Colleges India Team 2023

The first Saphara College team since 2019 began their India experience with a wonderful day in Delhi. Clothes shopping was followed by a relaxing and inspiring visit to the Gandhi Museum and a warm welcome from the Irish Ambassador.

Day 1 Teaching at Sneha  – Karen

Today we travelled in style to Sneha school in vikrams. This was a thrilling and energizing experience for everyone, hyping us up for teaching. We arrived just in time for assembly; we were in awe as the children stood in front of us, singing their national anthem beautifully.

When assembly was over, we gathered in the staff room and met the school principal – Rachel. We were touched by her warm welcome and how proud she was of the children.

Then it was time for us to get stuck in with our first lesson.

Our lessons were based on the story ‘We are going on a Bear Hunt.’ We read the story, learnt a new song and made some binoculars out of toilet roll tubes.

My highlight of the day was seeing the excitement on the faces of the Class 2 children when we sang our new song together and acted it out with our binoculars.

Day 2 Teaching at Sneha – Niamh

After our amazing experience of Sneha on our first day, we came back feeling excited, confident and ecstatic about teaching again. I couldn’t wait to see the children again. It seemed like the time moved really slowly until we saw them.

Again, we watched the assembly and we all felt very moved and inspired by the words of affirmation read out at assembly. The children sang ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ and we joined in with the actions. Even though this was our second time seeing the assembly, it felt just as special and left us all feeling in awe at the children and the teachers. We then got together in the staffroom and prepared for our lessons for the day. Myself, Molly-Mabs and Laura are with class 1 A and B and we are teaching the children through the big book ‘Monkey Puzzle’. My lesson today was all about sequencing the story using exact pictures from the book. I was so surprised at how quickly the children were able to do this and how efficient they were with ordinal numbers. The children then wrote the animal names in English and then in Hindi. The teacher was very impressed by this. I told the children that I thought they were so intelligent and their faces lit up. This melted my heart because all they need is that encouragement and to feel loved and valued.

When we all met again after the lessons, although we were tired, the enthusiasm and excitement was still there and you could tell straight away that everyone’s confidence was growing and relationships were starting to form with the children. We then travelled to Mussoorie and I think the main thing we noticed was the temperature! As we are so high up, the temperature is not as high as it was when we were in Dehradun, but the views that we saw certainly made up for it.

Saphara Abseil 2023

Blue skies and spring sunshine blessed the first Saphara abseil since 2019. An amazing response from our Be the Change Award school teams, plus parents, friends and even some very committed teachers, as well as representatives of the Teaching Colleges team, brought over 100 people to take their turn to abseil down the front of the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Sunday 26th February 2023. There may have been some pale faces on the way up, but no end of smiles and cheers as feet touched the ground once again.

Huge thanks are due to the supporters who shouted encouragement from the pavement and to all who donated so generously to the Saphara Be the Change Appeal. All funds raised help to support marginalized children at our partner schools in India, providing empowering education to enable them to realise their dreams for a better future.

Thank you also to Belfast Activity Centre for their guidance, reassurance and expertise in facilitating this event.

Thank you for helping us to give every child the chance to change the world.

The Ballymena Area team led the way…

The Down team were ready for action…

And finally the Belfast Area team…

It’s a long way down…

They all make it look so easy!

Nearly down…

Happy to be back on solid ground…

Thank you to all our amazing abseilers. What a fantastic day!

An update from Christine – India Visit May 2022

In May, Christine was finally able to travel back to India to meet some of Saphara’s valuable partner NGOs, schools, pupils and friends in India after such a long time due to the pandemic!

Christine’s journey began at SNEHA Doon Academy in Dehradun where she was delighted to catch up with the children and some Saphara Girl Champions, and to spend time with the wonderful Dr Reeta Rao, founder and director of SNEHA.  

On Saturday Christine made the trip to one of her favourite places in India, Kaplani High School which is nestled up in the Himalayas! A journey which is often a favourite memory of students of past Saphara teams 

While visiting the Himalayas, Christine was also delighted to meet with some amazing young women who are leaders of the Saphara Girl Champions programme in Himalayan villages.

Saphara Girl Champions programme was developed to empower young girls from the marginalised Dalit and tribal (Adivasi) communities. The programme builds the emotional resilience of the girls, their understanding of menstrual health and ultimately creates create supportive and inclusive communities, encouraging more girls to stay in education and to follow their dreams for the future.

At SNEHA the wonderful Kamlesh and Vinita are leaders of Girl Champions programme, empowering so many young girls to grasp the bright future ahead of them!

While on her visit Christine also made the famous trek to Donk – another popular memory of many former Saphara students! There she visited met up with some, very grown up, past pupils of Donk Primary School:

“It’s great to see Donk kids so grown up! The Semwal twins are waiting for their GCSE results so that they can join Class 11 at Kaplani HS.”

