Arriving at Dehradun airport and taking the hour trip to Raphael was colourful, busy and as I remembered from a previous visit to India a little hair-raising. Arriving at the Raphael gate you enter a green and tranquil oasis, set on the edge of the forest.
On my first day I was able to witness the completion of the new playground, sponsored by Ballarat Ryder Cheshire and a Ballarat school. The joy on the faces and the squeals of laughter as children and adults started to use the equipment was something I will always remember.
As an older volunteer with a nursing background I found that I fitted in easily and was made very welcome. The pupils and residents were curious to start with. This curiosity passed quickly as I attended daily assembly, getting to know the songs, followed by the daily exercise activity.
My placement was in the vocational workshop where the young people work undertaken candle making, block printing and paper bag making.
With the support of Marion, Manju, Anjali and Chavi as my interpreters I quickly settled into the very busy activities of Candle making in the lead up to Dwali (Hindu festival of Light).
Friendships with Jenny, Chavi, Rupa, Neel and Arti developed as each afternoon we worked together making gift cards or wrapping candles, Chavi trying to teach me Hindi, much to the amusement of everyone.
My morning and afternoon walks over 14 weeks commenced with surprise and curiosity in the first weeks, to many Namaste’s, recognition and invitations to take Chai (Tea) by the time I was to come home. Attending Yoga classes not only improved my fitness but introduced me to a lovely group of local women.
My second placement was in a class room, Pre-Vocational class for pupils from 16 plus, a noisy group of young men and one girl all learning skills to assist them to find a useful and fulfilling place in society. Like most young people they loved to be out playing sport.
The opportunity to accompany the Physiotherapist on their community visits highlighted the growing need for disability services and the role that Raphael has as a leader of Disability Services in Utterachand.
Visits to the peace of Rishikish, the beautiful Himalayan views from Mussorie, locally the colourful and busy Paltan Bazaar and Rajpur Rd, the Ooh La La coffee and Nail Salon, the time spent each visit with the ladies and staff at the Cheshire Home and the kindness and hospitality of the people connected with Raphael made my time a wonderful and fulfilling experience.
It is with admiration that I will remember the staff of Raphael, their love, their care and their patience shown to the children and residents.