Ever since I was 12 I’ve not only wanted to travel to India, but immerse myself in Indian Culture. After two years as an occupational therapist in the public service I knew it was my time to go. A colleague, Carmen, had been a volunteer at Raphael 15 years ago. She had compiled a beautiful photo album of her time at Raphael. The timing was impeccable.
I arrived at Raphael after two months travelling around Indonesia, Nepal and India. I was ready to settle for a while. As an occupational therapist there was a lot I could offer to the children of Ava Vihar. Occupational therapists aim to promote functioning and independence through activity or ‘occupation’. The areas I focused on at Raphael were engaging children through play, promoting handwriting through improving upper limb functioning and establishing a sensory room.
I was involved in giving the teachers of Raphael some training on upper limb and grasp development, handwriting activities, general activities which promote physical functioning and education on sensory integration. I was guided by the staff at Raphael on areas they wanted more information on and areas they saw as most needed for the children. They were all so enthusiastic to learn and do as much for the children as possible.
A key role of mine was ensuring the sensory room remains ‘usable’ for all the teachers and students at Raphael. This involved creating a sensory checklist with common signs exhibited by children with sensory processing difficulties. These ‘signs’ corresponded with activities which would likely assist and challenge children with sensory difficulties. The teachers could use this checklist on any child they flagged as having sensory difficulties.
One thing that really struck me during my time in India, particularity Raphael, was how happy everyone was. Not once did I hear any one complaint, bicker or think of them selves as less fortunate. Every one is so grateful for what they have. This was a very humbling experience.
My time in India and at Raphael is one which I hold very close to my heart. I feel as if my time at Raphael ran short and there was a lot more I would have loved to do with the children. I have every desire to return to Raphael and see all the beautiful people I made friends with.