Getting news from the Homes is one of the joys of being a DGHUK supporter. The story of this little school in the high Himalayas, and its fantastic pupils, is developing all the time. But while most of us get our updates through the newsletter, letters from the children, or this website and blog, some supporters go all the way to the source. That was what UK sponsor Pat Lomax did when she travelled to India to visit Dr Graham’s Homes last month. We caught up with her to find out more.
How did your visit come about, Pat?
I had actually visited the Homes in 2010 and again earlier this year when I was able to meet Rosy, the girl I sponsor, which was lovely. Somehow I had a feeling I was meant to go back and this was confirmed in various ways so, while my visa was still valid, I booked to go again. I had planned to visit my friends in Sikkim once again but in October there was the dreadful bursting of the Teesta III dam, which flooded the area and washed away some of the road. So I ended up staying on at DGH for the whole five weeks.
Was it good to be able to see Rosy again?
It was lovely. Rosy’s family lives in Kolkata, so she is a boarder, mainly just getting home for the winter holidays. It was great to be able to see life in general on campus, and find out how she’s getting on. Rosy is a gentle, quiet girl, and everyone speaks well of her. She enjoys running. Every Thursday there is a Cottage Fellowship held in a different cottage. I enjoyed going to these with the pastor and sometimes Rosy came along with us.
Would you recommend visiting to other DGH supporters?
Absolutely. It is really good to be able to see the setup there, and how it all functions. And to be able to meet the people who work at DGH, finding how they seem to enjoy it. But also to be able to see some of the challenges the school faces, such as the ongoing need for repairs and refurbishments to the buildings on campus. If you get the chance to go, I would really recommend it.
What advice would you give potential visitors?
The first thing to do if you are a sponsor or a correspondent of a child is to contact the Sponsorship Secretaries, because any visit needs initially to be coordinated through them for safeguarding purposes. They will send you a Visitor Information form, which you fill out with some details – why you’d like to visit the Homes, whether you correspond with your sponsored child, and so on. Then you wait for the go-ahead. I’d also recommend that you stay in the Ahava Guest House, if you can. That’s on the school campus itself. If you do not sponsor a child, you could instead contact the school direct. Again, let the Sponsorship Secretaries know and they will give you the appropriate contact details.
Will you visit again someday?
I’d like to, yes. I need to pray about when that might be. But I’d definitely like to go again. There’s something about Dr Graham’s Homes. It’s a place that kind of gets into you. It really does.
To see some of the photographs from Pat's visit, keep scrolling down this page. Click on an image to expand.
Pat’s DGH photo journal
When I arrived, the school was celebrating its birthday – the 123rd year since the Homes were set up by Dr Graham, a Scottish missionary – so there was a lot going on. They have various celebrations during that time. I was able to join in by running a couple of workshops for some of the young children using air-drying clay. We made some little owls, which they were able to put in the craft exhibition the school was holding. The Kindergarten teachers liked the idea so much, they asked if they could learn how to do them too! So I did a couple of workshops with them which was fun and they enjoyed making different little animals!
Anyone who knows DGH well will tell you about their love of singing. That was one of the competitions they were holding for the celebrations – a contest between the different Cottages.
They also had a swimming gala, with lots of pupils taking part across the school as well as some old boys and girls who were there for their 25th reunion. Again, it was another inter-Cottage competition, so they were each competing for honours for their different Cottages. The girls did a lovely water ballet at the end, though it was a last-minute addition with very little time to practise.
Then there was the play by the senior pupils. This year’s play was Aladdin and the Lamp: the Musical. They were so good, you scarcely would have known they were schoolchildren. Somebody described it as “eye-popping and jaw-dropping”. They were incredible.
On the Sunday came what they call ‘The Gathering’. There were a couple of speeches then an interesting and challenging address to the children from an eminent cardiologist, who had been a boarder at the school. Then greeting after greeting was read out from alumni round the globe — USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Lapland, Holland are some I remember, as well as from different parts of India. The group of OGB alumni from the Class of ‘98, who were having their 25th reunion, were given the traditional Khada (scarf) to honour them. Just listening at various times to those who had gone through their schooling at DGH, it was obvious just how much they appreciated it and the love that they had experienced. They speak of it so warmly and gratefully, which was lovely to hear. Unfortunately, it was too wet for the children to sit in their cottage groupings on the field for the traditional buns, jellabies. This year there was such a lot of rain. They would have had them in their cottages / classrooms but the guests enjoyed these along with the birthday cake and hot sweet tea in the Jarvie Hall.
Just before I left, before the Puja holidays, came Sports Day. This was opened with prayer (as all events were). The children were all in groups round the field according to their Cottages, each Cottage having its own colours. The pipe band, which was by this time in the centre of the field, struck up and one after the other each Cottage, after picking up the flag of their colour, marched in time round the field, followed by the pipe band. Then came all the running events, followed by the chariot race, where one boy or girl has a small one on their shoulders. The little one holds onto bamboo poles, which are shouldered by a couple of children either side. All good fun and of course it all ended with a tug-of-war.
Some of the most wonderful memories from the trip were the occasional early morning views of the great 26,000ft Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. I saw it mainly from my bedroom window in the Ahava guest house but, if I was there early enough, I could see it from the school grounds too. Indeed, there is a whole snow-capped range to be seen but, unfortunately, I only caught a glimpse of some of the rest of it one morning. Will just have to go back 😊.