Wednesday 29 July 2015

Adventure and memories to last for a lifetime

Vaishnavi Bhardwar, Silver Award aspirant from Uttam School for Girls, Ghaziabad sharing her memories of the Adventurous Journey 

The last year of school is always very special and close to one's heart, as that's the last opportunity for a student to enjoy the school events and build a treasure trove of all those unforgettable moments, to be cherished forever. One such much awaited event was the IAYP trip for Silver Award. And our joy knew no bounds when we got to know that our destination would be the land of heavenly beauty, Ranikhet.

We boarded the Kathgodam Shatabdi and travelled by road to reach a village located about 12 kms from Ranikhet. We stayed in a traditional stone house called Daan'kurhi, a local term for the highest house in the valley. After a hot tea and snacks break we left for a short trek when rain showers welcomed us. It was already dark when we came back and we gathered for a bonfire and went to sleep after a delicious dinner with our energies high for the next day's adventures.  

Thrilled to find ourselves in the lap of soothing and serene environs, we spent a few action-packed, exciting and adventurous days there. We were divided in teams and assigned the task of gathering maintenance tools from the villagers. After completing this herculean task, we went on to volunteer for repairing the village water naala (rain water storage source). We also constructed a part of a road to access the naala. It was real hard work but we enjoyed every bit of it. Then we left for our campsite where we pitched our own tents and lit a bonfire, and helped in cooking dinner near the bank of river Kosi. The next day proved to be a fun-filled day where interesting physical sports adventures were lined up. We did flying fox, slithering and had a lot of fun in the water before we left for Daan-Khudi.

We also visited one of the two sun temples at Katarmal on our way. On reaching Daan khudi we got to know that the organizers had arranged a performance by local Kumaoni artists who sang melodious songs. We too sang and danced with them. We also performed plays on the allotted theme given to our teams. Most of us hardly slept the last night of the trip and participated in leisure activities which are impossible to forget. 

We left early morning for Kathgodam and also visited Nainitaal on our way. When we boarded the train to Ghaziabad the bags weighed the same but we were carrying many memories with us which we are going to cherish for a lifetime.

All of us are thankful to our school, respected Principal ma'am and our escort teachers Ms. Madhu Sen Gupta and Ms. Saleha for without them this trip would have been impossible.  Click for pictures

"Experience is the teacher of all things.' -- Julius Caesar

Poorva Gupta, Gold Award holder, Delhi Public School, Gurgaon shares her experience about the Award journey.

The journey of IAYP to the Gold Award has indeed been an unforgettable experience.  I started my Award journey when I was in Grade 9, and today when I have entered college, I am a Gold Award holder. My involvement in the Award was a matter of mere chance - thanks to my Award Leader, Darshna ma'am who took the initiative to make us aware about the entire programme. There was so much I was doing and I wanted a platform where I could make use of it. The Duke of Edinburgh Award provided me with the same. Through the entire program I not only came to discover myself, but also made a bunch of great friends.

The Bronze Award journey began with an exciting and adventurous river rafting trip that provided a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the refreshing rapids of River Ganga in Rishikesh. The 50 km journey by bus with other Gold and Silver participants was filled with excitement and the anticipation of savouring nature's rich bounty. For my Service section, I taught at Shiksha Kendra, an initiative in our school to teach the underprivileged children. During that time, I had just picked up a new activity, dancing, which became my daily Physical Recreation. I adore art, and therefore took the opportunity to master painting, develop my Skill and gain confidence. From April to October, I gradually improved in all fields. And it was at the end of October that I received my Bronze Award. 

For the Silver and Gold Award, I continued with the same amount of vigour and enthusiasm. For the Service section I had the opportunity to be a part of Teach India - an initiative by the Times of India and the British Council. Under this, I taught the support staff of our school by staying back for two hours after school. The experience was enriching, one of the best I've ever had. I remember going back to my class after some work, and one of the members of the support staff greeted me with a 'Good Morning!'. Then and there I knew that my purpose at Teach India was fulfilled. I thought the Residential Project would be a tough and laborious task; however, it was absolutely thrilling and an eye-opener for me. We went to Ghamroj Village situated in Sohna Road, Gurgaon. Talking to the villagers we were made aware of the universal needs of food, shelter, clothing, being accepted by our near and dear ones and improvement of standards of living. We realized that all, whether rich or poor, have similar dreams and most of us would go all out to fulfill them. The Award gave me an opportunity to engage and acquire new skills first hand through participation in the four sections. I got the liberty to design my own programme and to set my own goals by challenging my boundaries. Thanks a bunch IAYP!

