PORTSMOUTH worshippers have returned from a life-changing expedition to one of the poorest regions of India.
Members of Cosham Baptist Church embarked on a trip to Tenali in southern India earlier this month to help Harvest India support underprivileged people in the area.
Baptists helped the Christian charity set up a holiday club for 700 orphans and give aid to former prostitutes who had worked in Tenali’s red-light district.
The Everyone Matters church team – named after their cause in helping others – blessed and dished up food to scores of the women, who had been given a new lease of life making clothes for western countries.
The group of 18 also visited a camp where up to 320 people were suffering from the effects of leprosy.
The church, in Havant Road, Cosham, raised more than £17,000 over five months earlier this year to fund the trip.
A car boot sale, a 200-mile cycle ride over two days and a 24-hour non-stop walking event helped to pull in the cash.
The funds helped set up a conference for Indian church leaders to meet and share their ideas on helping the poor.
More than £750 was donated to help build a freshwater well for locals in the village of Bhattiprolu, near Tenali.
Simon Ford, 42, youth pastor at the church, said it was the first time many of the people had tasted clean water.
He said: ‘It was a completely surreal experience.
‘It was life-changing seeing people rejoicing, crying with happiness and hugging us because we had given them fresh water which they could drink and bathe in.
‘It’s humbling and it makes you think about what you have.
‘What I need and what I want in my life has changed.
‘Experiencing things like that changes your perspective on life.’
The 12-day trip was organised by Tracy Ansell, a minister in training at the church who joined Harvest India in Tenali last year.
The 43-year-old said: ‘We all felt at the church that it would be right to send out a team.
‘Everyone back in Cosham was behind us. We wanted to make a big impact and it made me realise that over here in the West, we live in extreme luxury.
‘It changes everything when you think about the recession and when we sometimes think we’re hard done by.’
Tracy and Simon will hold a talk on their experiences and share photos from the trip at the church next Friday at 7.30pm.