Josie and her Family at Raphael

 

We went as a family to volunteer at Raphael (Ryder Cheshire Foundation) in Dehradun, India. It was Molly’s idea which then took hold.

Molly (20), was on summer holidays from university, Roland (17), had just finished school and did not wish to take a gap year but accepted this challenge; I was eligible for long service leave from Maternal and Child Health Nursing and Rick, a self-employed builder, could manage his time. As well as volunteering with special needs children and assisting with a humanitarian orgaisation, we hoped to experience India in a true and meaningful way.

As Raphael was closed for Christmas holidays, our month of volunteering there would start mid-January. So, we planned three weeks of travel and sight-seeing beforehand. It was winter time in India. Our journey started in Kolkata so that we could spend a few days with our old exchange student, Deeksha, and her family. They were wonderfully hospitable and introduced us to the food of West Bengal, took us to a wedding celebration and to New Year’s Eve events in Kolkata. It was a happy start to our holiday.

Then, we travelled by train across the country and north to Dehradun, stopping at some places of interest en route. The trains seemed to be plagued by long delays due to fog, the platforms were shockingly crowded, but once on board the journeys were comfortable enough. We stopped at Parasnath Hill for a 20 km hike up and down hill on a Jain pilgrimage. Then to Gaya and Bohdi Gaya along with many Buddhist pilgrims to see the place where the Buddha found enlightenment. Next stop was Varanasi on the Ganges, a holy city for Hindus and a very interesting place. Finally, we reached Agra with its amazing history and buildings in particular; the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. We also visited a sloth bear sanctuary at Agra (SOS Wildlife, India) for rescued “dancing bears”, a cruel practice which is now prohibited. Finally, we had a short stay in Delhi before the last leg of the journey, six hours by train, to Dehradun.

Those three weeks of travelling were our introduction to India with its brightly coloured clothing and exotic styles of dress, spicy foods, stalls of luscious fruit and beautiful craftwork. We felt stunned by the crowds; the honking, chaotic, nightmarish traffic, fog and air pollution, delayed trains, beggars, poverty, rubbish and requests for selfies. Despite great care, we were all sick at various times.

Feeling a little dazed and amazed, we arrived safely at Dehradun. Raphael seemed like a green oasis at the edge of town, merging into the forest. I liked the space and the old colonial style buildings. We were warmly welcomed and we quickly felt part of the scene. Though what a strange coincidence to travel so far and to find that the other volunteer there, Kim, was from our home town of Ballarat!! Three weeks later, two young men from England on their gap year joined us to swell the number of volunteers to seven.

There is a very positive air and a sense of community spirit about Raphael. We felt accepted as part of a large family and quite at home with all the new people we met. Our volunteer work was mainly Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm and we could choose our area of work. I enjoyed spending time at physiotherapy and the workshops but mostly worked with a class of 10 to 14 year olds. Molly and I were lucky to go out for a day with the Community Based Programme (CBP), visiting schools and a few homes with a physiotherapist and a specialist educator. Molly worked in a class with high needs children of primary school age and Roland assisted with 12 to 18 year olds and in the office. Rick offered to do repair work and word spread quickly, so that he was kept busy fixing broken chairs, tables, doors and taps. He ended up painting one of the buildings and became familiar with the local hardware shops.

The day started with breakfast at 8am. Three delicious meals were served up for us daily by Hari, the cook. At 9am, the children and staff gathered in the playground for assembly. Their singing was beautiful and the national anthem, sung so lustily, with hand on heart, was very moving. My favourite part of the day was the supervised walk around the grounds before lessons. There seemed to be few language barriers, perhaps because many of the children could not speak or had only a few words and were used to communcating non-verbally. They were delightful company. The disabilities of the children were mostly cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, microcephaly and deafness. Most of the children are from poor families and have few possessions, but seemed entirely satisfied with their lot. They could teach us all a lesson in living in the present, in the joy of life and in gratitude for simple things. It was rather humbling.

After school we often wandered into town to explore and have a cup of chai. There were places of interest and beauty to visit at weekends: Moussourie, a hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas; Rishikesh on the Ganges, made famous by the Beatles in the 1960s; Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Haridwar, a town of Hindu pilgrimage. Our month at Raphael came to an end too quickly.

