Staying with nuns in India

Dominique Gelder-Smith
1. How old are you and what’s your occupation?
I am 19 and I am currently on a gap year
2. What made you decide to go to India?
I’d never thought of it until my friend asked me if I’d like to go with her
so that her parents wouldn’t get too worried about her.
3. Which organisation did you go with?
I stayed with an order of nuns called the Holy Cross Sisters for five weeks
in Mekkarai and Achinkovil and then I went on a tour of MP and UP with
Intrepid.
4. How did you find out about them?
I went to a school that was founded by the sisters in New Malden and one of
the sisters who curently woks there invited us to isit those in India. I
found out about the Intrepid tour through my sister.
5. What were you doing out there? What sort of project was it?
The Holy Cross sisters that I stayed with ran several different projects in
their local areas. I helped at local visits to patients of the two small
dispensaries that acted as hospitals for the villagers, who live so remotely
from government funded aids. I worked in two nurseries run by the sisters
and one school where the sisters were placed as teachers. I also visited
homes of those with domestic problems in Achinkovil, where the sisters act
as independant social workers-diffusing domestic violence and educating
about alcohol and drug addiction. I also visited some women’s self-help
groups that had been set up in both communities to provide loans and support
for the poorest families.
6. How much of a cultural difference was it?
The cultural diffence was greater than I could have ever imagined. The only
thing that was not different, I noticed, was that they drive on the same
side of the road as we do in England. Eating idli and chatni for
breakfast…with my hands, seeing teachers caning 4year old children,
monkeys on the roof and washing in a bucket were the cultural differences
that made the trip real.
7. What was your best part of the trip?
The best part was probably helping at the nursery annual school day or
driving across the mountains in a storm
8. What was your worst part of the trip?
On the final night of my stay in Achinkovil I suffered from the worst asthma
attack I have ever had. It was inmpossible to convey my problem to the nuns
and I had to wait five hours until we could get a jeep with a driver to take
me to the hospital which was another 4 hours away. I never really got to say
good bye to my friends at the convent there.
9. Would you like to go back again?
Yes definitely…I’ve been told to bring my little sister back next year,
then my parents, then my husband and children…I’ll have to see how it
goes.
10. What was it like being back in England after being in India?
Cold and safe. It’s a bit lonely not waving at people all the time, and no
one invites you in their house just because you’e passing. I miss the food
but I don’t miss the diahorrea.
11. Where in India were you based? Did you do any travelling outside of
your project?
I spent time in Mekkarai, a small village on the Tamil Nadu border and also
in Achinkovil, a village in the Keralan rainforests. I spent a ittle time in
Kollam and Trivandrum and also travelled with a tour group near Agra, Delhi
and Varanasi.
12. What advice would you give people who are planning to go?
I’d advise anyone who’s travelling in India to bring plenty of toilet paper
and immodium.
13. Do you have any images/videos that I could use in the article?
I have lots just check out facebook.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Asia, India, Volunteer interviews

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