Wednesday 22 July 2015

My Award Journey

Debalina Mukherjee, Gold Award 2015 shares her Award Journey experience with us on achieving the Gold Award.

Time and tide wait for none.  I can't fathom how quickly the last four years have passed.  It seems as if July 2011 was just yesterday... when I started my journey with the International Award for Young People. And now today, 16th July 2015, we, the recipients of the Gold Award are assembled at the India International Centre, New Delhi to receive our Gold Badge and Certificate.  Today is the day that we have been awaiting. It is impossible to describe how much we have gained in these four years from this organisation, from friendship that spans across our country and into other nations, to uninhibited creativity; from the light of knowledge that was kindled not just in us but others we came in contact with; and from a deep understanding of nature, to a spirit of adventure. I am very sad that our beautiful journey now comes to the finishing point, but I realize today from the inspiring words I heard at the ceremony, that there is no end when doing something for others. In one word, what I learnt from this journey, the soul of our great culture is 'Udar charitaya'- I am connected to the whole universe.

I am very proud of being a participant of the IAYP, very grateful to our respected Mataji and elders of Sarada Math, Rasik Vita for their guidance to me and also my parents for their support.  I pay my respect to all concerned.  I wish we shall meet again one day, maybe on a cliff or a steep mountain, or maybe around a bonfire under the twinkling night sky.  Till then, good bye...

Wednesday 15 July 2015

IAYP Exploration and Cultural Exchange Camp at Sri Lanka: A report by Shivani Bagaria and Ayushi Saraogi (Gold Awardees)

On the 3rd of June 2015, with a unit consisting of 55 participants (12 Gold participants, 23 Silver participants and 20 Bronze participants) and four Award Leaders (S. Banerjee, C. Sood, S. Mitra and T. Haldar) of  Modern High School for Girls went for an exploration and cultural exchange camp to Srilanka. Guided by the IAYP motto of exploring and bettering ourselves as we stay "away from home, and close to nature", we were thrilled at the prospect of representing not just our school, but also our country, in the most welcoming of our neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka.

Our reward for two consecutive flights in the wee hours of the morning was the breathtaking  bird's- eye view of the Sri Lankan coast that greeted us as we flew into Colombo. Our first day in the 'Gem of the Indian Ocean' saw us whizzing down the quaint lanes and bylanes of the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy. The second day proved to be highly rewarding. Our visit to the Sigiriya Rock was a personal favourite. As we climbed up the 1500 stairs that separated us from the top of the 8th wonder of the world, we saw stunning fresco paintings along the cave walls and learnt about the history of the rock. The panoramic view of the lush green Sri Lankan forests and hills at the end of the 1500 steps made us feel like we were on top of the world, metaphorically, if not literally.  In the sweltering heat, a sudden downpour proved to be our messiah as we made our way to the Dambula Golden Temple, where we marveled at the 200 ft. tall statue of the Buddha which was made of pure gold.

We spent a day with the adorable baby elephants of Sri Lanka with the typical teenage sighs of "aww" when we spent the third day of our journey at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. After watching the elephants splash around in the Kubukaya river, we fed them milk and set our hearts on adopting a couple (yes, we hadn't  exactly thought our idea through). What followed was a visit to the Hemachandra Gems Museum where we were told about the process of gem mining and jewellery making through an engaging presentation. The mood set by the rains was considerably enhanced by the steaming hot cups of Ceylon tea that we sipped as we saw the process of making tea leaves at the Embilmeega Tea Factory. We ended the day by delving deeper into the fabric of Sri Lankan culture with the help of a special treat that had been planned for us. We watched a performance of the energetic Kandyan harvest festival dance and a spectacular fireworks demonstration. 

On our fourth and last day in Kandy,  we traced the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in  the Kandy Tooth Temple, which was built atop the relic of Buddha's tooth. We indulged in an entertaining round of the game "Ibex", a long standing IAYP favourite after a picture perfect picnic at the Peradiniya botanical garden that afternoon. We then bade goodbye to Kandy and made our way  to the hills of Nuwara Eliya. 

