Claire 2I recently spent 2 months volunteering at Raphael in Dehradun, India. For me it was a door that opened just as I arrived at a crossroads in my life. I was in need of adventure, and throwing myself into another culture was bound to do the trick. It was about a 6 weeks lapse between expressing my interest in volunteering and being on a flight bound for India, so I really had little time to develop preconceived ideas about Raphael and the experience that was to come.
My first “Anything’s possible in India” moment was when I waited 4hrs for my driver to pick me up in Delhi and take me to Dehradun on my first day in India. Although upon arriving at Raphael at night, I was greeted by a group of boys from the little white house who insisted on taking my bags and showed me my room.
When I arrived in mid-late October, there were 4 other volunteers: Jenny and Adrian from NZ, and Georgia and Caitlin from Victoria. They were a great help with settling in and provided some amazing experiences. My first few days at Raphael were introductions, administrative procedures and absorbing my surroundings. I started my duties in the vocational area helping with the paper bag making and the candle making. The candles were in high demand with Diwali just around the corner so it was great to be involved in the lead up to such a festival- I never knew how many fireworks were possible to let off in one week!
COOPER Clare 1After Diwali, I spend the remainder of my time in the primary A classroom with Janki. This classroom had 10 students, 9 boys and 1 very special girl, Chavi. Chavi has autism, and she usually bites, pinches and pulls hair when she’s upset. For some reason she took a liking to me and I basically became her teddy bear. Once you get to know the kids personally, you just adore them.
I had never worked with disabled children before and it was a bit daunting to begin with, but when you don’t understand Hindi and they don’t understand English, you realise that in this case you are the one with the disability.
When it can time to leave, I had made many friends and have many experiences that I would remember forever. My volunteering experience changed my life and made me a better person. If  you are a person who feels that something is missing in your life, I challenge you to volunteer like I did, you may just find what you’re looking for.