strong, resilient, and to be a source of inspiration for others.

"The girls and their teachers demonstrated their strength of character," she said, "they overcame numerous challenges and obstacles, they worked collaboratively, supported one another, and they showed enormous grit throughout the trip".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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