India stirs passion, teaches compassion

Tuesday, 08 April 2014

A volunteer project in India has provided aspiring primary school teacher Samantha Hatton of Mandurah with an educational experience she’ll never forget.

Studying a Diploma of Children’s Services at Challenger Institute of Technology, Samantha travelled to a dusty township on the outskirts of teeming Mumbai as part of the institute’s corporate social responsibility program, Challenger Cares.

The program, which kicked off this year with projects in India and Cambodia, provides Challenger students with the opportunity to help underprivileged children and young people improve their academic and employment prospects.

“I began my journey to India nervous but excited and not realising how much it would change me,” Samantha said. “This has been an amazing opportunity and from this experience I have grown in many ways.”

Samantha was one of 10 Challenger Institute children’s services students and two lecturers who spent three weeks working at the Shikshan Gram Shelter for Homeless Children and the Modern English School in Malavli, about 150 kilometres from Mumbai.

Helping in the classroom, Samantha developed leadership skills and quickly connected with the teachers, students and staff at the Indian school.

She said a tour of Mumbai’s largest slum area, Dharavi, was an eye-opening experience.

“That visit completely changed my perception of India,” Samantha said.

“Our local tour guide showed such commitment to working with the children in Dharavi and was proud and supportive of the great things they are striving towards and have already accomplished.

“I left the tour with a great sense of the importance of family values, community and, most importantly, compassion, which is something I think India has in abundance.”

Challenger Institute’s international relations manager Martin Turnbull said the inaugural overseas Challenger Cares programs were a resounding success.

“The students found the trips life-defining and their experiences have the potential to influence their future careers,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Global mobility programs such as these allow Challenger students to improve their graduate and employability outcomes, as more than 80 per cent of employers believe graduates who undertake an overseas experience return to Australia with enhanced skills.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Challenger Institute student Samantha Hatton with children from the Modern English School in Malavli, India.

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