Sitting in my comfy practice in downtown Melbourne it is difficult to believe that this was me just a week or two ago…
People describe India as an assault on the senses and that is really how it is….all the senses. It is so bright and colourful, the smells intense, the food fantastic (if sometimes risky) and the noise constant. When the honking of horns finally ceases at night the dogs start their territorial barking that continues until daybreak.
We were in a tight little corner of India, bounded by Nepal just to our west, Bhutan to the east, Bangladesh to the south-east and China on the north. A thin sliver of land 5km wide at its thinnest and 50 at its widest and housing 50 million people. Siliguri, the city that was our base, is on the river flats with the foothills of the Himalayas within touching distance (on a rare clear day). We stayed at a Catholic mission called Seva Kendra that was our sanctuary for the two weeks. Dormitory style accommodation with bucket baths and narrow little beds that we were so pleased to be in at the end of each exhausting day.
The constant each day was a visit to one of our three “clinics” (a church hall or veranda with portable treatment tables). In addition to this we would visit a school to worm the children and check their spines or, in the second week, visiting orphanages and meeting women from self-help groups that we fund.
The real changes are achieved with the money that was generously contributed. We fund seven schools built on the side of the river to provide for the rock-breaker and tea plantation children. Those working on the tea plantations are provided with somewhere to live and schools for their children but apparently, the children are given uniforms and lunches but little education and are essentially a child minding service.
We provide some funding to some orphanages. We were particularly moved by the “Flame of Hope” orphanage where we got to check the resident’s spines before being treated to a concert. When one of our chiropractors was doing a treatment and checking leg-length, he was astonished to find this girls shoes swivelled 360 degrees and then realised she had no feet and that what he was feeling was her prosthetic feet. When she danced for us in the concert with great enthusiasm it was hard not to be moved!
This place is run by an amazing Polish nun who has taken in 24 intellectually and physically disabled children whom she provides a home to, for life! She pretty much does it on her own with the help of some amazing volunteers. We met two lovely Italian ladies, who come to help for 3 months each year and have been doing so for the past 19 years!
I was very impressed with all the amazing work that is being done by such generous and dedicated people. It was very humbling. The money donated here in Australia goes such a long way and makes such a difference to these lives.
If you would like to know more about the great work done by Hands on India please feel free to discuss with me, or visit their website. It is a great charity that does work that really makes a difference to people’s lives… and has zero administrative costs!