Friday, November 28, 2008

Sewa Ashram

After a much needed nights sleep and a big breakfast at the hotel we met up with Stephen; the CFO for Opportunity International Australia and headed out to the Ashram. It was our first real experience with Delhi roads and traffic. I am not one for long car trips but in India there is never a dull moment and the whole drive was pure entertainment. Drivers are constantly blasting their horns,  and from what I can tell it can have two meanings- "watch out I am coming through" or "get out of my way".
The drive to the ashram took about 1.5 hours though we have been warned that it can take as long as 4 hours depending on the traffic. The roads here are in crazy condition, we really don't have much to complain about in Sydney. There is road work happening everywhere and half built fly overs are a ubiquitous sight as in the half built metro. There will be no need to visit a zoo while here - I think we have seen it all wandering the streets... cows are everywhere as are scary looking pigs/boars as well as dogs, donkeys and monkeys.

On arriving at the Sewa Ashram we were warmly greeted by Kaye and Nino as well as the other Ashram staff and volunteers. Kaye first took us on a tour of the Ashram leading us though the intricate pathways that lead from one area to the next. She showed us through the clinic as well as the various wards for the TB patients. The kitchen facility was a basic set up where they have enormous saucepans that churn out 25 kgs of rice for lunch each day. During the day they try to get the patients outdoors rather than being cooped up in the wards. We met a few of the patients and heard of their stories (I will share more about this when we go back and spend some more time at the Ashram and take some photos). At lunch we enjoyed a meal of rice with a spinach and lentil dahl; it was really very good. Sam loved the food and hunter our fussy eater had a good portion as well.
We then walked across to the children's home which has now been combined with some of the old men and women. the children were beautiful and all lined up in a row eating their lunch. One story I will mention now is about a woman named Ruby who was picked up from the Delhi streets with her 3 year old daughter. Ruby was so unwell that she could not walk and had to rely on her small daughter to wander the streets to find them food to survive. The thought of this small girl wandering the streets alone is totally incomprehensible. Newborn babies are often left at home alone all day long without any food while their mothers are forced to go out to try and find work or food.
Despite the challenges that all the patients at the Ashram face - and there are many challenges - the atmosphere in the Ashram is wonderful. It is a peaceful place of refuge that exudes hope and opportunity for a better future. The team at the Ashram have done an awesome job in establishing an environment that is positive, a spirit of hope and a faith that starts to believe for the impossible.  It really is a beautiful place and we all look forward to spending more time there in order to understand how we can develop a plan for a new village for hundreds more people while lending a hand in the daily needs and activities. I have to say, that Sam and Hunter coped extremely well in their visit to the Ashram as they really came face to face with some of the harsher realities to life.

The trip back to the hotel was equally eventful as the journey there when a mouse in the car ran over Sam's foot and nibbled at his sock - for the next hour we all sat with our feet up.
Oh... and not far from the Ashram is the Delhi dump. You cannot comprehend the size of this place, it is literally larger than a Sydney suburb with mountains of garbage piled high. On the horizon there were people picking through the garbage looking for rags etc to resell. Swarming over the tip were thousands of birds, I have never seen anything like it. Oh and of course there were pigs... I think I will give the bacon a miss while I am here.

We were well and truly exhausted after day 1... Hopefully our body clocks will adjust soon.

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