It is hard to believe that almost five weeks have passed since I arrived in my adopted ‘home town’ of Kullu. Since the beginning of February I have been learning about the great work done in the Handimachal Unit as well as endeavoring to meet the children and families that come to the Unit.
Again and again I am amazed at the dedication of mother, fathers, grandparents and siblings who travel long distances, and at the moment in poor weather, to bring the kids to the unit. It is not easy to raise a child with a disability in India, and these families are giving their kids the best chance they can to lead meaningful, functional and independent lives. I have also had the pleasure of meeting many children and their families on our home visits to Manali and Naggar. On my first few visits we were greeted with a thick blanket of snow – and on one occasion carried on by foot (for only a short while) – and thankfully many a warming cup of chai.
Working as on Occupational Therapist here in Kullu is worlds away from my previous job in a busy metropolitan city in Australia. Being here reminds me to go back to the core of my OT training and encourages me to be more creative, yet practical, each day. This means taking advantage of the environment around me – especially the play ground out the front of the Unit – and the things that are usually found in homes, schools and shops. One great example of this is the tremendous work of the teachers at Nav Chetna School, a school for children with an intellectual disability. Supported by the Parents Association, these children are taught in the corridors of a hostel as they wait for their much anticipated new school to be built. The very cool weather does not deter them or their smiles and the friendly ‘Namaste’ that greets me on each visit. I was honoured to attend a sports day there recently where the children participated in a brilliant game of Bocce. The encouragement and inclusion of all children was a delight to behold.
This experience has already shown me the wonders and generosity of India and its people. Meals with my neighbours (my Punjabi ‘family’), friendly banter at the sweet shop as I check the cricket score and a very warm welcome from the team despite the freezing cold weather, have all ensured that this will be an experience of a lifetime. Let's just hope the sun shines on us, and the families that visit the Unit!
9th March, 2012