Local high school students, their chaperones and hosts pose near the entrance of the Taj Mahal during a 14-day trip to India in December. The students included Ruedi Kelsch, Willem Martzke, Brynn McTague, Teagan McTague, Johanna Brochhagen, Kate Page, Elora Luke, Elisa Clark, Abi Lincourt and Zarah Murray. Photo submitted

L.V. Rogers goes to India

Students from the school spent 14 days on the other side of the world

Jagos, a village about two hours north of New Delhi on the shore of the Yamuna River, is easily overlooked in India.

Just 2,390 people lived in Jagos in 2011 according to a census — practically nothing compared with India’s population of approximately 1.3 billion.

But it’s also a place that a group of L.V. Rogers students will never forget.

Ten students, including one from Creston’s Prince Charles Secondary, and two chaperones travelled to India in December for a 14-day cultural exchange. During the trip, the group was asked about poverty in Canada.

Kathy Centrone, one of the chaperones and a family youth worker at LVR, remembers shrugging off the question. Of course Canada has poverty, she said. In response, S.K. Sharma, the chairman of the Rishikul Vidyapeeth private school in nearby Sonipat, took the group to his home village of Jagos.

“I feel like we were a little bit arrogant in our answer because, when we went to [Jagos], we have poverty but our poverty doesn’t look like that poverty,” she said. “There’s safety nets built into our society where people can potentially access support. It’s not always easy and it’s not flawless but there are things and places to potentially get help.

“That wasn’t there.”

Centrone said visiting Jagos was an eye-opening experience for herself and the students. Just 55 per cent of the population is literate (only 21 per cent of women can read), and only 33 per cent are employed, according to the 2011 census. Centrone said residents use dried cow poop to heat their homes, and they rely on the chairman for financial assistance.

While LVR students handed out food to the people of Jagos, Centrone stood back and cried.

“We don’t see that here. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, it’s just maybe not in front of us as much.”

Centrone, instructor Jennifer Kidd and their students described the trip to Jagos as well as the rest of their adventure at a School District 8 board meeting last week.

It’s the second time in two years the school district has sent a delegation of students to India. Participants had to apply to make the 36-hour trip to Sonipat, where they were put up by host families, participated in events with one of the local schools and toured the area with trips to New Delhi, the city’s Canadian embassy and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Several students said they were surprised by the intense emotional connections they ended up making over just two weeks with their host families.

“The home stay families in India, they literally took our students on like their own family,” said Centrone. “They were so honoured to have our students come and stay with them that it became a comfortable, safe space.”

The group also spent plenty of time at Rishikul Vidyapeeth, which had approximately 3,000 students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Centrone described the classes as regimented and in many ways an artifact of British colonial rule. But Centrone said local educators could also learn plenty from the school’s pride, which she said was evident in and outside the classroom.

Centrone and Kidd met with the school’s faculty, who said they thought India’s relatively recent independence in 1947 contributed to what they described as an education system 40 years behind Canada’s.

“So they’re trying to bring their education what they feel is forward. Not quite as regimented, not quite as traditional rote learning. A bit more hands-on, experiential learning, which is how our district is going.”

It wasn’t all work. The students took day trips with their host families, and one day Centrone and Kidd somehow found themselves judging a fashion-talent show — for babies and toddlers.

“It was a big deal. It was on the news in Sonipat, there were dignitaries, it was a really big deal.”

Centrone said there were plenty of tears when it was time to return home. Nelson will host a delegation from Sonipat in late June similar to the city’s 30-plus year cultural exchanges with Izu-shi, Japan.

But the trip to India, Centrone said, made a lifelong impact on her students.

“I think the kids just wanted more time because they realized they’d actually made friends for life and just wanted to spend more time with them.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Abi Lincourt takes a selfie with a boy during a trip to the village of Jagos. Photo submitted

The students and chaperones made a presentation to the School District 8 board about their adventure last week. Photo: Tyler Harper

Student dancers perform a traditional dance at the village school in Jagos. Photo submitted

Students pose with their host families on the day they met. Adults in the pic are the co-ordinating teachers from Rishikul Vidyapeeth, the private school that helped organize the visit. Photo submitted

Just Posted

Nelson Leafs look to new season with training camp

The team is hosting 38 players at the Nelson and District Community Complex

Activist, author Libby Davies coming to Nelson

Davies will talk about the intersection of activism and politics in pursuit of social change

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Most Read