Seventeen Singaporean students experience a simpler way of life at Manapparai

A group of 17 students from Nanyang Technological University, calling themselves “Team Lumiere”, boarded a flight from Singapore to India in June, hoping to experience a whole new world.

In the fortnight that followed, they made their home with their host, DKSHA (Deva Kirubai Social Help Association), a shelter for underprivileged children, in Manapparai. They spent the weeks constructing mushroom cultivation sheds by day, and conducting English, Science, Arts and Physical Education lessons for village children, by dusk. For the students training to become school teachers, the trip presented them with a chance to work across culture and language barriers.

After eight days of labour, the team set up five mushroom sheds (three in Kalkotthanur village, 20 minutes from Kurinji college, Manapparai and two in DKSHA’s open grounds). “Our team chose this project because we believe that it will greatly benefit the local villagers by providing them with an additional source of income to improve their standard of living,” says Mattew Chan, one of the team leaders.

The team brought down the house in Avarampatti village where they conducted science experiments and taught English. “The local children have minimal exposure to English as lessons are mostly conducted in Tamil. We have tried to make English sound fun by introducing play-way learning and interactive games,” says Chandel. “I feel I have been blessed with a chance at quality education in Singapore and I wanted to give back to society,” says Chen Weijie, a team member.

“As a teacher-to -be, teaching holds a special place in my heart. The sense of achievement and fulfilment I get when the kids run up excitedly to tell me that my lesson was “super, sister” is priceless.”

Good bye India

Before they said goodbye, the Singaporeans cooked their native delicacy, ‘satay’ for more than 80 children. The girls from the team marinated 10 kilos of chicken and the boys set out to look for firewood to set up a campfire.

They served it at a carnival with soccer, volleyball and tug of war matches. While the team taught children songs such as I got peace by the river and Father Abraham had seven children,the kids in turn had the team swaying to Soi Soi from Kumki. And both the hosts and visitors shook a leg to South Korean singer Psy’s Gangnam Style.

“The kids and villagers here are much contented with the simplest things in life,” said Aaron Teow, a team member. “They are generally happy with food to fill their stomach and books to study. I think they live happier lives.”

They swore that it was a million dollar experience that no world tour could buy.