Would I recommend volunteering as a family at Raphael? For the right individuals, I would say definitely, yes. If you can cope with India, which I feel is more confronting than many other developing countries. Raphael is the safe haven. Travel broadens the mind and is an education in itself. We have come home with many shared experiences and funny memories. Volunteering involves being willing to give your time and energy, being adaptable, expecting nothing in return and coming away feeling enriched. We would like to thank Ryder-Cheshire Australia for this great opportunity and for all the wonderful work that goes on at Raphael.
Josie Calvert.

A Second Home in Mt Gambier called Cheshire

The Ryder-Cheshire Mt Gambier Home Board has long known that if we could build a second home on the vacant block of land next door to the current home that there are sufficient in the region who would like to become residents. We have already received a number of enquiries.

Last year we submitted an application for funding under the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund program.

We would not have been able to apply if it had not been for the generous donations from Ryder-Cheshire Australia of $100,000, $100,000 from the Ryder-Cheshire Support Group at Singleton in New South Wales, $50,000 from Ryder-Cheshire South Australia, $30,000 from the Evans Family Trust, $20,000; plus significant donations from the Rotary Club Mt Gambier West and others. We were fortunate to receive the profits from the catering for the Rotary D9780 District Conference in early April 2018. This was the combined efforts of Soroptimists, Lionesses, Rotary, Red Cross and the Ryder Cheshire Catering Group.

Together with accumulated funds it was deemed feasible to arrange for a building loan from the Police Credit Union.

On 4 August 2017 Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, as Minister for Regional Development, announced that the Ryder-Cheshire Mt Gambier Home Board’s application for funding under the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) had been approved.

Our architect, Stephen Herbert, steered the tendering process. It was decided that the Board would accept the cheapest tender as this was from the same builder who had built the first home. The architect concurred.

Stephen Herbert also steered the project through the Mt Gambier City Council approval process, a far from simple task.

On 9 October 2017 we held a small sod turning ceremony that provided press coverage in the Border Watch newspaper.

On 2 December 2017 our architect, Stephen Herbert, received the necessary formal development approval for the build from the Mt Gambier City Council. This included development plan consent and building rules consent.

On that same day President Neville Gilbertson signed the contract with Dycer Constructions to build the second home.

Site work commenced immediately, but little was done before the Christmas shutdown.

The first Milestone Report was submitted to AusIndustry in late February. This was for approximately 25% of the build. The slab was in place including all the sub floor heating components.

The Mt Gambier limestone internal walls were up by the end of March. The roof timbers were in place by the end of April.

Milestone 2, or approximately 50% of the build, was achieved by the end of May.

A Deed of Variation agreeing to slightly change the time line was approved in April. There has been no reason to adjust the costings, only the timing of the milestones. The Board holds the philosophy that it is better to accept delays in doing the work rather than accept speedy work that meets the time schedule but compromises the quality of the build.

In order to best place the home on the block the fence between the two homes will be shifted about one metre.

PQSA, through their service arm HomeCare+ will determine who should be selected as the new clients. They are ready to take over the revised lease. It is planned that the details of the revised lease of Cheshire will be exactly the same as have been negotiated for the current home, Ryder.

It is hoped that the Minister will be able to formally open the new home. This will probably be in late November this year.

It is a very exciting time for the Ryder-Cheshire Mt Gambier Home Board.

After 14 years, at the November Board AGM, I will step down as President of the Mt Gambier Home Board. Matthew Dixon, a recently retired pharmacist, has been a Board member for six years and who has a keen interest in the disability sector, will take over as President.

We have been asked many times about how we built the Ryder-Cheshire Mt Gambier Homes. Here is our pathway:

1. Identify the need.
2. Gain the support of local, state and federal agencies.
3. Explore all funding options.
4. Do not give up at the first hurdle.
5. You can do it!

Neville Gilbert, President Ryder-Cheshire Mt Gambier Home Board.

Vale Danny Standish of RCF Victoria

Danny died suddenly and peacefully on Wednesday 14th March 2018.

Danny joined Ryder-Cheshire when the new home was started in Timor-Leste in late 2000. Initially she helped with sorting and packing donated goods ready for despatch to Klibur Domin. Subsequently she spent six weeks there as a volunteer, arriving a few days after Christmas 2000. Her nursing skills were put to good use setting up medical procedures and records and she is pictured here admitting the first patients to Klibur Domin on 31 January 2001.

