I arrived in India on the second week of January 2017 ready to make true one of my dearest dreams; serve others as a volunteer.
I was so excited after receiving acceptance from Ryder- Cheshire Australia of my offer to volunteer in the Raphael Centre in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. There were a few months of expectation waiting for the day to take a plane from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA to fly to the other side of the world.
After four days in New Delhi sightseeing, trying delicious food and adjusting to cold weather, I took the train to Dehradun and reached Raphael after a seven hour trip.
I had a warm welcome from the staff on duty as well as the Volunteers’ Coordinator who made me feel at home right away. During the following fourteen weeks I was able to enjoy attending the morning assembly for prayers, learning The National Anthem and songs, helping teachers in the classrooms, especially Primary II Class, sharing with the most lovely students, participating in music and sport classes, engaging with children in the playground and learning the daily routine in the Day Centre.
I also had the opportunity to volunteer within the Psychology Department, the Rehabilitation Workshop and complete recreational activities with Ava Vihar residents in the afternoons.
The special activities were also an amazing experience; The Republic Day Ceremony, the colourful Holi celebration and all the practices to participate in two programs during the Founders’ Day Event as well as helping the children and staff in a day Health Check Camp and the three day camp for Free Artificial Limbs and Polio Callipers.
After the weekday activities were completed, there was time for sightseeing at the weekends. I visited many significant places including Clement Town, Rishikesh, Mussoorie, Hardwar, Chandigarh and Amritsar.
This was the best experience in my life! And forever Raphael and India are in my heart!
Thanks Raphael and Ryder-Cheshire Australia for the opportunity
Over ninety delegates have made their way back to their homes in Timor-Leste, India, New Zealand and across Australia. We have been informed, challenged, inspired, and entertained.
Ryder-Cheshire is an inclusive family and an important function of the Conference is that of family reunion, and a welcome to new supporters. Those who normally communicate by email and telephone have been together for hugs and handshakes, and in-depth discussion that is not possible by other means.
We were fortunate indeed to have a beautiful venue, Hillsley, a former church which is part of the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School campus, on the outskirts of Melbourne. Our heartfelt thanks to the School for making it available to us.
In conjunction with the Conference, Ryder-Cheshire Australia also held it’s Annual General Meeting, and a General Meeting of the Board, with all members present plus valuable input from Klibur Domin Managing Director, Sr Joaquim Soares and Raphael Chief Executive Officer, Brig Anil Sinha (Retd). The Board also welcomed observers Carolyn Tapley, RCF New Zealand, and John Kirby RCF SA.
Some highlights of the conference:
In the opening address by Dr Heather Schnagl AM, ‘ Never Too Young for Philanthropy ‘, she described the openness of young people to becoming engaged in philanthropy if approached in the right way, and the success she has achieved with her students in this respect. Dr Schnagl, is the immediate Past Principal of Ivanhoe Girls’ School and a “Friend of Ryder-Cheshire”. Indeed, lots of ideas for Ryder-Cheshire to pursue.
We watched informative Power Point and video updates from Anil (from Raphael) and Joaquim (from Klibur Domin) about progress and developments at Raphael and Klibur Domin respectively.
Very important, as the overseas homes are the primary focus of the work and fundraising of Ryder-Cheshire Australia. Carolyn Tapley briefed us on developments in New Zealand.
Several overseas volunteers – Robyn Leeder, Christian Hiss, and Patricia McDonell, described their experiences at Raphael and Klibur Domin respectively. It is clear that for most volunteers these placements are life transforming, and for some become a long-term
Saturday afternoon was engaged in a Workshop
“Vision 2025”, with facilitator Robert Gardiner. President Rory introduced his own vision which was followed by 3-minute presentations from all Foundations defining the challenges they see ahead. The delegates broke into small groups to explore ways to meet the challenges. The outcomes from the group work will provide a platform for the Ryder-Cheshire Australia Board and all committees to plan the way forwards.
The afternoon finished with a live interview with Tessa West, author of “Lady Sue Ryder of Warsaw: Single- minded Philanthropist.”, who joined us by interactive Skype from the United Kingdom. She shared many interesting observations and insights about Sue Ryder.
The Guest speaker at the Saturday night Conference Dinner was The Hon Tim Fischer AC, and what a treat that was !
