Charlotte Bell - Young Leaders 2016

At Amber Fort, Alice, Charlotte and Maddie

At Amber Fort, Alice, Charlotte and Maddie

So far the Young Leaders Tour to India has been such a sensory experience, from the aromatic flavours of our morning chais, the vibrant colours, to the loudly honking cars in the streets. Our tour so far has been incredibly inspiring and has already reignited my passion for social change.

The 2016 group is so diverse, that our conversations are rich with ideas, meaning my brain is always left buzzing after our workshops or peer to peer learning sessions.

So far, my highlight has been our time spent exploring a slum colony which I expected to be overwhelmed with confronting poverty but instead I was surprised by the resiliant nature and resourcefulness of so many people living in the slum. It was really admirable to see men, women and children making the most out of what they have. The second day of the Young Leaders Tour morning started with delicious parathas with yoghurt cooked by the friendly Sheela and Kishon at Grace Home, before departing for a walking tour of by the Salaam Baalak Trust.

Salaam Baalak Trust waking tour

Salaam Baalak Trust waking tour

Salaam Baalak meaning 'hello child', is an organisation that offers walking tours led by rehabilitated street children. I found the day challenging as I struggled with issues of ethical travel and feeling like our group came away with a mutually beneficial relationship with the children we interacted with. The walking tour led us through the safe house for young boys in which they stay in for their first point of rehabilitation. In my opinion, the already vulnerable status of the children as street children made it innapropriate to engage with. I think to foster better relationships between tourists and locals we need to set up more meaningful exchanges. Rather than rushing in and playing a few hand clapping games that seemed forced and thenbeing ushered out again while another group of tourists waited to do the same thing.

After reflecting on the day, I think omitting the exchange with the children would not have minimised the walking tour in any way and in fact would have made it more ethical and enjoyable. As a student of international development, I am probably more sensitive to these issues of ethical travel as I have studied theories such as the 'Do No Harm' approach which essentially advocates that if we cannot do any help that we should at least have no negative impact.

Despite the challenges of today, they offered an important opportunity for us to open up a discussion surrounding our feelings about the walking tour that may not have taken place if we had not been in a group engaging in academic debate. I have really enjoyed the stimulating conversations with other young leaders keen to create social impact.

At the Taj Mahal, Lizz, Alice, Maddie and Charlotte

At the Taj Mahal, Lizz, Alice, Maddie and Charlotte

We finished the day at Kingdom of Dreams, with a live Hindi show called 'The Fastest Feet'. The show was a blended Bollywood and Western production, and offered us all spectacular entertainment with stunningly colourful costumes and sets. I am sure the vibrancy of India will continue as we make our way to Old Delhi tomorrow!