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Harriet spent three weeks of the summer working in Western India...

A 16 year old student at Mark College (now known as Sedgemoor Manor School) in Highbridge, Somerset has undertaken the trip of a lifetime to work with the charity Free the Children in India.

Harriet has attended Mark College for three years, and is studying psychology, sociology and art A levels and COPE (Certificate of Personal Effectiveness) Level 3. She has already achieved 7 GCSEs at A-C and her ambition is to become a therapist.

Harriet, one of only 28 young people chosen from the hundred that applied, spent three weeks this summer working on the Adopt a Village project in Kumbhalgarh, Western India. The group spent time working on the project, helping to complete toilets, classrooms and a health centre.

The group also met and engaged with local villagers, learning about a completely different culture and way of life. Harriet kept a diary during her trip, detailing the incredibly hard but rewarding manual work carried out and the cultural differences she encountered. "I have seen jackals, dog fights, babies in eye liner, a lady dance with a sword in her mouth, been part of a flash mob in rural India, learnt some Indian dance moves, had Delhi belly, and in conclusion had the best time of my life."

Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner that believes in a world where all children are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. It works domestically through We Day and We Act to educate, engage and empower youth to become active local and global citizens. Through its holistic and sustainable development model—Adopt a Village— it works to remove barriers to education and to empower communities to break the cycle of poverty.

Harriet said:  "Free the Children is an amazing charity. It was started by a 12 year old named Craig who went to India with a guide. Whilst there he talked to the children about the work conditions they suffered with a view to combat child labour. He realised you can’t pull a child out of work if their family isn’t supported and so he and the charity developed the five pillars of sustainability – education, alternative income, health, water and sanitation, and agriculture and food security. It is these pillars that support all the projects around the world today. The aim of the charity is to supply each community with the five pillars so they can be sustainable and self sufficient.

"I have made friends for life through the trip and it has changed my life. I have seen so many things that will stay with me forever, people with nothing who are open, generous and happy people. I will never forget seeing a woman sitting on the floor of her mud house smiling, or the children who only get one, maybe two meals a day but who are so happy and always want to play. They will be my dearest memories of India."

Mark College, said:  "Harriet is an exceptional young woman.  As a school we raised money for free the Children and once her exams were over Harriet applied to travel to India and gained a place, I am immensely proud of her.

"The whole experience has obviously had a profound effect on her and I am sure will shape her future, which is incredibly bright."

Mark College (now known as Sedgemoor Manor School) is a specialist residential school for boys and girls aged 10 to 19 with specific learning difficulties including language disorders, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.

For more details on Aspris Children's Services, please call 0118 970 8068 or click here to make an enquiry.