It was not until I retired 13 years ago that I came to know the joy of giving. Finding myself with more time on my hands I became a volunteer with The Smith Family, an Australian NGO involved in increasing the educational opportunities of disadvantaged children. It was a wonderful experience and I found there was enormous pleasure in devoting my time to helping people who are facing disadvantages.
I stayed with The Smith Family until I moved into a mobile home. I normally spend my time travelling around the country following warm weather and avoiding winter. In summer I travel to Tasmania where my daughter lives with her farmer husband and my eight-year-old grandson.
In winter I travel on the mainland and spend some weeks at a Satyananda yoga ashram before travelling north chasing the sun.
It’s an idyllic existence in many ways but recently I felt there was something missing. I realized I missed the chance to help other people and I was also missing a challenge in life. After trying to find a volunteering opportunity in Australia I came across details of Raphael, Ryder-Cheshire Australia’s charitable organization’s centre in Dehradun. India. Raphael is a NGO mainly catering for people of all ages with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Although a long way from my home base of Melbourne it seemed to provide the challenge I was looking for involving disability, distance, language and weather.
Ryder-Cheshire Australia through the Overseas Volunteers’ Co-ordinator accepted my application for a six-month stay and I arrived in Dehradun on 11 July after travelling over 10,400 kilometers on a trip lasting over 20 hours.
In my time here so far I have found the children at Raphael extremely friendly and cheerful, especially considering the nature of some of their disabilities. The staff are very helpful and considerate and I am enjoying myself thoroughly.
One of the first things I did was to buy myself a decent umbrella. I have found in Australia that heavy rains can be accompanied by strong winds which drive the rain underneath umbrellas. Fortunately there don’t seem to be strong winds in Dehradun so my new umbrella works just fine.
I am looking forward to finding somewhere to study Advaita which I was introduced to in Australia.
My time seems to pass very quickly here and I am very happy that I am once again enjoying the joy of giving, which I sometimes think is one of the best-kept secrets in the world. I can thoroughly recommend it.