Monalisa Paul represented India in the Special Projects Dinner - an annual event, organised by Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation at London. Monalisa is sharing her experience here.
Every year the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation organizes a special dinner with the trustees and special project members. The members from all over the world come to attend this event to share their work experience regarding the Special Project with the Award family and trustees.
This year I was selected to share my views on the special project which we are doing on "Women Empowerment" in rural villages. For me, this was a great opportunity to represent my country and my own organization, Sri Sarada Math, Rasik Bhita.
My journey started on November 9, 2017 from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. This was my first ever flight in my life, and that too to travel overseas alone, so I was a bit nervous as well. My flight was at 08:55 in the morning. I reached Dubai International Airport at 12:50 in the afternoon. From Dubai, I reached Heathrow airport at 18:20 in the evening. A member was there at the airport to escort me to the hotel. At 20.30 in the evening, I reached Huttson Hotel. I checked in and settled down.
On the next morning, 10th November, I woke up early in the morning and had my breakfast. In the hotel lobby, I came to meet with three other speakers who came to attend the dinner program like me. There we met with Lizzie Elliot, an Award member. She took us to the Award office house.
At the office we met with other Award members - Lucy, Emma, Liz and all. We discussed one by one our speeches with Emma Fisher, a Communications Manager and did all necessary amendments. After the lunch break, we rehearsed our speeches. At the end of the day we came back to the hotel. At night we, the speakers - Radu from Romania, Emmanuella from Ghana, Morema from Lesotho and me, Monalisa from India went together for our dinner.
Next two days - 11th and 12th Nov - were holidays. We spent some of our free time to explore the town. We visited some important places in London such as the Parliament House, Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge. And we also spent time to practice our speeches.
On 13th Nov we went to the office at 10 am in the morning. That day we met with John, the head of the Award house and one of the trustees as well. They listened to all our stories of our special projects. They were really pleased and moved with the work we do. At the end of the day, we came back to the hotel again.
On the very next day, the special day 14th Nov, we prepared our final speeches at Award house and came back to the hotel early as we had to get ready for dinner. I wore my national dress for this dinner event. We four speakers along with two members of the Award organization, Liz and Lizzie left the hotel at 05:00 in the evening towards the venue at Bagshot Park. We reached the venue within one and half hour. This is the royal castle of the Earl of Wessex and Countess of Wessex who is in charge of the Award program now. We visited the rooms there, full of fine wooden work done by Indian artists. Within an hour guests came with their families.They were very eager to meet with us, to listen to our stories. We were introduced to the trustee members and guests as well. After the welcome session, we moved to the dining table for the main program. Our host was HRM, Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward. The night began with the speech of the first speaker Radu from Romania, then the speaker from Ghana. After the main course the third speaker from Lesotho, then my turn came, the last speaker of that evening. In front of the HRM, the Prince, Princess and 51 other guests I shared my views regarding the Award, our work for special projects, the improvements we achieved, the future plan we are about to do, everything. I was able to make all the guests aware of the work we do, and the benefits we get from the Award.
After dinner, the guests came in front of us to give us best wishes for our works. They all were very happy with the work we do and were able to make lump sum amount of donations for the special projects. We had some photo session with Earl of Wessex and Countess of Wessex. At the end of the programme, we came back to the hotel with a great experience.
The next morning I checked out from the hotel. It was time to come back to my country, to my home. From Heathrow, I took my flight at 13:40 in the afternoon and arrived at Kolkata airport on 15th Nov at 07:40 in the morning.
It was a great time away from home, from my own country to a new country, new town, new people, new culture. I learnt many things from there. It was really an achievement for me. These memories I am going to cherish throughout of my life. Thanks to Award, my mentors and above all, thanks to Sri Sarada Math for believing in me, and for giving me the chance to prove myself. Click here for more pictures