The opportunity to experience Raphael came as my friend David, announced that he was returning to Raphael, and I asked if there was an opportunity for me to join him. David had attended in 2012 and very much wanted to return.
A request was made and through the amazing “Susie”, everything was put together, and we headed off on September 30th.
My background knowledge consisted of an awareness of the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation through my reading of, and interest in war history, and secondly from the stories and pictures of David’s previous visit. So I thought I was a little prepared for my adventure.
After settling down and being introduced to the Brigadier, and other key administrators, it was determined that I could be of best support to the “workshop” areas. Specifically, this means candle making, paper bag making, block printing on paper and cloth and assisting on any stalls at fetes and NGO trade type exhibitions.
It took me quite a while to get my head around the complexity and scope of Raphael. What an amazing organisation. Most of my understanding came from the interaction with the other volunteers. I was fortunate to have attended when there was a full house of vols’. The discussions around experiences and issues they were dealing with allowed me to grasp the enormity of managing Raphael.
Unfortunately I became sick. As this is to be expected as part of visiting India I thought it would be a “one off”. Not so. I became sick every week of my stay and it affected my ability to contribute. However, I feel that even with this reduced involvement, I developed a very strong attachment to the workshop team. While learning their names, their personal situations and developing a working rapport with the teachers I felt I connected with the “team” type atmosphere. As this was the first time I have worked with people with disabilities, I realised the unfairness of their situation. They had no say in how they were to be born. Yet they have to live their life trapped within a body that doesn’t function properly, and to be excluded from mainstream living. What overwhelmed me and what I took away from Raphael was the beauty of these people. Their beautiful smiles and laughter will stay with me forever.
Unfortunately, due to my inability to cope with the Indian environment, I feel I cannot return. This saddens me as I would love to return and continue to build on those special relationships that developed.
I received much more from Raphael than I gave.