Danny was an important member of the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria team, always positive, cheerful and very capable, and was active right up until her death. Her contribution involved support for many fund-raising endeavours, including her special project, organising visits to the Costume Collection. She also took on being the official archivist and spent many hours sorting, conserving and cataloguing a jumble of archival material – now in apple pie order. Of great importance in her life were her beloved daughters and grand-children. Danny was loved and is sadly missed. Rest in Peace

Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire Schools’ Visit

On the Monday 16 April after the 2018 Ryder Cheshire Australia Biennial Conference in Ivanhoe, the Raphael Northern India and Klibur Domin Timor-Leste visitors continued their journey to Ballarat to visit the Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire schools.

As 2019 will be Raphael’s 60th birthday this visit provided a wonderful opportunity to thank each school for their long time commitment ‘for the relief of suffering.’

Each school was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation plus the gift of the Leonard Cheshire Rose which will arrive in late July for planting. The rose will be in full bloom in time for Raphael’s birthday next year.

 

Ballarat Grammar School

The first group visited Ballarat Grammar School and Ballarat Clarendon College. This group was accompanied by Trish Twaits, Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire Secretary, and Dawn Manning, Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire School Liaison Officer. The group included:

Ballarat Clarendon College

Brigadier Anil Sinha, Chief Executive Officer at Raphael and his wife Gouri Sinha, The Hon Rory McEwen, National President of Ryder-Cheshire Australia and his wife Di McEwen, Susie Mackerras, RCA National Project Officer (India) and Overseas Volunteers’ Coordinator.

Damascus College Immersion Students and Teachers

A second group visited Damascus College and Loreto College. This group included:
Sr Joaquim Soares, Managing Director, Klibur Domin
Sra Fabiola dos Santos, General Manager, Klibur Domin
Mike Moignard, President Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria and his wife Kathy Moignard,
Lucy Xavier who is from Ainaro in Timor-Leste and is having a Gap Year at Ballarat Grammar School

The group was accompanied by Dianne McGrath, Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire President and Andy Naus, Ballarat Ryder-Cheshire School Liaison Officer.

Loreto College

Patricia Prendergast, Honorary Life Member and her son Maurice joined the group at Loreto College.

Both groups came together for lunch at the Ballarat

Lunch at the Ballarat Specialist School

Specialist School Café at their FARM. Sam Sheppard, Assistant Principal, hosted the lunch with help from the students from the Specialist School.

After lunch a third group visited Mt Blowhard Primary School, a small rural school north of Ballarat. The students warmly greeted their special guests and proudly conducted a tour of their school which was followed by a whole school assembly and afternoon tea.

Mt Blowhard Primary School

Ballarat put on a wet, windy, cold day, but this did not dampen the enthusiastic welcome the schools gave to their overseas and national visitors. It was a day of great joy hearing about how each school supports RCA for the relief of suffering.

Mt Blowhard Primary School Principal and School Captains

Raphael Installs Solar Power  

By installing solar panels, Raphael is working towards more sustainable ways of living and cutting down on energy costs.

Three Solar Water Heating Systems have already been installed which function at the TB Hospital, in the Kitchen cum Ava Vihar and in the Little White House. The installation of these was supported by the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) a Government venture. The Solar Power Plant was installed in October 2017 and comprises of two 25 kw each projects located on rooftops of the Day School and Dining Hall and Ava Vihar.

To encourage the use of solar/alternate energy, the Government of India offered a subsidy of up to 70% subsidy on the bench mark price to Trusts and Societies on a “first come, first served” basis. Raphael availed this government subsidy. As reported in the November 2017 Red Feather, the balance of $30,000 – which was to be the Raphael share – was met from the generous financial assistance provided by the Singleton Support Group, Australia. The on-grid Solar Power Plant, set up by M/s XPANZ Energy Solutions, is expected to have a life of twenty-five years. It will supply power to the Raphael campus between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm each day and will operate all the electrical appliances, thus reducing our electricity consumption. It is a significant forward looking initiative that goes to fulfill our objective of making Raphael a green campus.

Raphael appreciates the good offices of Ryder-Cheshire Australia in making this grant possible. We are indeed beholden to the Singleton Support Group, Australia and a Plaque at the site of the Solar Power plant commemorates the kindness of the donors.