Christine’s busy trip back to India was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with so many of Saphara’s valued partners in India and, as always, helped to highlight just how important the Saphara Be the Change India and Girl Champions programmes are.


To find out more about our work in India and how you can support this vital work why not click below:

College Students’ Be the Change Week and City Hall Celebrations

This year’s Saphara Be the Change programme has been off to an exciting and vibrant start as we celebrate being able to meet and learn together in person once again.

From 4th – 8th April our team of brilliant students from Stranmillis and St Mary’s University Colleges
joined together for a week of planning, reflecting and delivering a programme of inclusive learning
to 50 Primary 7 children from Fane Street Primary School and St Paul’s Primary School. The theme of
“My Story, Our Town” helped the children, many of whom were newcomer children, to reflect upon
identity and belonging; and how our individual stories and cultures work together to make Belfast a
wonderful and welcoming city for everyone.

From games and dancing to crafts and sharing stories, the children learned many valuable lessons as
they were enthusiastically guided by our hardworking team of Saphara college students. One
teacher said:

“My children are loving making friends with the children from St Paul’s. We are so pleased that Saphara is providing this Shared Education experience, we haven’t had any opportunity over the past 2 years.”

Mrs Brown, Fane Street PS

Of course, it wasn’t just the children who were learning valuable lessons as our Stranmills and St
Mary’s students reported:

“To say [Be the Change week] was an eyeopener would be an understatement. The children that you work with are among the most caring, funny and gracious children that I’ve ever come across… the week of planning, delivering and reflection that we took part in was an opportunity to gain invaluable experiences and develop transferrable skills that will be …useful in many situations”

Clodagh, St Mary’s College

“The planning was so much fun, working with St Mary’s and Stranmillis together…. When I look back on Be the Change Week I take away many things, but through my personal reflection I realised one thing. The ability and willingness to hand control over to the children … is most successful in delivering a programme like this.”

Jordan, Stranmillis College

Out of the 50 primary school pupils, a phenomenal 27 languages were represented. This highlights
the importance of the Saphara Be the Change programme as we work to support newcomer children
in Northern Ireland, not only supporting their English language skills, but celebrating the diversity
and richness they are bringing to Northern Ireland! Many of our college students were delighted to
learn new phrases and facts about other languages and cultures; all of which add to the vibrant
tapestry of “Our City”.

Watch this Space… Be The Change Schools

The fun didn’t stop with the college students! On 11 th April we were delighted to celebrate the work
so far of our 140 Be the Change Award sixth-formers.

30 pupils from 12 schools attended the reception in Belfast City Hall alongside their teachers and
shared some of the highlights of their Be the Change journey so far.

Clodagh and Jordan from the Colleges’ Be the Change Week were also there to share some words of
wisdom with the Year 13s who, following their AS exams, will have their own opportunity to engage
with newcomer children and their peers.

We were honoured to welcome the Deputy Lord Mayor, councillor Tom Haire. Although the Lord
Mayor, Kate Nicoll (then councillor, currently MLA), could not be there is person, she joined us
virtually with a message of encouragement to the Saphara teams:

“I just want to thank all of the Saphara volunteers for your incredible contribution. It’s so important now more than ever that we have a global outlook, that we spread kindness, and empathy, and awareness, and that’s something that you all have in endless amounts! So, thank you for your amazing contribution!”

As we look forward with anticipation to June’s Be the Change Award events, we want to say a huge
well done to our brilliant school teams and, of course, a special thank you to the teachers who make
it all possible.

Keep an eye on this blog and on our social media for updates on more of the wonderful work of the Be the Change Programme 2022

Saphara Be the Change Newcomer week 2022

Saphara Newcomer week proved to be an unforgettable climax to Be the Change programme involving:

142 Primary School Children

134 Sixth Form volunteers

20 Student teachers

36 Teachers

17 Schools

20 hours of educational fun, affirmation & inclusion delivered to newcomer children & their peers.

Following the very successful Be the Change week with teaching college students at Easter, our final event of the year brought the turn of the sixth-form teams. At the end of the summer term, our Year 13 volunteers led 3 fun-filled days of educational activities for six Primary 5 classes from Belfast primary schools in socially deprived area with high percentages of newcomer children.

In recent years schools like Fane Street, Holy Rosary, Malvern, St Bride’s and St Paul’s Primary Schools have welcomed into their communities, families fleeing from countries such as Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and now added to by refugees from the conflict in Ukraine. Teachers deal daily with the constantly changing challenges of language, culture and trauma on top of the ongoing issues of social deprivation in their catchment areas and we were amazed by the inclusive learning communities which they had managed to create.

It was a privilege to offer these inspiring schools a day out for their P5 pupils to celebrate how their diversity enriches our wider community in Northern Ireland, and how our unique identities and experiences provide common ground, but also opportunities to learn from and grow in respect for others.

