In October 2009 7 Aquinas pupils, Eimear Devlin, John Doherty, Ben Lambon, Elizabeth Murphy,  Ciara Power, Dermot Sharkey and Peter Stewart were selected to represent Aquinas on the Saphara Belfast Team which went to India in July 2010.  Saphara gives young people the opportunity to engage in issues of justice and global citizenship through working with educationally disadvantaged children in India.  The Belfast team was a cross-community team which brought together pupils from Aquinas Grammar School, Methody College Belfast and Sullivan Upper Hollywood.  The pupils spent the year fundraising for their 16 day trip.  The trip included working with disadvantaged children in India through Irish-linked charities. The location was Dehradun and Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The trip consisted of a weekend in Delhi – orientation, sightseeing, shopping with trip to Taj Mahal; a week teaching children in a hill village school in Mussoorie; a Global Awareness weekend with trekking in the Himalayas and a week in Dehradun teaching in a school for children from a marginalized urban community.  The Belfast team was hosted by the Deputy Irish Ambassador in Delhi and they got the opportunity to discuss the work they had been engaged in and the issues they had learnt about during their visit.

The pupils involved their Aquinas peers in their preparations by getting Key Stage 3 pupils to create postcards depicting images of Belfast and N Ireland which were brought out and used as teaching tools and given to the Indian pupils.  The wider local community also supported the young people who spoke in their local parishes and were generously supported by their parishes and local primary school.  On return from India the pupils have gone back to thank them for their support.

This has opened up the pupils’ eyes to issues such as poverty and social justice and has without doubt help to shape their future career decisions as it was a most rewarding opportunity which has enriched not only the lives of the pupils they taught, but they too as individuals have learnt so much from the whole experience.