Travelling lets you learn—about a different culture and also about yourself. This is the story of one family’s insight into their own lives and shared relationship after travelling on a ME to WE trip to India.
By Megan Harris
When the opportunity came for me to travel with ME to WE to India, I immediately knew who I wanted to bring along: my dad.
My dad, Peter, is a retired elementary teacher from Toronto. His passion is knowledge and education. He’s also always up for adventure.
Before I was born, my dad spent time abroad in Europe. Then, after I came along, it became about annual summer camping trips with the family.
I think I inherited my own wanderlust from him. (See my passport for stamps to Ecuador and Kenya.)
India would be the farthest my dad—or myself—had ever travelled. This would be a chance for us to step out of our comfort zones and experience something special together. What I didn’t expect was for us to learn more about each other during the process.
I’ve worked at WE for close to five years, now. And of course, I’ve recounted tales from work in our family living room and shared why working at WE is important to me. But, until we touched down in Udaipur, my dad could only take my word for it.
“I got a close-up view of what it was all about,” my dad told me after the ten-day trip. As it turns out, many of the other parents, travelling with their WE employed sons and daughters, felt the same way.
India was more than a shared experience, it was an open window to our lives at WE; it was a light bulb for everyone who had only ever heard of WE and not truly lived it.
For my dad—the retired teacher—the trip was a welcomed lesson in the WE Movement. It gave him insight into “how they’re doing it differently than other organizations,” and how I was a part of making that a reality.
After we got home, I sat down with my dad to reflect on what he felt he had learned during the journey. By the end of our chat, I learned something myself—my dad was proud of my work with WE, and I was ready for another trip.
Megan (M): So we’ve already talked about how much you enjoyed the trip, what about it has stayed with you?
Dad (D): I really liked the visit to the school. It was interesting to meet the kids—even if they don’t have the same things as kids at home, they are very much at heart just like the kids in Canada. Kids are kids.
M: Remember when we went to visit the school in Kalthana? We went to attend the opening ceremony for a Grade 4 classroom. When we got there, the students all greeted us and each took someone in our group by the hand to lead us into their schoolyard. You were paired with a little boy.
D: Yes, there was this one little fellow I talked to a lot—he was quite rambunctious! And he later showed me where he sat in his classroom—he sat right at the front, right under the teacher’s gaze! As you know of course, I’m a retired teacher myself, I used to teach elementary school. And when I saw the classroom, I thought to myself, that’s exactly where I’d have you in my class too. Right at the front!
M: You two connected instantly, even though you only knew a few words in each other’s language! What were you talking about?
D: I was showing him my camera, my pictures. He was quite interested in the pictures of snow, he thought that was cool, and he liked the pictures of my kids.
M: As a teacher yourself, what was it like to go to the opening ceremony of the classroom?
D: It was quite interesting. I think about all the resources we have in Canada—smart boards, calculators, iPads—and we sometimes complain about what we have, but these students and teachers are so proud and grateful of what they have, even if it’s simply desks and textbooks. I think one of my biggest takeaways from the trip was to appreciate what I have and not take it for granted.
M: Any other highlights for you?
D: I thought the visit to Udaipur was really cool and going to the market. The busyness of it, the constant roar of motorcycles roaring past you, donkeys and cows walking down the street, seeing people coming and going in shops. It was really neat to see. I’d never been to a market like that before.
M: My brother—your son—William is autistic, and you and mom both spend a lot of your time taking care of him. Was it hard for you to get away?
D: It was a bit hard to get away, since your mom and I do both take care of William. I think really the most challenging thing was the distance, since I’ve never travelled that far before.
M: I liked seeing you have time for yourself—to go off on a hike in the mountains near where we stayed.
D: That was really fun…exploring near the Araveli camp. I liked seeing all the different wildflowers, the plant and animal life. It was just amazing. I do a lot of walking at home, with your brother and mom, so I really enjoyed the hikes in India.
M: I was really excited for you to learn more about the work I do. I’ve shared stories with you about my time in Ecuador and Kenya with ME to WE and about how WE Villages is making a difference on the ground—I loved being able to experience that firsthand with you. What was it like for you to experience this?
D: I got a real impression of what you do for a living. I understood what you did for a living, of course, but I got a close-up view of what it was all about—what WE is trying to achieve there—and how they’re doing it differently than other organizations. There were a few other parents on the trip with staff members, and we often gathered and talked.
M: What did you all talk about?
D: About how it was such a good experience for our kids because it gave them a chance to see the world and to see other people and how they live.