Overseas links strengthened


Footprints on the Map is a project developed by West Kirby Residential School to make links with young people in different parts of the world. Here the school reports on a visit to Calcutta, which was made possible in part due to a grant from ASDAN.

"First impressions of Calcutta were the amount of traffic and noise. There appeared to be no rules on the roads as everyone just pushed, shoved and honked their horns constantly. It was organised chaos! Everyone was on the roads: bikes, rickshaws, buses, taxis, cars, people and even animals. At one point we saw a horse walking down the middle of a dual carriageway. People just drove around it.

"Calcutta is a very diverse city: it is colourful and vibrant and yet also very poor. People do literally live on the streets. Every aspect of life takes place right in front of everyone. People wash their dishes, clothes, teeth and themselves as you walk by. People stared at us because we were different, but they were always polite and friendly.

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"Ashalayam is a Catholic project for street children that was set up by John Don Bosco, an Italian Catholic priest. Some of the boys had visited us in November 2010. It was lovely to meet up again with all the boys that had come over to England and an opportunity for them to be able to show us their country. They took us to two of the orphanages where we met more of their friends and spoke to the director as to how we could continue to develop our links.

"There was a real sense of family between the boys and great respect for the Fathers. None of the boys are forced to go to the orphanage, it is their choice. Most of them start by going to the night shelter and gradually as they start to gain trust they will begin to attend during the day. All the boys are encouraged to renew contact with their families, if at all possible, because without family in India, life is very difficult.

"We also went to an area called the Sunderbans. This is the largest area of mangrove forest in the world and literally means ‘beautiful forest’. We slept out under the stars on a boat and it really was the most wonderful experience. It was so peaceful and tranquil compared to the noise and smog of Calcutta.

"Our pupils absolutely loved this part of the trip. They also appreciated spending time with the Indian boys that had come over to England and also with the younger boys in the orphanages. They all felt that they overcame a lot of fears and challenges and hopefully will be able to grow and develop through some of these experiences."