By Ben, Physiotherapist
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.
My arrival was at a perfect time. One of the physiotherapists had recently left and even though Megha, the head physiotherapist, was doing a fantastic job running the ship solo, the amount of work that could be done was endless. My work at Raphael primarily involved doing daily physio sessions and making treatment plans for the physically disabled kids in the school. With most of the kids having a Cerebral Palsy presentation, our work focused on increasing their independence with activities of daily living, thus enabling them to participate more with their family, friends and within the community. Although my “physio Hindi” wasn’t as fluent as would be ideal, the amount you can do for these kids is amazing and to see the amount Megha and the teachers have already done for them is mind boggling.
In the short 3 months I was there the progress I was able to see was fantastic, and the kids, although challenging, were incredible fun to work with and you could ultimately see the added quality of life these kids were receiving from Raphael.
I was also lucky enough to be the physio to go on the community based rehab programme. This was one of the highlights of my time in India. Stretching out to the rural suburbs of Dehradun you get a whole new appreciation of Indian communities. We were welcomed in to numerous homes to assess and make early intervention plans for their young children. The appreciation from the families really helps you to understand how valuable this is to them who mostly, up till now, had received little information on how to cope with a disabled child.
As much as you are able to help out during your time there, Raphael also gives you a whole new set of skills and growth that you did not realise you needed until you got there. As a physio my job varied from looking after early intervention kids, school age kids, the elderly residents of Shiv Sadan with cured leprosy, and of course, learning to dance for Founders’ Day. As a volunteer in India I was able to make lifelong friendships, see amazing sights including weekend treks through the close by Himalayas, getaways to nearby towns of Rishikesh and Chandigarh and not so nearby places like Amritsar, Dharamsala, Jaipur and Chopta.
A great experience and I will probably look at returning in the future.