From his perspective as an observer at the 1999 election when the people of Timor Leste chose independence, Tim talked about Timor Leste’s journey to statehood. He drew parallels with the Western Front of WWI, and went on to describe the role of Sir John Monash in the final months of the war. He finished by donating his book of railway adventures, “Trains Unlimited” for auction in support of Klibur Domin. It raised $250 on the spot! The audience showed its appreciation for Tim’s excellent speech and generous
A beautiful quilt designed, made and donated by Carole McLennan, was the object of a silent auction which raised a wonderful $800 !
Sunday morning held another treat with the showing of precious historical film footage from the early days of Raphael, tracked down by Hugh Elphinstone and Anne and Phillip Boyd. Proceedings wrapped up with a Q & A session which provoked interesting discussion and moved us further along the path of renewal.
Just a few need special mention: Rory McEwen, President of Ryder-Cheshire Australia, for his energy, wisdom and leadership.
Mike Moignard, Convenor of the Victorian Conference Working Group, and Master of Ceremonies and moderator for the Conference, and his team. Terry Warr, computer and electronics whizz who managed the audio-visual aspects with such calm competence. Sr Jane Gorey and committee members, staff and volunteers at the Victorian Homes for their warm welcome and ‘nothing is too much trouble’ support.
And a Very Special Mention: Evelyn Petters
Our best wishes go to Mount Gambier who will host the next Biennial Conference in 2020.
The Victorian Conference Working Group: Mike Moignard, Don Hamilton, Peter McConnell, Kathy Oswin, Anthea Swann, and Barrie William.
On Thursday 15and Friday 16March 2018, I was incredibly fortunate to travel with two of the Special Educators from Raphael out into the remote Himalayan mountains as part of the John Hunt Outreach Program. A nearly 8 hour drive along very narrow & incredibly winding roads and we reached the district of Uttarkashi, to the north of DehraDun. Uttarkashi is divided into six smaller ‘blocks’. This was the final block in this district to be visited by the team. I couldn’t believe the distances covered to provide training, advice and support around disability.
On arrival, Mini, Ganga and I presented to 215 Anganwadi – woman who look after children aged 0-6 in the villages, about disability and how to identify disability in children. Some had walked up to 30kms to be there and were incredibly appreciative of the information and training they received. I spoke about how to identify learning disabilities in children with the assistance of an interpreter. Our training session was cut a little short as a thunderstorm threatened and many of the woman had a long walk in the rain to return to their villages. Continue reading John Hunt Outreach Program→
Going to Raphael was an easy decision due to the endless praise it receives from anyone who is lucky enough to visit.
As a physiotherapist I had been working in a hospital setting for two years and Raphael was the perfect opportunity to help grow my skills, as well to use what I had learned to help out those who do not have such an abundant supply of health resources.
I arrived in Raphael late at night after a long journey from Delhi. Expecting to just pick up some keys and fall into bed. Instead found the cook had been waiting up for me, going from his house to check when I arrived, so he could make sure I got dinner. This was the first example of a selfless desire to help which became a common trait in everyone I met working at Raphael. This gives reason to why I believe Raphael is so successful in making such positive progress in each one of its kids. Continue reading Helping children at Raphael→
The seven weeks that I spent in Klibur Domin, was nothing short of memorable and humbling. Prior to the commencement of my volunteering period, Ryder Cheshire Australia liaised with Klibur Domin and drafted some tasks which I could possibly assist with, based on my work experiences. I also had the opportunity to speak to a recently returned volunteer, to understand better the environment and hear about his experiences. These helped me to have a better idea of what to expect and prepare myself mentally.
Whilst at Klibur Domin, I spent most of my time helping out in administrative tasks including drafting of finance reports, reviewing policies and editing documents written in English. With my academic background in psychology and some research, I gave a brief presentation on the mental health landscape in Timor Leste, and basic information about a few mental illnesses, which some of the residents in Uma Barbara are suffering from, to a group of nursing students who were doing their practicum and some staff at Klibur Domin. I particularly enjoyed my time out of the office interacting with the residents of Uma Barbara, guiding them in doing simple craft activities, drawing, blowing bubbles, or just simply chatting with them. Continue reading “Klibur Domin – memorable and humbling” →