Each day a different team of around 45 Year 13 students, worked together to run a variety of activities for these children. Each team had been divided into teaching groups comprised of young people from different education and faith backgrounds who had prepared together for these events at workshops during the year. Their effective teamwork and mutual respect were evident as they worked towards the common goal of ensuring an unforgettable day for and with the newcomer children and their peers.


After refreshments on arrival, the children had the chance to meet and mix with each other during some ice-breaker games in the sports hall, with balls and beanbags, parachutes, treasure hunts and hopscotch helping them to overcome any shyness and find their own voice.

Small groups then participated in a Getting to Know You classroom session with pupils working together on fun language and literacy games. Teaching groups were able to provide lots of individual engagement and support, ensuring that all language abilities were catered for and that everyone felt included and involved.

A lunchtime break included not only a delicious meal, but also more fun and games outside for the P5s and their new ‘teachers’.


With full tummies and legs stretched it was back to the classroom for a craft activity. Each child decorated a large jigsaw piece with their name surrounded by designs depicting their own personality and experience. Creative juices were encouraged to flow with paint, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and glitter adorning these works of art. Craft time ended by building the group jigsaw, reflecting on how individual and unique we are, but how well we all fit together to make a more beautiful and interesting whole.

After reluctantly waving good-bye to the P5 classes, the Saphara teams had their own time to reflect on finding confidence in previously undiscovered skills and abilities, on new friendships and team bonding, but most of all on the children who had inspired them with their enthusiasm, resilience and aspirations for the future, as well as their acceptance and support of each other.

By giving of themselves and bringing dazzling smiles to the faces of the children they met, our 2022 school teams proved that they could indeed Be the Change they want to see in the world.

Sincere thanks are due once again to Stranmillis University College for hosting this event and to St Mary’s University College for their financial support.


Student comments

I really enjoyed learning from the newcomer kids at the teaching event and seeing where they all have travelled from. I think they show how resilient and inspiring children can be in such difficult circumstances.

The Be the Change Award has helped me to appreciate how difficult it can be for children who come from different backgrounds to integrate with those who do not share or understand their culture. It has also opened my eyes to how many children there are from different countries and religions in my local area, and allowed me to discover how well the majority of these children have assimilated amongst their peers, despite often coming from disadvantaged or marginalised communities. I have discovered that human connection is important to every young person, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality, and that friendships can extend beyond language barriers.

The kids also showed so much joy and hope which I loved and made me keener for other cultures to come into our society and bring fresh life.

Being honest I was not aware of the volume of newcomer children here in Northern Ireland so close to home. It has made me more aware and conscious of disadvantaged communities and how I can make such a difference to them by doing the smallest things.

I have realised that this issue of poverty is more common than one may think, at first, I had thought that this problem was very limited in NI. However, I have experienced first-hand that this is a growing issue here, the Be the Change Award has helped me become aware of this issue and through this award I now have the skills, motivation and mindset to help eradicate this marginalization and hardship in my local communities.

Interacting with different children proved that they all have something unique to share and contribute no matter what their background is. We should always be tolerant to those who appear different to us, as every single child wonderful and that is regardless of the hardship that many have faced. I am definitely more aware of the differences that exist in society and now feel in a better position to seek other opportunities to engage with and help more people.

The Be the Change Award has made be truly sit up and pay attention because I have learned to be more understanding.

Team Teacher Comments

The pupil experiences at the Newcomer Day gave a real sense of reality and opened their eyes to challenges currently being experienced by our increasingly diverse society.

The teaching day was a really special day and the pupils haven’t stopped talking about it. Knowing the disruption of the last two years it was particularly special to witness them interact, teach and influence positively the lives of younger children.

Primary Teacher comments

Our P5s loved the day!  Thank you so much for everything! Principal, St Paul’s PS

It is wonderful to see our children, especially the boys, connecting with the Saphara young people – having role models who can inspire them to stay engaged in school and to aspire to a better future. I hope this will just be the start to a great collaboration with Saphara. Teacher, Fane Street PS


Our Impact in 2021

With your support over the past year, we have:

• reached over 3,900 people with food and basic supplies.

• run online classes, especially for adolescent girls, reaching hundreds of girls, together with their mothers and siblings too.

• provided adolescent girls with 3,750 washable sanitary pads.

• funded 17 tuition centres providing catch up classes for 1800 rural children, including at Donk and other Himalayan and tribal villages.

• reached thousands of adolescent girls in tribal villages protecting them from trafficking and child marriage.

• provided telephone counselling to support families, reducing family breakdown, domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Led by Dr Reeta and SNEHA, this programme is reaching mothers and daughters facing gender-based violence.

• continued to support SNEHA and Kaplani schools, paying teachers’ salaries and supporting online learning.