Raphael has a very clear sense of history. I felt it the first time my rickshaw drove through the arched gate, the first time I stepped into the volunteers’ mess hall and the first time I met the Ava Vihar children. I felt it the first time I flicked through the past volunteers’ notebook, right up until the day I left my own departing note, four months later. I’m incredibly proud that I’m now a very small part of its history as well.
I had no particular trade or skill to offer Raphael, so my work was varied. I spent the bulk of my time assisting teachers in the vocation workshop, day school and playground. I would supervise art, yoga and music classes, as well as outdoor games. Bocce being the favorite. In the evenings, after school had finished, the other volunteers and I would play with the Ava Vihar children on the lawn until their dinner at which time we would usually retire to the volunteer house, contented and worn out.
My work wasn’t limited to Ava Vihar and the day school though. My best memories are of time spent with the long-term patients, Bholar and Sudeep, in what is referred to as the ‘Chronic Ward’. Having spent their entire lives under care at Raphael, these guys have witnessed Raphael, and everyone who has passed through, mature and grow up. Taking these guys to tea in town, reading or setting up an easel for Bholar to paint, were factored into my schedule regularly.
I found the staff and management at Raphael were very open to practical ideas and development. On several occasions when I approached them with suggestions for activities or classes I would like to part take in, they were more than welcoming. I quickly learnt that my time volunteering was only what I decided to make of it. This is something I’m glad I realized early on.
I was lucky enough to volunteer at the same time as three others: Sarah from the UK, Bridget from New Zealand and Bec from Australia. Our volunteer role was undertaken on weekdays, so the weekends were free to roam northern India, which we frequently did: Mussoorie, Haridwar and Rishikesh, three places nearby that were awesome to visit.
To me, Raphael represents the best of India. I was able to meet and become familiar with a lot of fantastic Indian people and their families. Something most people passing through India never get to do. The staff and management at Raphael are kind, lovely people and dealing with them everyday was a pleasure.
I have been back to visit once already and would love to continue my relationship with Raphael in the future.