I was so lucky to be a part of this India-to-India IWitness trip, which happened in a beautiful village with tea plantations called Kishanganj in Bihar. Kishanganj is one of the 10 districts in which Going to School, a creative not-for-profit education trust, has been running a school programme. This is supported by the IKEA Foundation and has positively impacted the lives of 200,000 children in Grade 9. Children learn skills through stories, such as making something out of nothing to solve a problem.
There were nine of us and we were a very diverse team coming from different backgrounds, places and ages.
Day 1: I flew from Bangalore and met Abhay, who flew from Delhi, as well as staff from Going to School. We followed seven colleagues from Hyderabad who had already headed to Kishanganj a few hours before. After reaching the hotel, we all met and got our IWitness kit: a badge, strap, pen, notebook and bag. Our excitement went up dramatically. Yay!!!
Day 2: We were divided into two groups to visit two different schools. Although Abhay, Sai, Sharique and I were lazy birds (our school was closer, so we could leave later than another team), our togetherness was already strong. We had breakfast together and took a group video and selfie.
When the lazy birds reached the school, we met Scrappy reporters whose eyes showed a lot of curiosity.
We introduced each other and they took us to the Scrappy news studio built from recycled junk. Actually, it was amaaaaaazing!!! I was so impressed by one of the seats made from a toilet. After the Scrappy reporters interviewed us, they took us to their village to ask the local people about the issues they are facing. We came to know that they were struggling with issues such as plastic usage, chemical farming and bad air. We kept talking to many people, as much as possible. The people were so friendly and so welcoming to us. It reminded me those of old childhood days when I stayed my grandparents’ home in summer vacations in the countryside in Japan…smells of vegetables, animals, ovens from open fires, kids playing with grandma and grandpa. We say Småland (the home of IKEA) is everywhere in the world. I felt same feeling when I visited there. We finished the day with dinner and joking by Keralites in Malayalam and by Hyderabadis in Telugu. (I could only know why so funny after asking my friends/colleagues on Facebook.)
Day 3: We went to two schools all together, which meant we had the same experiences together. First, we went the school we did not visit yesterday. When we arrived at the school, they were singing the national anthem. It was so beautiful and a great start to the day. We began sharing our experiences so far, as individuals and teams. I also shared my experiences upside down!
After we spent time with the students, we went to the second school (the one our team visited the day before). All the students remembered us, and they came to greet us with big smiles, shaking our hands very happily. We felt overwhelmed. Today, the Scrappy reporters visited entrepreneurs (organic entrepreneur, beekeeper, plastic-bag maker) in a local village to understand and get inspiration about how to solve the problems people face. Each of them is so proud of what they are doing and shared with us the entire process of how their enterprise works. The Scrappy reporters got a lot of ideas to take their projects forward. During the visit, we also met future entrepreneurs.
At night, we talked about how we would like to put together and collect the photos we took. In fact, it was a long day, but we did not feel very tired as we were so excited!
Day 4: We had mixed feelings as we had to leave the village we were falling in love with. After breakfast, seven friends from Hyderabad left earlier and Abhay and I left as lazy birds as usual.
It was amazing four days, full of togetherness not only with friends from IKEA but with staff from Going to School, students from two schools and people in the village we visited. I truly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity, to join IWitness and share the experience with as many people as possible. Big thanks to all who helped to make this trip happen!!! “Be! Scrappy!!!!!”