For this year Summer Expedition, Claygate Explorer Scouts went to Southern India. We stayed 10 days at the Rhema Gardens, Cumbum, in the Tamil Nadu State. Our journey to Cumbum involved changing planes at Mumbai, to Chennai (Bombay) then catching a night train to Madurai, where we were met for a 2 hour mini bus journey to Cumbum. While we were in Chennai we took the Tuk Tuk’s (3 wheel taxi) for a bit of sightseeing. A great way to experience the real India.
Rhema Gardens is a Christian Community which runs an Orphanage. Here there are orphans and mentally disadvantaged children. They also have a Bible College, set up churches in Cumbum Valley and a Medical centre for the poor, whatever their beliefs. While we were there we did painting, gardening, made a swing from an old tractor tyre and made wind chimes from wooden blocks with prayers and messages written on them. We also had a go at teaching English to the Bible College Students.
By far the best thing we did was interacting with the Children from the orphanage, playing games such as Cricket, Duck Duck Goose (they loved this), have three legged races, wheelbarrow races. We also brought from the UK colour pencils (colours which are not available in India), pens, drawing books, and loom band (a big favourite). There was an impromptu campfire which went down well.
The Explorer Scouts raised £5000 either through donations or fundraising. The money raised will help go towards build a dormitory for the staff that at present live 15 to a room and provide a roof for the girl’s dormitory.
Cumbum is a bustling town of between 100,000 150,000, which is very busy all day long and with traffic buzzing around like bumper cars. We did have 3 days trekking in Periyar tiger reserve in Kerala State. This was fantastic, the scenery breathtaking, seeing Elephants, bears mongoose, bison and a number of birds. We followed this up with a day’s rafting on Bamboo rafts. The guides could teach scouts a thing or two on lashings. On our way back to the UK we had another day in Chennai. We were staying in a suburb of Chennai near the Airport. This involved catching a suburban train from the centre of Chennai. The train doors are left open on the suburban lines. The cost was also good, about 50p each.
We had a fantastic time, learning a different culture and way of life.