TWO medical students who spent 10 days volunteering at the HEAL Children’s Village in Guntur have spoken of the “cherished memories” of their time in India – and have vowed to return to see the children again next year.
Becky Curbishley and Charlotte Boardman, who are halfway through their university medical degree courses, recently returned to the UK and were thrilled to be asked to make a presentation of their trip to hundreds of HEAL supporters at last weekend’s annual HEAL India Night, held to celebrate 20 years of transforming disadvantaged children’s lives through education.
Charlotte and Becky spent their summer break from university travelling to India, and focused their trip on a 10-day stay at the HEAL Village, with the added bonus of being able to take in the new developments of the HEAL Paradise Site.
“As former Guide leaders and medical students at the halfway mark of our degree, we had particular interest in child development and a visit to the HEAL village provided the opportunity to see this and healthcare through the eyes of a different culture,” said Charlotte.
“During our stay we were lucky enough to be fully immersed in the village, taking advantage of the new accommodation situated directly above the children’s cottages.
“This meant that from the moment we stepped out of our door in the morning until we went back to sleep at night, we were immediately involved in all aspects of the daily routine of the children and their house mothers.
“With our musical theatre interest we especially enjoyed teaching the children all the songs and dances from our childhood, a lot of which they had never heard before but can now recite on their own.
“A moment we will never forget was the sound of our own voices being played across the school grounds singing all the songs we recorded for the children to continue to learn after our departure.
“As a special treat we took a bag of goodies for the children to enjoy while we were there with them. This included colouring books and pencils, bubbles and yoyos. The excitement we saw from them when we introduced these surprises will never be forgotten.
“We were able to participate in everything from morning grooming to evenings of singing, game playing and storytelling, our favourite time of day.
“However, we feel it was our time spent and the relationships built with them that the children cherished the most.”
The girls were keen to use their medical knowledge for the benefit of the children through basic health checks, through which the children’s development will continue to be monitored.
“We assessed the children’s height, weight, dentition and vision. With limited supplies and experience we could only provide an overview. However, with the results we found it will now be possible to identify any problems at an early stage.
“On the whole we were pleased and encouraged by the health status of the children, but the positive ethos that the village exudes could have told us the children would all be happy and healthy from the outset.
“Our fantastic experience was enhanced by the fact that we were so well looked after. From the moment we stepped off the plane at Vijayawada to our heart-wrenching farewell, we constantly had people around us ensuring our comfort. They even removed all the chillies from the food for us!
“We could not have been made more welcome. The children’s enthusiasm was infectious and meant that from the first minute we gained as much as possible from our time with them. And not only did we help with their skills in English, they also managed to teach us some very basic Telegu.”
Refelcting on their “wonderful experience”, the girls admitted that they cannot wait to go back.
“We made a connection with the children, such that our tearful goodbye was actually just a ‘See you later’,” said Charlotte. “From as little as a few days into our trip we had decided to return and we are currently organising our trip for next summer.”