life’s learnings in bihar

allan watt memorial school bihar indiaIndia has been offering travellers life-changing experiences for centuries, so it’s particularly special when we have the opportunity to return the favour. We are delighted that now one remarkable traveller will help bring positive change to the lives of many young Indians.

A great friend of Intrepid, Allan Watt, passed away too young, two years ago. In Allan’s memory and recognising his wonderful contribution to The Intrepid Foundation’s work in his position on the management committee, we chose to fund the building of a primary school in one of the neediest areas of India, Bihar, through The Intrepid Foundation partner Plan.

Intrepid travellers, Tony (a current Intrepid Foundation management committee member), his wife Jo and their twin 5 year-old daughters, Annabelle and Paige, travelled to Bihar last month, to take part in the school’s opening ceremony. After a local flight and 7 hour road trip, Jo reports on what came next…

“The school visit wasn’t at all as I would have expected. We felt like stars arriving at a Bollywood set. As we got out of the car garlands of flowers were placed around our necks, umbrellas held over to shade our fair skin from the harsh sun, bindis stuck to our foreheads and rose petals thrown onto the path in front of where we walked.

The sounds of drums and horns got louder and louder. I knew there would be some people waiting for us when we arrived, but there were a few hundred and that was just the folk accompanying us on our walk along the path from the car to the school! Tony walked with the men and all the village women walked with me and the girls. The school yard was transformed into a marquee for the opening ceremony and it was full of people when we arrived. I don’t know where they were coming from, but people just kept turning up during the ceremony and filing into the marquee area. By the end of the ceremony, people had squeezed right up to the front of our table, and they were all standing in front of the people who were seated.

It was hilarious and humbling. There were some 15 or so speeches interspersed with songs and dances. I should have known that everyone would want to make a speech and they even made me speak, which took me totally by surprise and I was completely unprepared. We were all presented with lovely handmade hats and scarves and flower arrangements. Tony presented the school leaders with the gifts we had brought, consisting of school materials, sporting goods and a cricket bat. The latter gift was given with the condition that it was not to be used for India to beat Australia at cricket in the future!

Tony, Paige and Annabelle cut the ribbon on the school to lots of claps and cheers. We then had a tree planting ceremony, and the unveiling of the memorial stone, in recognition of Allan and The Intrepid Foundation. This was an extra special moment honouring Allan’s love of India and commitment to social justice. Straight after the ceremony, we were ushered off to lunch in a nearby village and had a delicious vegetarian Bihari feast of 10 different dishes.

The school looks terrific and was so wonderfully decorated. There are two large classrooms, with each being used for three class levels, a sanitation block and a big open air community hall which will be marvellous for community gatherings. All the buildings are raised, making them less vulnerable to future flooding in the area.

The whole experience was truly special – we were treated like absolute royalty, the people were very welcoming, warm and friendly. Initially our girls perhaps didn’t know what hit them, but we know that the experience that they gained from the trip is invaluable for them and has hopefully instilled in them a life-long desire to experience different cultures and the need to help others who may be in situations less fortunate than their own.”

paige attending the opening ceremonyThe Nav Srijit School was fully funded through The Intrepid Foundation and built as part of Plan India’s education programme.

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support many great grassroots organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Peter from Toronto Canada / Reply

What a wonderful memory both for your family and for Allan. A living gift that will positively change the lives of many many people you may never know.

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