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Visit to Patna 2007 by the Ashbourne group

Eight people from the Ashbourne area Churches spent 5 weeks in the Church of North India, mainly in the Diocese of Patna.

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They report
Eight members of Ashbourne Churches Together are just back from a 5-week visit to the Diocese of Patna in the Church of North India. The party spent a large part of its time in one of the schools in Bhagalpur that teaches in English. They were able to help with English conversation both with the pupils and with the teachers and they also taught a variety of English, Maths and Science lessons. Elizabeth and John Hurfurt said it was a very worthwhile experience for all concerned. The school gets few visitors and the pupils and staff all appreciated the visit. As well as familiarizing them with current British English the visit helped to raise the profile of the school in the local community. Although church run, about 95% of the school’s pupils are Hindus. John and Elizabeth said, “ We were amazed at the size of the classes. We knew from our previous visit that classes were often 40 or 50 strong but this year we found many with 80 or 90 pupils and one with 120. Facilities and equipment were very limited so we were impressed with the quality of the teaching that was achieved in those circumstances.”

The party also visited St. John’s School in Taljhari where the Ashbourne – Patna Partnership sponsors the board and lodging for 100 girls. This was an exciting visit for Martyn Davis who was one of the original party of five that visited Patna in 2000. Then they had very little time in Taljhari. Martyn, along with others who had visited Taljhari last year, were struck by the improvements. The buildings had been painted and the grounds tidied up. The girl’s hostel in particular was much brighter. More help is still needed though. It goes dark in that part of India about 6.00pm and the local electricity supply is very unreliable. Most evenings the children are struggling to study by oil lamps. They desperately need a generator to provide their own electricity.

Anna and Sam Davis, together with Ian Thorpe, were visiting India for the first time. They commented on the warmth of the welcomes they received and the generous hospitality shown and said “At most places we were met by a group singing and dancing a welcome. We were given garlands of flowers and often had our feet washed. The enthusiasm of the children was tremendous.”

Martyn, Sam and Ian played football with the boys after school finished and were surprised at the level of fitness of the Indian boys. Bihar is one of the poorest states in India with an average annual income of about £120 so cars are rare. People walk considerable distances and carry large loads as a matter of course. Many of the jobs which we have electrical or mechanical aids for are still done by hand. Walking through the city of Bhagalpur is quite an experience. There are no pavements and so you share the road with cycles, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, goats, cows, pigs, dogs and the occasional car or truck. You have to behave as though you are part of the traffic, even going round a roundabout as you would in a car back home.

Sheena Bryden was unfortunate enough to break her wrist in a fall but she was very impressed with the treatment she received. “It will not stop me from returning to India” said Sheena. Like Sheena, Janet Hall was impressed by the care and consideration shown by all the people we met. “Nothing was too much trouble for them” said Janet.

The visit has served to strengthen the link between the Ashbourne Churches and the Diocese of Patna in the Church of North India. The CNI is a United Church, having been formed by the coming together of six different denominations including Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian. Anyone wanting more information about the partnership, the sponsorship scheme or the services of a speaker should contact Elizabeth Hurfurt on 01335 342859

Following the visit to the Diocese of Patna, three of the party visited Shillong to see Eva Lyngwa, one of the Messengers of Peace who had visited Derbyshire earlier. They the joined the rest of the party in Kalimpong and Darjeeling where they met the Derbyshire party led by Rev Christopher Harrison.