Botanic Gardens and Indian Museum, Kolkata - travel journal


India group
At the end of June, 2018, thirty children between the ages of 7-17 years old who are involved with the Indian charity Tiljala Shed went to see some of the tourist sights of their own city, Kolkata, including the Botanic Gardens, the Indian Museum as well as enjoying a meal at a popular restaurant. Tiljala Shed is a non religious, non political grassroots charity working with marginalised people in the city and, in particular, rag pickers. The trip was organised by Shalini Deo from our partner organisation Volunteering Journeys who also provided a volunteer on the day, Misgana Kurban, to accompany the children on the trip along with four teachers. This excursion was funded by thirty of our travellers at Responsible Travel.

Tiljala Shed was started by a group of youths from Tiljala who wanted to make a real change in the area and transform lives, especially those within the rag picking community. In Kolkata society these children and their families are considered ‘the last tier’ and are, according to the charity “treated as dirt and garbage by society. Even people living in the legal slums despise them.” The families live along the railway tracks settlements and also along the dirty canal side settlements where violence and abuse is rampant. They were keen to offer the children this trip as a way to help them feel part of society again, as well as contributing to their education. Tiljala Shed operates two shelters in Kolkata, one specifically for children and many of the children on this trip are from these shelters.

Journal:

Date: 27 June 2018

Morning: At 8.30am everyone met at the Beauty Training & Empowerment Centre of Tiljala SHED and walked to the street where the air-conditioned charter bus picked them up. The children were pleased with this luxurious experience. Their first stop was the Botanical Garden and the children were very excited to see all of the trees and different types of plants. The weather was nice and pleasant, though little bits of rain continued for some time during the day.

Lunchtime: After the Botanical Garden, the group went to a prominent Kolkata restaurant, called Amimia, where the children were excited to eat Biryani with chicken and a few of them were asking for the chicken leg or the thigh with excitement in their voice. Everyone ate all of the food with salads and they also had rice pudding for dessert, which the children were also very excited about.

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Afternoon: The next stop was the Indian Museum and the children still had some energy in them to see what the new exhibit was this time, as a few of them have been to the museum a few times before. The children were happy to be spending time with their friends but also enjoyed the current exhibit which was on Human Evolution.

End of the day: They ended the long day with ice cream from a small ice cream cart which the kids absolutely loved!

Talking in greenhouse
Children

Impact: The children enjoyed the trip very much and it was a great way for them to learn different things about the world and their city. All in all, it was a very special day for the children. As the trip was arranged in a very organised way, the children felt very special and they expressed their desire to do similar trips in the future.

The children also really enjoyed the support of Aftabuddin Ahmad who had volunteered to be the official guide. He is a traveller and a nature lover and told the children all about the different types of trees, plants and their species. Aftab also gave the history behind all of the significant parts of the Botanic Garden and the children seemed to engage more and were interested to learn. It was a great experience for everyone to be around each other away from their homes so that they could learn and enjoy themselves.

Quotes from the day
“I really enjoyed the trip. It was good to have knowledge about the past and history”. I also thought learning about the different types of trees and plants at the Botanical Garden were great!”
– Shabana

“Very much enjoyed it! My favourite part was looking at the mummies! Next time, I would love to go to Nicco Park!”
– Shabnam

“Very enjoyable day! My favourite part was going to different places with new and old friends and eating the delicious food!”
– Riya

“Loved it, very fun!” - Hafizul

“I enjoyed the trip very much! Very fun! I liked the mummies at the Indian Museum and the different types of trees at the Botanical Garden. I would also like to go to Nicco Park sometime please! ”
– Zearul

“Enjoyed overall, museum was boring but garden was the best because being in a group is fun!”
– Atikul
More about our partner organisation: Volunteering Journeys is a responsible tour operator based in India. They run a range of volunteering and tour packages that offer discovery, learning, adventure and fulfilment to travellers seeking to do something different in India. Working closely with community stakeholders, they place volunteers in ongoing projects in teaching, sports, the arts, health, construction and women’s empowerment. Their volunteering work has now extended to Nepal and Sri Lanka.

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