My trip to Raphael can be summed up by one word . . . inspirational!
The vision, drive, compassion and commitment of Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire leave me in awe.
Others have said it before me but I will say it too . . . Raphael is a haven for the lucky few that call it home, enter through the arch way to learn, receive health care and a place where love and safety are provided.
The lady who first sparked my interest and inspired me to visit Raphael was Joh.
Joh and I worked together for a brief period at the Ryder-Cheshire Home in Mount Gambier. She had just returned from a trip to Raphael. Listening to Joh talk of her time a Raphael her love and admiration of the place and the people was the inspiration I needed to make a promise to myself that I too one day would visit this place in hope that I would gain as much from my experience as Joh obviously has during her many trips.
As luck would have it Joh and I were volunteering at Raphael over the same period. What luck for me to have the best mentor ever to be with me during my maiden visit. Joh shared so much of her knowledge with me and our time there is a treasured memory on so many levels not least because I have made a dear friend.
Now on to my time at Raphael . . . where to start?
My trip to India was the first time I had travelled on my own. I declare I was a little nervous but far more excited and I did it! I managed to get there and home in one piece and I truly did enjoy the freedom and independence I sensed.
On arrival to Raphael I was greeted by Joh who had arrived before me. She showed me around and began the huge task of introducing me to some of the many people I would meet during my stay.
Some of the first people I met were other volunteers. We were spoilt for volunteers over my stay at Raphael as at one stage our numbers grew to nine. We all enjoyed lots of laughs and shared our experiences with each other. Poor Hari the cook sure did earn his wages while we were all there; it was cooking for a crowd!
My days at Raphael were filled with many and varied activities. On school days I would rise . . . beat Joh into the shower (!) . . . have breakfast and off to morning prayer followed by either morning fitness or yoga. Then it would be off to class. I was in Kanti’s Classroom, Primary 1A. I observed Kanti and her student teacher working with the children and stepped in where guided to. During my time I also prepared and produced many teaching aids such as flash and lotto cards (colour, food, animals, body parts and simple recognition charts). Lunch was next and then either back to class in the afternoon or it was over to the workshop to assist with candle making for Diwali that also occurred during my stay.
After the school bell rang for the day our activities varied far and wide. Some days we would move around the grounds of Raphael meeting the people who live there. Taking tea at Barbara Cottage, visiting the residents of the Shiv Sadan, going to the Chronic Ward to chat with the most amazing man I have ever met –Bohla. Inspirational! Some days we would travel into town for some purchases or just stroll to the Hari Store and wander back through the colony taking in all the sights and sounds . . . so much to absorb. As hard as I could try to write everything down in this article I would never be able give my experience the true credit it deserves in a few pages of writing. In the afternoons the children of the Ava Vihar would play and I would join in with their games. Exploring the grounds and meeting all the people of Raphael was a wonderful way to spend time.
Some of the other activities I participated in were:
- an outreach visit with the Physio team
- an art presentation with the school
- every Thursday we would have a morning tea in the Mess with many of the staff, the Chairman, the Brigadier, and Dr. Gupta as well as all the volunteers
- we were invited to dinner at one staff member’s house
- there was an enjoyable meal with the Brigadier and his wife
- and the volunteers all enjoyed an evening presentation at the Wellham Girls School.
The weekends were filled with visiting surrounding towns such as Clement Town, Rishikesh and Mussoorie. Other outgoings included a trip to the movies, visiting the Doon hospital to donate knitted hats from my Mum’s Craft Group and Betsy from Mount Gambier.
I was one of the volunteer group which had the opportunity to be part of the Golden Triangle Trip. As Diwali occurred during our visit seven of us explored some of the sights and destinations of India such as the Taj Mahal . . . but that’s a whole other story!
As I said I could fill a book with my experiences . . . and still there is more to discover . . . .and yes I plan and will make every endeavour to return to India . . . to Raphael!