One of the great things about volunteering is the interesting mix of people you meet. Those who choose to volunteer already have something in common though coming from all walks of life.
At the moment we are a group of six. Two English gap year girls Esme and Olivia, a disability sector worker from Mt Gambier Australia Johanne, a retired property manager from Ballarat Australia Derek, and Jamie an English guy who rents out his flat in London and lives off that, basing himself here at Raphael for more or less six months every year while traveling the rest – even came to Palmy last year and stayed with me. Retired at 40 he says. He’s amazingly energetic and focused in his work and has a great gift of mixing with all ages. I guess most don’t expect a Bishop to be among the volunteers they will encounter. Thankfully here titles count for little but some have ‘confessed’ to me that they had wondered what might turn up when they had heard that a Bishop Charles was on the horizon but were soon relieved that I appeared to be at least vaguely normal!
Some volunteers come back regularly to Raphael. But first timers quickly feel at home too. The shared rickshaw rides, delhi belly remedies, transport solutions, and price advice of everything from a bunch of bananas to cleverly sourced vegemite all make for quick bonding. But the greatest bond is the experience itself: being part of a community so different from one’s own home patch.
Raphael is mainly Hindu, predominantly of special needs children and adults, with a small TB hospital and a colony of those with leprosy on the wings. It rests within a beautiful setting; a calm escape from the assault on all the senses that awaits you on the streets and alleyways of Dehra Dun.
I’ve had a fever the last couple of days. High temperature and cold and hot sweating. Not pleasant. But the care has been tremendous. A ward boy (male caregiver) arrived at my door with a specially prepared breakfast at 6.30, two ayahs (female caregivers) and a nurse arrived at 7.30 with another breakfast plus small can of Nivea cream (apparently my face looked gaunt and in need of a lift!), and then not to be outdone the official volunteers cook came up to my room at 8.00 to inquire what I would like for breakfast! Next at 9.00 there was a knock at my door by a pathology lab assistant bearing a needle. In an unopened wrapping I hasten to add. She took a blood sample the results of which were normal except a slightly low platelet count – that I’ve had ever since I caught dengue fever here some 10 years ago. All this kindness from people who in one sense have not much to give, yet in another are ready to share all.