Our relaxed and chilled days soon came to an end when, for the past two days, we had to get up at five thirty to work under the full blasting and scorching heat carrying rocks and cement. We set up a very organised and effective system of a human chain which created group work and cooperation. We were working on two different projects one which consisted in building a school and the other a mud hut. This was a very testing project that necessitated a lot of physical suffering due to the heavy rocks we carried and the constant sweating which caused us to drink gallons of water. By the end of the morning we were all absolutely drained of all our energy and we needed a resting afternoon which we got the first day. We all caught up on some sleep and recharged our batteries.
This experience was very different from the eye camp because we were not in direct contact with the people. The villagers were roaming around us curious about our presence especially when we had food. After our second morning we headed back to Mumbai to stay with our host families. We all arrived at Dhirubhai Ambani school and waved goodbye to the staff members and our friends excited to meet our new families and homes.
My family is very nice and welcoming, treating me like a princess making sure my every need is looked after. However being away from all the other ermitagiens has been very weird and hard to get used to seeing as we have all been together for the past two weeks but we have all been finding new company in our hosts who are adorable.
Finally our first lie in in a week! A stress free morning where we avoided any physical work and contact with the heat by shopping at a nearby mall. We made the most of this trip to eat something different from the usual spicy currys, chapatis and rice which we have been eating several times a day for the past week. Therefore we went all out by eating at Friday's, most people getting the hamburgers or ribs with chips. At this very moment everyone ignored their tummies and stuffed their faces with the sort of food that we have all dearly missed.
By four o'clock we were in the bus on our way to our next destination for the following two days. We were joined by a few students and staff members from Dhirubhai Ambani International School some of whom would be our hosts. We are slowly getting to know everyone and they are all just as nice and welcoming as our Daly college friends. We all hope that new friendships and bonds will be created by the end of our stay in India and will be anxious for their visit to France.
Our last day at Daly College began with a presentation of our achievements throughout the four days of the ICU2 camp. The assembly was held in the school auditorium and was a very civilised ceremony where at the end the students sang the Indian national anthem. All the participants of this camp were awarded a certificate which highlighted all of our achievements.
Everyone hates goodbyes, especially when, in a week, you have made such good friends that you know you may never get to see again. Therefore all day, each individual made the most of their final hours with their new friends, spending time by the pool and chatting in our rooms. Although many had dodgy stomachs and were not in the best shape, we cherished our final moments together.
The emotion started building as the time of our departure grew nearer and as soon as we arrived the tears started to emerge. We gave warm embraces and promised to keep in touch but the possibility of never being able to see each other again was too overwhelming. After a slightly delayed flight, we arrived in Mumbai absolutely exhausted and looking forward to a good nights sleep.
In the morning team A revisited the eye clinic and the school where we were yet again warmly welcomed. After a spicy potato lunch we were gifted with a henna session from the students. Everyone got involved even the boys! As the camp was very busy and chaotic we joined the others in the after noon. This increased the speed of the whole camp and permitted new records to be set and a high level to beat for our final day.
Our evening was spent reflecting on what we have achieved, what we want to achieve for our final day and what we have learnt. Ben gave a very inspirational speech which really made us realise how lucky we are and that we should not take everything for granted. We thought about leaders that we would like to aspire to and many mentioned political leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Obama or sports men such as Zidane and Messi. For our final day we would have to follow the mentality of our idols to be able to lead and achieve great success.
Everyone was buzzing and full of stamina for our last day at the eye camp, ready to make the most of this once in a lifetime experience. The crowds were the biggest they have ever been therefore we all upped our game totally determined to reach the two thousand. Every day at the camp we have set new records and our final score was over six thousand registrations and three hundred cataracts. The standard for next year is set very high and will be very tough to beat.
Each individual has had a very touching personal moment whilst working at the camp. When Vinciane was screening an old man she got very emotional due to his frail appearance which reminded her of her grandma. It brought back all the pain her family and her endured, all the sad memories but also the happy ones passed together. Whilst Olivia was working at the glasses stand she handed a man a pair and he got down on his knees and started kissing her feet. This sign of worship highlights the significance a pair of glasses means to these people who all their lives have endured hardship after hardship. One accessory is a symbol of hope and glory that gives access to a more civilised life.
There are so many experiences from our first week in India that we will be able to cherish for the rest of our lives. Everyone feels these four days spent at the camp are days of our lives that have truly been well spent.
To maximise our success the Ermitage students have been divided into two seperate groups. After assisting the inauguration of the eye camp, team A was awarded a trip to the local eye hospital where we visited the different wards, learnt about the various eye operations and most importantly assisted a cataract operation. This clinic has adopted such a positive attitude where their main aim is to eliminate as many cataracts from as many patients as possible. The people who work at this hospital are so inspirational and the medical director gave us a lecture about how to achieve success and happiness in our future lives. We later visited the school and farm where they grow all their fruit and vegetables. This whole program was set up to aid the less fortunate and it honestly made us realise that making a profit is not the most important thing.
At the same time as we were learning about cataracts, team B and the daly students were spotting 63 of them at the eye camp. The first day of testing achieved great success, smashed all records and most importantly distributed over a thousand pair of glasses. It was a day with many highs but also many lows. A few tears were shed due to the obvious pain and physical suffering endured by the people. However by the end of the day everyone was feeling so much better about themselves which created great joy and was later followed by absolute exhaustion.
That evening all the people involved with the project were special guests at the principal's residence where we got to know the Indian students better and where we ate delicious food.
Yesterday the activities were reversed and it was my group's time to experience the thrill of the eye camp. People had been queuing since seven in the morning therefore an enormous queue was awaiting us. We all rushed to our diverse roles; whether it be pointing the stick at the screens, crowd control, searching for cataracts, passing the eye tests or giving out the glasses. Every hour we alternated roles so that everyone could experience the various responsibilities. However the overall favourites were the distribution of glasses and the crowd control due to the smiles and laughter Vinciane and I attracted with our dancing.
We were granted several mini breaks but when lunch time arrived we stopped altogether. Somehow, eating in a nice cool room whilst just outside hundreds of desperate people were queuing under the scorching sun, felt wrong and selfish on our part. These feelings must have been shared by the people who began to be really impatient and started fighting between each other and throwing things. The after noon was a lot more chaotic than the morning so we all moved up a gear. This mindset and the crowds are the reason we yet again achieved another record breaking day, distributing over one thousand three hundred glasses and detecting ninety cataracts.
Our special outing for the evening was a trip to see a Bollywood movie, which was very similar to a typical Hollywood movie. We all tried to understand the Hindi and follow the main idea of the film without the help of our Daly friends.
A memorable experience that we will all be able to cherish for the rest of our lives was a visit to one of the most popular temples in Indore. At first we felt out of place and awkward due to the fact that we thought that we were imposing on their time of worship. It was very interesting to observe and experience first hand another religion which is so close to the heart of the people. However we were all accepted and were even granted more offerings which included a flower chain and an orange dot on our foreheads. We all stepped out of the temple looking a lot more Indian.
The eye camp has necessitated a lot of hard work, organising and constructing. We have all tried to contribute in our own way, whether it be by carrying tables, climbing up ladders or even playing games with the tent lining. We all feel we need to achieve as much success as possible, therefore the building and intricate details of the camp are all aspects that need to be perfect.
Causing a scene during rush hour in Infore, India!
The queues to get into the camp, day 3... With patience dwindling under the hot sun, the crowd is anxious for their chance to benefit from the eye screenings... This was just after a riot had broken out...
ICU2 2013 Day 3 results - and the crowd goes wild!