Bluebird Care Wandsworth Sponsor Care Assistant on 3 month India Experience

Published: 22/05/2019

We were delighted to sponsor our Care Assistant Sophie Gavin, when she chose to take a 3 month sabbatical to volunteer in India.

We were delighted to sponsor our Care Assistant Sophie Gavin, when she chose to take a 3 month sabbatical to volunteer in India.

Taking a break from her daily life, Sophie embarked on a 3 month volunteering programme in India with a charity called Restless Development. Sophie has put together a piece for us about her volunteering, and how the whole experience impacted on her.  Read Sophie’s story below;

I had got to a point in my life where I did not really know who I was anymore, I had lost touch with what I really wanted and who I really wanted to be. Every day began to become the same- work, home, sleep, eat and work again. I decided I wanted to make a change and take a break from normality so that I could discover what direction I wanted to go in. I soon came to realise that going overseas to a developing country was something I was very interested in doing.

With that I embarked on a journey to India to volunteer. This was definitely an eye opener and an amazing experience.

So how did I get there and who with?

I made an application to a charity called Restless Development to take part in a programme which entailed volunteering overseas for three months. I was offered a place but it was a condition that I had to fundraise £800 before a set deadline. I was very lucky in having such good friends and family who all sponsored me to succeed with raising around half of the money needed. Having worked for Bluebird Care for some time now I sent a polite email telling everybody about what I was doing and explained that any small donations would be hugely appreciated. I was overwhelmed when I looked at my fundraising page online only to see that Bluebird Care had sponsored me £400! This meant that my expected target of £800 had been met and even exceeded!!

The next step was to actually go out to India and get involved in the programme. We travelled in a group of 24 and on our arrival we were split in to four groups, we were then sent to four different placements. I was placed in a small village called Thiruvalangadu, which was in the Thiruvallur district with our nearest city being Chennai.

Once settled in to our placement we received some training and were split again in to two teams (livelihoods and health). I opted to be part of the health team; our job was to work with the local communities and raise awareness about any health issues that was predominant in their areas. We worked in local schools and youth centres delivering sessions on how to prevent, identify and treat health issues that were relevant to them such as malaria, falaria, chikungunya and dengue fever, hand washing, hook worm and toilet sanitation. We also touched on mental health during some of our peer work sessions and tried to incorporate this in the programme as we could see that mental health were definitely an issue not addressed. 

My time in India was definitely an eye opener to see how people live and deal with the health issues they are faced with whilst living in a developing country. I learnt many things not only about myself but also was able to learn how to live life in a different culture with different traditions for three months.  I feel that the experience certainly made me more confident and made me self-reflect a lot on the way I portray myself in my day to day life. It was a life changing experience!

The highlight of my time in India was when we conducted an event for 'world health day'. We went to a local school and asked for permission to conduct a rally with the children in the local village. The headmaster agreed and so we delivered a small session to the children about vector bourne diseases. The children made lots of posters and were very engaged. We took to the streets of the local village and proceeded to conduct our rally which was similar to a protest except we used it to raise awareness.

My biggest challenge was learning to work and live with people that I didn’t particularly get along with. We had to live in a small environment and work together every day. This meant that working out any differences within the team was crucial!

So what did I take away from my experience?

During my time in India I really had time to look around me and take in how others live it has honestly made me look at my life in a different light and appreciate what I have. I realise that I should stop holding myself back from opportunities, for example going to university. It has made me want to be the best I can be!”