Our day in the Little England of Sri Lanka was rather eventful. We revisited the tales of Sita's abduction at the Sita Amman temple and then enjoyed the cool breeze at Gregory Lake. On returning to our campsite that afternoon, we partook in a range of adventurous activities like climbing the monkey rope and  crossing the distance between two trees with the help of three kinds of rope bridges. We watched the sunset from the Bumrialla Dam and then assembled around a bonfire to excitedly sing camp songs.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Colombo, we participated in a cultural exchange with the students of the President's College, Maharagama, Colombo.  The students of the President's college put up a Kandyan dance performance for us and went out of their way to make us feel more welcome in their city by sharing with us their rendition of a song by Rabindranath Tagore.

In an attempt to give our Sri Lankan counterparts a peek into Indian culture, we staged folk dances from Punjab and Gujarat , performances of Kathak and Odissi, and a popular Bengali folk song .  We presented our new-found friends with hand- made mementos , and they organized an interesting game to get to know us better. The exchange was truly enriching for us. Not only did we make new friends from across the border, but we also forged memories that we will cherish for a long time to come. The sun, sea and sand greeted us at the Galle Beach that afternoon.  Gorging on stick after stick of ice cream, we walked down the beach and made the best of our last moments in Sri Lanka. The evening was spent in preparations for camp night, which proved to be the perfect way to bring the camp to an end. 

Our time in Sri Lanka led us to discover unexpected things about ourselves and the things around us. We spent the eight days marveling at the ability of  man's attempts to connect with another to cross oceans and transcend borders as we found the innumerable similarities in Sri Lankan and Indian culture. On behalf of the entire unit, we thank our Award Leaders, Field Officers and our Principal for giving us the opportunity to explore Sri Lanka in a way that could have been possible only with their help.  It is our adventure camps that make us realize the true objective of IAYP: discovering our strengths and refusing to let our weaknesses come in the way of our drive for excellence. Click for pictures 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

My Award Experience

Amreen Kohli, Silver Award participant from Sat Paul Mittal School, Ludhiana is sharing her Award experience with us.

The International Award for Young People is a platform where students develop their social, physical and mental faculties by indulging in various sports activities, community service and intellectual/skill-based activities. The IAYP programme helped me develop my personality and become a well-rounded person who participated in a plethora of activities during this programme. We took part in the Labour Day programme, the Gadhimahi Candle March and the community-service-cum-adventure trip to Chail. In Chail, we experienced the thrills and chills of mountain climbing, valley crossing and rappelling. 

These activities gave us a break from the daily humdrum life, while giving our bodies some much needed physical exercise. The community service we did made us sensitive to the needs of the people around us. The IAYP programme aims to develop the skills of a child in every field. It has been an enriching experience to be a part of the IAYP programme. It helped me in becoming a confident and productive citizen of society, who cares about the well-being of others and herself. 

Wednesday 1 July 2015

A visit to the Aiyur Forest

Award participants from The Ashok Leyland School, Hosur, Tamil Nadu visited the Aiyur Forest during their Award Journey.

The 27th of March 2015 will forever be etched in our minds as the day we visited Aiyur Forest, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu. We were excited to see the forest full of bamboo trees, some of them 50 years old. Mr. Murugasen, one of the experienced forest guards, accompanied us and he helped us in navigating the forest tracks. Some tracks were steep and filled with dried bamboo leaves. At one place in the forest we stood still to drink in the sights and sounds of nature. We could hear the bamboo swaying in the breeze. We were scared to see bamboo trees bending so close to the ground under the strong wind.  We heard the endless chirping of birds and inhaled the exotic fragrance of the trees. The tranquility of the forest was soothing to the mind. The part we enjoyed the most was climbing on rocks and trees to view the valley.

We saw elephant dung here and there. Elephants had also uprooted a signboard. We were excited to know from the guard that elephants would visit the water source. The forest guard described to us elephants' behaviour, his encounters with elephants, poachers etc. All this added to our mounting curiosity to see the elephants and we waited calmly near the waterside for the pachyderms.

We interacted with local women who were collecting and winnowing bamboo seeds and they said that they prepare rotis with these seeds. They offered us some to taste.  We also interacted with another guard Mr. Rahmed Abdulla, who had once rescued a bear that had fallen into a well.

We pitched tents using staves and ropes and we enjoyed the activity thoroughly.  The trip to the Aiyur Forest was the most adventurous trip of our life. We departed from the forest carrying unforgettable memories to cherish.