I was in need of some adventure. I had a 2 year old girl and a 4 year old boy and I had spent the last 4 years pandering to their every need. Through social media I had been thoroughly inspired by all of Fritha Vincent’s (CEO of Adventure Ashram) endeavours and started sponsoring a child through the Grace Charitable Trust and Adventure Ashram a year before. Kumar became a large part of a mealtime discussion - what might he be eating? Do you think he has 5 different cereals to choose from every day? I got fairly involved in Fritha’s latest fundraising venture and on the high of a mind-blowing success Fritha asked me to come to India and I said yes! There happened to be a volunteer trip going in a few months and apart from organising my family to learn to live without me for 12 days, there was nothing in my way!!
So in November I packed my rucksack, said goodbye to my husband and children and set off to Heathrow! I was chaperoned by 2 bikers; volunteers and trustees of the charity. They were heavenly and looked after me like I was their daughter!! Once in Bangalore our first stop was to visit the girls and boys houses at Odanadi; a place of refuge for children whose lives had been directly affected by human trafficking. It was quite a harrowing experience hearing about their experiences but it was a trip filled with laughter, games and song. I am a singer and teacher by profession so in any awkward moment we would exchange songs or games and learn about each others cultures. Beautiful meals were laid on and an incredibly informative yet fun time was had by all.
We were then whisked off into Masinagudi, a small town in the Tamil Nadu district south of Bangalore where the Grace Charitable Trust was based. It is run by the ever inspiring Solomon Daniel who took us into his house and showed us round all the Tribal Villages that the charity supports. We saw where the sponsorship money was being spent: on beautiful new tuition centres in the village where children and teachers can congregate in the evening after school and continue their learning. We met all the children that were being sponsored who were now able to go to school and have an education and I met Kumar! What a valuable experience that was! I met his family and was shown round his house. I could take photos and take them back to my children and community back home. Kumar was such a delight, slightly shy but thrilled to meet me.
On one of the days we went into one of the local schools and taught songs and playground games. It was crazy and a lot of fun! Another day we took all the children that were being sponsored on a trip on a train up the mountain. Lots of the children had never been on train before! Their were celebrations of the work the charity does everywhere we went in some shape or form, finishing off with a beautiful evening full of colour and dance. We heard stories of how we were changing children's lives for the better. I was inspired to go and tell their stories back home.
So I did, the adventure didn't stop in India! On my return I went into my sons school with photographs, videos and new songs to learn! We looked at Kumar’s house and school and compared them to ours. The children were riveted. I then did a charity concert and told my stories to my friends and family most of whom ended up donating or even sponsoring a child of their own.
Adventure Ashram still provides me with different experiences that remind me of the work that still needs to be done and takes me away from the routine of running a family. I have been to motorbike Rallies (3 years ago I didn't even know anyone who rode a motorbike now I know about 100!), curry nights and heard about all the other adventures, so different to mine, that other people connected to this charity have had or are about to have.
I am already are planning our next adventure…next time we’re taking the kids!!!
Charlie Horsley, Adventure Ashram Volunteer