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Students’ inspirational Indian experience offers new life perspective

16 February 2024

Students from Chichester College Group have returned from a life-changing experience in India.

The group of 11 students, from Brinsbury, Chichester, Crawley and Northbrook Colleges, recently returned from a 16-day volunteer visit to India with the OSCAR Foundation, made possible through the Turing Scheme. 
The group worked together across several activities – all designed to bring education to underprivileged children and young people, many of whom live in areas like Dharavi, a residential area in Mumbai which is considered to be one of the largest slums in the world. 
The students, joined by two staff members from Chichester College Group, spent time with the OSCAR Foundation coaching football sessions in different areas of Mumbai, as well supporting the foundation’s annual football tournament – which saw 700 children from the city come together to play football. The students ran the lines, refereed, made lunches and supported the administration of the event. 
The power of football is used by the OSCAR Foundation to deliver life skills and education. The sport is used to encourage children to go to school – there is just one simple rule, ‘no school, no football’.  
The group also helped to support the Mumbai Marathon, where they volunteered in the motivation zone. 
Elisha Morgan, who studies equine at Brinsbury College, said: “I was very fortunate to be able to go on this once in a lifetime trip. 
“Seeing the children play football with smiles on their faces was amazing, then seeing their dedication to the game on their annual football day is something that will stick with me forever. 
“Visiting the slums gave me a whole new perspective on life because, as heart-breaking as it was for me to see, they knew no difference and still had giant smiles on their faces.  
“We were shown the Indian culture; we got to experience how they celebrate, how they dedicate themselves to their religion and how they honour what has been. We got to experience the great Mumbai Marathon – truly the atmosphere was amazing. 
“People were singing, dancing, clapping, supporting all the runners that day, everyone got involved and everyone was happy. The entire trip was filled with smiles, laughter, cheers, happiness from everyone. I’ve made some friends for life on this trip.” 
Panashe Chado, who studies health & social care at Crawley College, added: “Travel isn’t always pretty, it isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts and even breaks your heart but that’s ok. 
“India changed me. It left marks of memories, in both my consciousness and my heart. You take something with you. Hopefully, you will leave something behind.” 
The students were also able to experience other parts of Mumbai, with visits to two Hindi temples and the Kanheri Caves among the highlights of their trip. 
Beth Hutchinson, Student Experience Co-ordinator at Crawley and Brinsbury Colleges, was one of two staff members supporting the trip. She added: “It was an amazing experience for us all. We were given an incredible insight into Indian culture, and I think it was an incredibly eye-opening trip for us all. 
“The level of poverty we saw was something I think is hard to imagine, but the resilience and spirit of the community was unbelievable. There are thriving industries – leather-making, pottery and garment making among them.  
“Being able to offer our students opportunities like this helps to develop their softer skills – building their own independence and confidence. They were learning the whole time they were there. 
“Our aim is to prepare and motivate our students to become global citizens, curious and inspired by the world around them. And I think each of us – staff as well as students – returned from India changed by our experience.” 
As part of all Chichester College Group student experience activity, trips at home and abroad are regular offered with an emphasis on volunteering for most. 
Every year, a large group from all seven of the group’s colleges visit Kenya to volunteer at the Walk Centre. Other trips include conservation visits to Greece.

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