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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.

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

Derek

I left Australia from Melbourne travelling with a short stopover in Singapore – a 13 hour flight. Arriving in New Delhi at 6am I was picked up by the hotel in the southern suburbs (pre-arranged in Australia).

My first impressions were that the airport was modern, clean and the surrounds the same. However, as I travelled further through the city it became busy, chaotic, dirty and crowded. The hotel was clean and orderly and a relief!!! That day I arranged a taxi with the hotel (Rs 300) and did a city tour.

Next day I left on my pre-arranged tour (4 days) to the Taj Mahal in Agra and onto Jaipur. The tour consisted of a private driver, all entries, tour guides and hotels. The Taj Mahal was magnificent and as stunning as I expected it to be. The remainder of the tour was also excellent, but also a bit of information over load!!!

That evening I caught a short flight to Dehra Dun. I was collected by a taxi arranged by Raphael. It was a nightmare journey as traffic in India is nothing short of chaotic and finally reaching Raphael was a relief. I was greeted there by the other volunteers, who had saved food for me. They settled me into my room. One of volunteers showed me around early the next morning. I was concerned that if no volunteers had been there, no one would have helped me. At the same time I did expect to be a bit independent. On the tour I met some residents, but it was still too early for school and the offices. Raphael seemed like an oasis. (Note from RCA – arrangements are made for Volunteers to be welcomed who arrive out of work hours.) Continue reading Derek

My Volunteering Time at Klibur Domin

From David 

 When I left Klibur Domin in November 2016 a lot of what was going through my mind concerned “what hadn’t been done”. There were some specific tasks on the agenda from day one. Tasks identified by others, tasks that could lead to giving real assistance to the Director.

Activities at Klibur Domin with the Sisters from the local school.

Snr Joaquim Soares, Director of KD, was the perfect host. Briefing me the first day he took me around the campus, an orientation walk and an introduction to a few of those on staff. Then into his office for the specifics about how best to use my time to help him. Over the next two days I met most of the staff and Iread lots of notes written by previous volunteers. Continue reading My Volunteering Time at Klibur Domin

Ballarat Grammar School Raises Funds for Raphael

Bina Day began in 1978 at the Ballarat Grammar Junior School when the school sponsored their first Little White House resident at the Raphael Ryder-Cheshire International Centre in Dehra Dun, Northern India. Her name is Bina and she went on to study nursing. Raphael has been operating for 59 years.

The Assistant Principal, Julian Hopkins said, ‘We now sponsor six children and one adult with disabilities at Raphael.’

‘The school was buzzing with all the students’ excitement for their 2017 Bina Day. They organized the stalls and activities to raise the funds. They set up cake stalls, environment stands, busking and lots of fun games.’ From Ballarat Courier 3rd May 2017

Lots of goodies to chose from.

Brigadier Arun Bhatnagar, CEO Raphael, sent through a message of encouragement to the students. ‘Last year, I and my wife had the pleasure of meeting some students from Ballarat Grammar School, while we were in Ballarat attending the Ryder-Cheshire Biennial Conference. We were moved to see the commitment of the students for reaching out to support our residents at Raphael. This in itself speaks volumes of the ethos of your school and the values you are cultivating in the GenNext. Hats off, indeed!Continue reading Ballarat Grammar School Raises Funds for Raphael