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December 29th, 2010
Watch MuchMusic’s special presentation of Degrassi In India TONIGHT Wednesday, December 29 at 8pm ET!
In August 2010, through the continued partnership with Free The Children, fourteen Degrassi cast members helped build a school for an impoverished community in Udaipur, India. When not working on the educational facility, the cast immersed themselves in the culture of India. Combining the morning ritual of yoga and meditation, with Hindi classes, exploring markets, riding camels, and meeting children within the community, the trip proved to be a life-changing experience.
Find out what cast member Charlotte Arnold thought of her experience in India and check out photo’s from the trip, as well as the one word that each cast member would use to describe their trip! For more information about Free the Children or to see how you can get involved, please go to www.freethechildren.com. We Day is Thursday September 30.
There’s a moment from the India trip that I’ll never forget. Munro, Jessica, Aislinn and I sat on a wooden plank under the tin sheet roof of a hut, with a very shy little boy. As his master loomed nearby, we asked the young construction worker questions through a translator. Apprehensively, he told us that his parents and two siblings live in another province and he’s able to see them once a year. He works six days a week, surrounded by much older boys and men, sending the money home so that his siblings can attend school. He sleeps on the plank we’re sitting on, has no shoes, and if he gets injured, the wound is wrapped in a cloth. To try to get to know him a little, we asked if he has a favourite game to play, and he quietly told us he didn’t have time for that. We wondered whether he had any desire to go to school and he replied simply, sadly, “I can’t go right now.” We asked him how old he was, and he had no idea. Sitting beside him under that tin roof though, I couldn’t help but notice the very first hint of a mustache above his lip—he couldn’t have been more than twelve, the same age as my little brother, Christian.
Some time later, the four of us piled back into the car and had a good, long, heaving cry together. I thought about the contrast between my little brother—loud, hilarious, a hockey player—and this timid little blank slate who, because his family had to send him to work instead of school, hadn’t had the chance for his personality or interests to develop. I thought about myself at that age and how self-indulgent I was able to be. It was visceral pain to think about the childhood that was taken away from him, and to know that his situation is echoed millions of times over amid the chaos of India.
But it was important that we experienced moments like this and that we share them now that we’re home. India was exhausting at times for the body and the heart, but more than anything made me feel powerful that I’m in a position to fight for kids like this boy. It really is tough to be face-to-face with a reality that is so astoundingly unfair, but I’m proud and grateful that I and my group of friends didn’t choose to keep blinders on, but instead to dive into a complicated and contradictory world with open minds and good intentions. That time on the construction site was bleak, but despite the sadness and frustration of that day, those two weeks were among the loveliest of my life.
Because there’s another moment. In the pouring rain, under a starlit sky, at the foot of a lush green mountain, my castmates and I danced like maniacs. Soaking wet and never better, we tangoed and ran around like little kids, exhausting our last bit of energy before bed. It seemed, still does actually, so outrageously surreal that we were dancing in the rain, in INDIA. In that moment and about a gazillion others during those weeks I felt like my friends and I shared the same heartbeat. Raindrops hitting our skin, massive mutant bats soaring overhead, our minds completely overflowing with endless sights, sounds, tastes, and smells, I’ve never felt more alive.