When I arrived at Raphael at the beginning of July with my friend Kate, we had just spent 5 days in Delhi and were slowly getting used to the culture shock of India. Raphael was very peaceful and quiet when we arrived as there was still a week of school holidays left and the children from the hostel hadn’t arrived back yet. We were feeling excited and anxious to meet the staff and see the school. We were introduced to the Custodial Group which was very confronting at first as they were all very excited to meet us and approached us speaking hindi and taking us by the hand to show us different projects they were working on.
This was a brief visit and I remember thinking to myself, what have I got myself into for the next 3 months, and how am I going to interact with these people whose language I don’t speak. I have a background in childcare & kindergarten teaching so I have had a very limited experience working with special needs children, but I have at least spoken the same language! However, the next few days spending time with the residents doing arts and crafts was so much fun! We got to know them well and the language barrier was no longer a problem.
We were soon based in different classes in the school. I was working with Pre-Primary group – aged 7 – 12 years old, all with various abilities and needs. They are a fantastic yet cheeky group who I warmed to quite quickly and got very used to answering to Jo didi (older sister) hundreds of times a day. We did many different classes – sport, music, computer, art, math, pre-writing skills, it was always a busy but very enjoyable day. In the afternoons we would go into town to look through the bazaar or shops, get coffee, go to the cinema to watch the latest Bollywood film or relax at Raphael in the mess. Other times we would continue playing with the residents and children. Since being here a new playground was built and playing with the children on the equipment was one of my favourite parts of the day.
On the weekends we would try out some of the local cuisine, or travel to nearby places like up the mountain to Mussoorie on the bus or catch a jeep to Rishikesh or Haridwar, ad even the overnight train to Jaipur. These were all great experiences.
Back at school I also spent some time in physiotherapy, candle making and block printing workshops. This was a great way to meet children from other classes and help out with the more hands-on side to Raphael. While helping in physiotherapy, I was able to go with the teachers on a CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) trip, going out into the community, a side of Dehradun I wouldn’t normally have seen. Seeing the work that Raphael does in the community helping families in their homes that otherwise might be neglected of special needs care and attention.
I have had such an amazing time at Raphael. The memories & friendships will stay with me forever, and I feel very proud to have had the privilege to work with such an amazing staff, teachers ad organisation doing so much work to help those in need.
I hope I can come back again