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DMU project in India


St Mary's student Aisling Chada with the Sneha Doon Academy children.


Students and staff from St Mary’s and Stranmillis University Colleges recently travelled to India to work in schools as part of the Saphara project. The trip was organized within the context of the joint colleges’ Diversity and Mutual Understanding (DMU) programme.

The team included ten, Year 3, BEd students from each university college along with two staff members. Participating students from St Mary’s were Aisling Chada, Corrie Murray, Ríoghnach Moore, Ciara Rafferty and Claire McErlean. Students were accompanied by Joe Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Technology and Design, at St Mary’s, and by Anita Gracie, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education, from Stranmillis University College.

Joe Hughes shared his reflections on the trip:

“The work of Saphara and the schools it supports has been a revelation. The alliance of so many caring, impressive individuals developing the education and empowerment of the most vulnerable is so positive and enlightening. During the trip, we were afforded the opportunity to meet both teachers and adults who make sacrifices to offer high-quality intervention in the lives of young people from poor and impoverished backgrounds. This effort is demonstrated in the breathtaking array of quality work by Saphara: supplying school meals, supporting school facilities, offering resilience programmes to girls and subsidising classroom assistants’ training. All these activities are informed by local experts embedded in the community and in the various aspects of Indian life and culture. This intelligent and informed approach gives us confidence in the benefits of future visits because it encourages active and focused contributions from our young teachers.

“Our initial experience of teaching in Kaplani High School highlighted the positive energy in the children and the warmth of their welcome. In Sneha Doon Academy in Dehradun, our students worked together to deliver active learning and gave back energetic, fun and quality learning experiences. The students have experienced a global dimension to classroom lesson planning and delivering classes to appreciative and joyful pupils.

“This experience offers a great deal to our student cohort. It has provided them with the opportunity to travel and experience, first hand, the history, culture and diversity of Indian society. The trip offers diversity through walking the streets of Delhi, experiencing the markets and visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Lotus Temple. Travelling by train through the Indian countryside and trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas offer a variety of real-world experiences that were barely imaginable in a ten-day trip. This opportunity to travel to India with such a fine group of students has been an absolute privilege.”

The students compiled a blog of their experiences in India, which may be viewed on the Saphara web pages.


The staff and students from St Mary's University College and Stranmillis University College who recently travelled to India as part of the Saphara project.


The children of Kalpani High School eating lunch.


St Mary's students Ríoghnach Moore and Aisling Chada in class with the children of Sneha Doon Academy.   St Mary's student Claire McErlean with Sneha Doon Academy children.


St Mary's student Corrie Murray enjoying some Art time with the children at Sneha Doon Academy


St Mary's student Melissa Robertson with some of the children at Sneha Doon Academy.