In his first year as the National President of Ryder-Cheshire Australia, Rory McEwen, has recently returned from a visit to Raphael. Below is his report.

Rory McEwen with Dr Gupta

My visit to Raphael commenced with two one day trips, the first into the foothills of the Himalayas where our jeep driver managed to deliver four of us safely to a small school in a tiny village to meet with around 50 parents and their disabled children. The journey along narrow winding mountain roads was not for the faint hearted. Marvelling at the women struggling up steep inclines, almost buried in huge loads of vegetation balanced on their heads, took our minds off the perils of the journey.

The gathering that awaited us at the end of our four hour trek had assembled for a briefing on managing and modifying challenging behaviours and to discuss sexuality and the disabled. Our talented presenters spoke in Hindi.  Luckily the accompanying slides were in English so I could get some feel for the animated discussion. Some of the parents, particularly the men,  didn’t seem to take kindly to some of the frank discussions but it was an overwhelming success.

The second day was much tamer but equally enlightening. We set out on flat country to visit a number of primary schools where Raphael had gained access to some classroom space and employed staff to work with disabled children. The work was greatly appreciated by the schools, parents and children involved. Living conditions of many of these families can only be described as basic. Living with your cattle, I was told, added warmth. No mention of the other challenges involved.

Once having been exposed to the outreach educational and support programmes it was time to visit Raphael. First to the T.B. hospital to meet Dr Gupta. Wow!  what a remarkable man.  He and his team lessen suffering in a huge way by managing and treating T.B. patients in the two hospital wards (nearly 400 admissions last year) and the 3,000 out patients in the same period. On to the school, where the classrooms were busy, joyful and happy as class after class welcomed me and competed for my attention as they participated in the learning activities.

From there to the workshops where candle making and weaving provide meaningful work for disabled adults and some Shiv Sadan residents, while adding a  small revenue stream to Raphael. There are only four of the children from the Shiv Sadan families still at Raphael and like many of the older ones they will soon be moving on to tertiary training programmes or employment.

The end of a wonderful era.

I spent some time with the residents of Shiv Sadan, involving a couple of invitations into individual homes and a very moving encounter with a tearful Dwan, holding a treasured photo of my family, a small taste of the difference we all make. A quick detour and a climb to the rooftop of the main classroom block to see the huge new solar array funded by some of the generous Singleton donation.   

 Now to the staffing and Governance arrangements.

 Brigadier Arun Bhatnagar (Retd) is retiring as CEO and the board have selected Mr Sanjai Kapil as his replacement. Raphael will remain in very good hands with Sanjai. Arun will be missed but the two of them are working through the transition in a very thorough and highly professional way.   Equally Air Marshall B.D. Jayal has stepped down as Chairman of the Governing Council after 14 years of selfless quality service.

General Rostun K. Nanavatty has been elected to the role. Rostun is an inspiration and along with his wife

Sanuti will offer great ongoing leadership to Raphael.