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“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

This quote encapsulates the vision of Lasallian Developing World Projects, who believe that education is the key to fighting poverty in developing countries. I feel extremely privileged to have been on three Lasallian projects over the past few summers, helping to realise the vision of this wonderful charity.sburrows2

Last summer I, along with 11 other young people from the UK, travelled to a remote village in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost region of India. Here we worked with the charity Reaching the Unreached on a building project which provided brick houses for villagers who were previously living in small, cramped straw huts.sburrows1

 

 

 

 

The project was challenging, on many different levels. The building work was physically demanding, especially in the fierce heat of the Indian sun and with only the most basic of tools to work with. Eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for five weeks was certainly a challenge for our digestive systems! But what challenged us the most went beyond the practical aspects of the project. Seeing extreme poverty first hand was a huge shock to the system, one which opened my eyes and heart to a much bigger world. However, beneath the injustices of poverty that this community faced on a daily basis was a deep joy within them that I will never be able to forget about. Seeing how joyful and determined these people were in the face of hardship really challenged my outlook on life.

There was a bit of a language barrier between our group and the local builders, but this was overcome with smiles, gestures and lots of laughing, as we developed a friendship that was based on more than just words. The phrase “everyone smiles in the same language” certainly rang true during our time in India. We picked up bits of Tamil, the local language (“Vanakkham!” = Hello, good morning!), and had fun teaching the builders new English vocabulary (they could often be heard shouting “brick!”, “cement!” and “water!” around the building site), which maintained the high level of enthusiasm and exertion of the group as we completed thirteen brick houses together.sburrows3

Living and working alongside this warm and hospitable community was an invaluable experience and huge blessing to all of us. They taught me how life is a gift and a privilege, and that we have so much to rejoice and be thankful for, despite what life may send our way.sburrows4

Sarah Burrows, 22, St Helens

 



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