Thursday, May 11, 2006

visiting impressions from Jan and Graham

"Gods Own Country"

Just back from India we wanted to say a few words about our time with Mhoira in Kerala....

This trip was only for two weeks but in that short time we were challenged,inspired,suprised and blessed in ways we had not expected by this wonderful place and people. Kerala is a beautiful place,as are its people.Mhoira's descriptions can give you a real flavour,but going out to see for yourself you experience the sights sound and smells will challenge any preconceptions about India and in our case has left us humbled and much richer for our time there.

Mhoira organised much of our trip for which we are grateful and highlights of Kerala included a boat trip on the beautiful waterways which criss cross Kerala(called the Backwaters), travelling in old white "Ambassador" cars and crazy auto-riskshaws(the only way to travel!) a stay in a coffee and vanilla plantation in the hills of Wynaad complete with a bush safari and elephants,and lovely meals out with Mhoira's friends sampling the yummy South Indian food,and the warmth and ready smiles of the locals .We could go on!!...but the real highlight was seeing some of the work Mhoira is involved in and meeting some of the great people she works with.

In Calicut,like Kenny, we had a chance to see first hand how the original vision of pioneer Prof Rajagopal, and his team has continued and grown into an impressive and unique model of community involvement in assessing,treating and supporting people in need of Palliative Care.Graham and I come from a shared professional background of psychiatric nursing,engineering,statutory and voluntary social work and were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers,as well as skills and commitment of local volunteers who are an integral part of the project,and in some areas take a lead role.They come from a variety of backgrounds including, on our trip, a local primary school teacher and retired engineer.This level of community involvement is unique in my experience,and our time out with Mhoira and one of the home care teams,visiting patients in the rural areas around Calicut,was both moving and humbling.
If only we had this kind of commitment in our communities back home! We were also impressed by the commitment to training,and I was delighted to meet one of the psychiatrists involved in teaching volunteers psychological skills,particularly as he has worked in the same psychiatric service as me in Edinburgh!

The opportunities for training,as Mhoira has described already, are there,and having seen the commitment and enthusiam for it, as well as the potential to change whole communities we have come back challenged about our own work,and inspired by what Mhoira and others have and could achieve. Do go see if you can...and meantime get behind the work of Cairdeas. These are real people,like Praveen, who need support for training and equipping so that they can make a difference. Oh and if you do out....those homecare drivers will take you on a journey you won't forget!

Jan and Graham Beckett (Mhoira's sister and brother-in -law)

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