For those that follow this blog religiously my apologies for missing last week’s Friday blog. I had a really good reason – evacuated and homeless after the flooding that hit Brisbane, Australia the week of Jan 10-14. The house was unfortunately gutted underneath but the top storey remained high and dry thankfully so we’ve now got electricity and moved back in.
We’ve had numerous people come and help us work on the house. I even had two backpackers from Brazil helping out (visitors to Brisbane) and others travellers approached me to ask if they could assist! The guys from Brazil did a fantastic job on the garden.
The view from my window here in North India is of pine forests, villages clinging to terraced slopes and enormous snow mountains. I worked here as a volunteer in a school about 10 years ago and I’m back to visit. During this time I sent an email to friends about both my time here and in Kolkata (see the previous post), which lead to some discussion about how you actually volunteer when you travel. I touched on this new phenomena of travel, voluntourism, in the last blog, but it might be fun to explore it further now.
The most common response to my email indicated most people had no idea even how to begin arranging a volunteer position. I am fortunate in my travels that I often come across opportunities and contacts I can pursue either then or at a later date. Often I meet the people first and even see the facilities where I could later stay or work. This sort of insight does help but I’ve also arranged for positions via email. Some of the voluntary work I have done includes teaching PE in this Indian school, working as a journalist for an NGO in Mongolia, teaching English in China, documenting a school library in Cambodia and a variety of things in Australian Aboriginal communities. Some I arranged in person, others by email.
The last few weeks I’ve felt like I was playing out a part in novelist Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy, a story of a slum in Kolkata, India where lepers, beggars and the poor live. I’ve been volunteering at one of Mother Teresa’s homes in this famed city. Every day we washed the patient’s clothes, gave them meals, exercised muscles that needed strengthening and dressed their sores. Some of these sores were terrible as many had been hit by cars or buses or had horrific wounds. Others were just very sick.