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Inspiring students to ‘Be The Change’ on Virgin Atlantic Scholarship to India

By: Virgin Atlantic

September 11, 2015

As part of our ongoing partnership with international charity and education partner Free The Children, every summer we send a group of young people aged 12-18 to one of our Adopt a Village communities in Rajasthan, India.

Free the Children is the world’s largest network of children helping children through education, with over a million young people involved in development programmes in 45 countries. Our India scholarship trip is for 30 people of secondary and sixth form age – who were all selected based on their commitment to global issues or community volunteerism – during which they get to experience the culture, history and way of life in their host nation, take part in workshops to explore global issues, and volunteer in a rural village by helping build a well or classrooms for the local school.

The 2015 scholarship took place in August this year, and one of the proud participants was 17 year old Molly Dixon from Grimsby, a keen YouTuber who we asked to become our designated Red Hot Reporter for the duration of the trip. Molly is passionate about the work of Free The Children both in the UK and abroad, and hopes to inspire other young people to get involved in their local communities. Below, she shares her impressions of Rajasthan and the volunteer experience in her own words.

Be the change

India Scholarship Trip 1.pngMolly (second from left) and other participants on our 2015 India Scholarship

An experience like the India scholarship is one that you carry with you throughout life. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn new skills, develop my knowledge of the challenges faced by other countries, and to understand the impact of social action. Not only was I completely immersed in a new culture, but I learned a lot about myself as a person too.

Our base camp was the Araveli Centre in Kumbhalgarh in the state of Rajasthan. The site was beautiful and was bordered by a lake, which we shared with the locals and was also the backdrop of our morning yoga! We lodged in tents around the centre which gave a great sense of community.

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Morning yoga by the lake

As a group, our main focus was the development of the local primary and secondary schools. We helped with many building projects such as creating a safe and secure wall, making the bricks that were used on the various sites, and contributing to the construction of a new classroom. We also took part in a traditional Proja prayer ceremony; said to ensure our building projects would be a great success. Most importantly, we were able to see first hand the consequences of the work done by Free The Children and how they help local communities empower themselves and, most importantly, give a hand up not a hand out!

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The Scholarship attendees make bricks for the various construction sites

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Meeting local communities

We also had the chance to take some time out and enjoy our surroundings, with nature walks, palace tours and a visit to Kumbhalgarh Fort – a World Heritage Site and home of the world’s second longest wall. Another highlight was the stunning architecture and spectacular views from Udaipur’s magnificent Ranakpur Temple, which we explored barefoot in the pouring monsoon weather.

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Ranakpur Temple near Udaipur

But as the trip progressed we realised the importance of why we were there. Not only to explore other cultures and develop our understanding, but to learn more about social issues like women’s rights, access to healthcare and access to education. As a group, we discussed in great depth how we could help break down these barriers and contribute towards making a difference in these communities. We started to see the person behind every issue, rather than just seeing the issues themselves.

Video courtesy of The Minniemolly on YouTube

The 2015 Virgin Atlantic Be The Change Volunteer Scholarship Trip was unforgettable and is the spark that has ignited the passion within each member of the group to start planning action. There’s so much more we can do to help make a difference and it starts by making those differences in our own local communities. After three weeks of workshops, building projects, Bollywood dancing and Hindi lessons, our eyes have been widened to the possiblilites that exist in the world, and it has redfined us as people who can make that change the world needs.

Read more about Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with Free The Children and how it supports our goals of long-term, sustainable change in our destinations.

All photos © Molly Dixon

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