Inspiring Change: Gemma’s Indian adventure 12/03/2012
MHP resident Gemma Bennett was one of 50 people from across the world who visited India on a 10-week project at the end of 2011. The trip, which Gemma part funded, was split into 3 phases which covered environmental work, trekking and community improvements.
In phase 1, Gemma and the team worked on building five 4x6ft bio-gas chambers. These chambers which are filled with cow dung, and the methane produced is used as fuel for cooking. The rest can be used for fertiliser
to help crops grow. These were dug with ‘digging poles’, which was a lot of hard work.
In phase 2, Gemma trekked over 180km by bike, rafting and walking. Gemma says:
“at the start of the trek, you are dropped at the bottom of a mountain with your pack on – you’ve just got to get on with it. It’s hard work, but when you see it through to the finish, you get a great sense of achievement.”
Gemma saw lots of animals during the trek. One of her favourite moments was when she saw a line of 10 wild elephants, but she wasn’t all that keen on the snakes, leeches, poisonous frogs, spiders, scorpions and rats she saw as well.
During phase 3, Gemma’s group spent time building ten eco-sanitation toilets which provide the local community with a safe sewage system and fertiliser for their crops. Gemma celebrated her 18th birthday whilst working on the project, and the team was given the day off. Her friends in her group also made her a birthday cake out of the ingredients they had available – biscuits, bananas and syrup.
We caught up with Gemma now she is back in the UK:
What was the best and worst part about the trip?
Gemma: the 180km trek was one of my favourite and least favourite parts of the trip. At the end of every day, you feel like you achieved so much, which is a great feeling. At the same time, you have to
cope with leeches sticking to you, and finding rats in your mattress as well as being physically exhausted. Before I left for India, friends told me to have a great holiday. I remember thinking when I
was on the trek ‘this is definitely NOT a holiday!’
What did you miss most?
Gemma: I missed breakfast cereal, and a decent cup of tea. I never want to see porridge again. The heat was difficult to acclimatise myself to, both when I got to India, and when I got back to the UK. I also got very homesick. I’ve never been away from my family longer than a week in Wales, so 10 weeks in India is a little different in comparison.
Do you think you have changed as a result of the project?
Gemma: Definitely. Being part of Inspiring Change has given me a massive increase in confidence. It also gave me a different perspective and a wider outlook on life. We take so much for granted in the UK – having
a clean toilet and hot showers to use, having money in your pocket, and being able to buy whatever food you want. Lots of people don’t have those opportunities and we should think ourselves lucky.
What does the future hold for you?
Gemma: I would like to do more travelling and volunteering; I want to see the world. I’m also looking to get an apprenticeship in Graphic Design as well.
The group is trying to arrange a reunion in the Lake District in summer – with less scorpions and snakes to worry about!