My Visit to an Orphanage in India

Hi my name is Paloma Smith and I attend Corpus Christie College, Perth Western Australia. I am the granddaughter of Maggie Foster and Leo Furivai (of Lau. Itu'ti'u, Rotuma), and daughter of Selina Leo. I would like to share my recent experience at the Hebron Orphanage in Chennai, India, where I lived and helped for a week. I am 15 years old and in Year 10. Recently, through the activities of Mrs McGrath (one of the social environment teachers), I was very fortunate to be a participant in a group from our school to visit Hebron Orphanage. Through continuous hard work and fundraising, we were able to fund the trip and were the first group from our school to participate in this remarkable life-changing experience.

Paloma and friend Danica in India

The trip consisted of 17 students excluding parents and teachers. We left Perth on Monday, 1 October, and flew to Singapore. Our connecting flight was delayed for four hours and during that time we had a good look around Singapore airport. The airport is an amazing place--we had a swim, went to the movies, and most of all enjoyed the window shopping. The airport in Singapore is very clean. From Singapore we flew to Chennai. We took all our donations with us, including sewing machines, pencils, and toothpaste and toothbrushes. On our arrival at the orphanage the children welcomed and treated us like stars, throwing rose petals, greeting us and shouting out "welcome Corpus Christie." It was a touching experience.

We lived in the same dome as the children. I helped serve the food and was in trouble by giving too much food to a few children. Because there are about 400 children, the food had to be rationed. I enjoyed helping the most and was involved in a lot of activities. I was involved in makeup; we put makeup on the girls and braided their long beautiful hair and then taught them English. The experience was so unreal! The children are so incredibly grateful despite their living conditions. They were very polite and considerate. The children showered us with hugs and handshakes and they are so thankful.

I also made friends with a boy by the name of Sudesh. He was very helpful and spent a lot of time with me and the other students. He was our "little helper". He is smart and spoke better English then the other children. The children are keen learners. The weather was extremely hot, but I didn't mind because I was having too much fun. Our accommodation was not too bad; ten of us girls stayed in one main room which was air conditioned, and we had access to a shower. We played cricket and volleyball. The children are very good at these two games and they know about one of the Australian cricketers--Adam Gilchrist. We went to the beach, the one that was destroyed by a cyclone--some of the children had never been on a beach so it was a sight for them. I had a brief swim.

When we left it was very sad. The children would not let go when they were saying their goodbyes. The rest of the trip we toured around Agra, site-seeing and shopping. I visited the Taj Mahal--that is such an amazing building. We took a few photos. I also bought some presents for my mum and other members of the family. Things are very cheap in India.

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to visit such an amazing place. It is rich in culture and very colourful. This experience has made me realise how fortunate I am to be living in Australia where we can easily take things for granted. We complain about the smallest things and yet seeing the children from the orphanage made me realise that they live a very simple life and yet they are very happy.

I would love to visit India again and highly recommend it to anyone who is able to travel.