Students travel to India for exploration and service


PHOTO/Alton Jenkins

WHS students Alton Jenkins, Dellena Bereket and Nasarith Berhe smile for a picture in front of the Taj Mahal palace in India.

Casey Friedman, Feature Editor

For most students, vacation is a time of rest and relaxation from the normal busy routine of WHS. However, this past February break, sophomores Alton Jenkins, Dellena Bereket and Nasarith Berhe traveled to India to give back with service.

Bereket explained how she and the other students from WHS became eligible for this trip with their Boys and Girls club’s program titled “Explore India”.

“You have to take a nine-month course learning about Indian history, culture and government before going on the trip, and not everyone that takes the course is able to go. Usually only ten [students] are selected to go,” Bereket explained.

Once having completed the course, the students began their travels by flying through Dubai into Delhi to start their trip. Despite its focus on service, the students enjoyed tourist attractions as well.

“We were in Delhi to see [Mahatma] Gandhi’s memorial and his gardens,” Bereket added. “We were in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and [the] Sheroes’ [Hangout], a café famous for its acid attack victims that are employed there.”

For Jenkins, the visit to this cafe and meeting the women who worked there was a highlight of the trip.

“We learned about their stories and their fight to come back into society and make a name for themselves, despite all that has happened,” Jenkins said.

From Agra, the trip moved to the city of Kochi for some sightseeing and tourism, and then into other parts of the state of Kerala. There, the students on the trip were able to meet local kids at schools and orphanages. Students spent time with the kids playing games and getting to know each other.

“We couldn’t really communicate with the kids as much since we don’t speak the local language and they don’t speak English. It was challenging at times. However, being able to bond with them despite that was super cool,” Bereket said.

The time at the orphanage was so important to the students that they have further plans to help out more in the future.

“We are planning on doing another fundraiser to send money and clothes and school supplies to them in the upcoming years,” Bereket added.

Along with the work at schools and orphanages, the students met with a founder of a non-profit human rights network. They also visited and worked at a Kangayam cattle farm in Tamil Nadu called the Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation.

Despite finding common ground with the many people they encountered, Berhe recognized the major differences of life in India versus at home here in Boston.

“Life in India is extremely different compared to life here. People [in India] live more in the moment, and are always in a rush,” Berhe explained. “Everyone I encountered was so grateful for everything they had, even if it wasn’t a lot.”

Although they noted life may have been different in India, all three students expressed that they would go again and would recommend this experience to other students at WHS.

“I feel like it’s important because when living a sheltered life, you’re not going to be exposed to the real world and to the struggles that people go through unless you’re exposed to it face to face,” Bereket explained.

Berhe agreed and added her own thoughts on how service may positively affect high school students.

“Kids who are not used to different lifestyles should go out and experience it first hand. I believe it opens kids’ minds up because it sure opened mine,” Berhe described.

PHOTO/ Nasarith Berhe
Students pose for a picture with acid burn victims and workers at Sheroes’ [Hangout] Cafe in Agra India.