Friends of Roshni UK

Friends of ROSHNI UK

Working together to support disabled children in India

Registered Charity Number 1117759


Volunteers' Experiences at ROSHNI

My experiences at ROSHNI  – Chris Mycio, Occupational Therapy Volunteer, January - April 2009

Chris with Roshni staff
Chris and volunteer physiotherapist Cath with Roshni staff

The Vocational Group has been an interesting rollercoaster. I had started to go in initially and was assessing students with the competencies checklists, and planning the subgroup for arts and crafts.  I didn’t get to spend much time in the group though, as on Tuesdays Vivek was keen for me to be in Early Intervention, and Saturdays I was wanted in outpatients, which left Thursdays - and often a holiday or training would crop up, or it was maths skills day, and not the activities on the checklists!  Manjula was very keen that I didn’t just run a group but actually educated the teachers on how to complete the assessments and plan the intervention.  I agreed this was a much better plan and more sustainable and they could assess new children themselves then so we agreed I would do a training session for the staff. 
So after going round in a few circles I have made some progress – I’m happy now!! While I was in the circles I did manage to create a vocational file for Renuka and the teachers. I also managed after a few more circles to get poor Ram to write all the checklists in Hindi underneath the English so that all the teachers can understand and complete the assessments. The training went really well and everyone seemed receptive to the plan. I have put the instructions for assessment and intervention in the front of the file and there is a grid with all the student's names to tick off when assessed and whether independent or needing practice.  I also made a goal sheet so once the assessment is complete they can write the goals down clearly, and a sample certificate. So we have started the joint assessments today and it went well - Vegwati and Mamta seemed to enjoy it – I hope so anyway! But there are a lot of students and a lot of assessments so it will be crazy until I leave, and I’m not sure how comfortable with it all the teachers will be by the time I leave - it is really a shame I didn’t get to start it earlier as I would like to see it through but on the positive side it is building on the last volunteer’s foundations. Hopefully an OT will come next season and can carry on from where I have left it! You could really spend your whole time in vocational I think!
Early Intervention has been so much fun - I am in love with them. I have done a four week hand function focus in the group session. So we have had lots of messy play - play-doh, colouring, painting, sticking, gluing, cutting, ripping and textures - lentil, macaroni, silky ribbons, sequins, cotton wool, sponge - I think the mothers enjoy it more than the children, I have to remind them a lot to let the child have a go! I have focused on the group theme for social interaction and sharing and all the individual bits of work come together to make one big picture at the end like a countryside or under the sea scene! I have written all the sessions up in the EI record book and the hand function focus. Ram and Rakhi said how much they like the sessions and the final picture - it also makes for a great room decoration! Cath and Charlie, the physiotherapy volunteers, helped in one of the classes and said how much some of the children came to life - Muskan doesn’t speak much and I think she may have some behavioural problems, but she loved it. And Abhi, who is often not interacting well with the EI group seemed to love it too. A couple of the very young ones who have some behavioural problems really get engrossed so it is great to watch. And like the mums I love gluing and sticking too so its great for me to get absorbed - a bit of therapy for me!
I have been doing joint home visits and school visits with Cath and Charlie so that has been really interesting. There was a huge list of mainstream school visits and also visits to children who haven’t been to ROSHNI for ages so that has kept us busy. We managed to do an exercise session with the older people living at the ashram. It was brilliant - we had the parachute out and throwing the ball - all three of us have done falls prevention programmes at home so we didn’t even need to think about it which was a nice change as I am constantly learning and thinking about everything! The interesting thing was that the group was just the same as at home - the token man, the naughty cheeky old lady who does her own thing, and the quiet one who surprises you by leaping into risky exercises and being a daredevil! It was so funny, and they really enjoyed it so we are trying to do it again this week with a man who runs the ashram shop, Mr Rao, as he wants to continue the exercises long term which would be great for them!
Charlie and Cath’s postural management workshop for parents was great - they roped me in for a little ADL section too which was some good learning for me. I have learnt loads from them, it has been great - I think it will hit me how much I’ve learnt when I get home - I had never even heard of a standing frame before and now they are part of every minute of my waking life as we try to sort them all out and get new ones made!It’s all coming together now, I think they are all done at last!
I’ve not really been on any trips - we went to Orcha, which was lovely, but often at the weekend we have just loved to chill and eat at the Landmark hotel, or swim at the Usha Kiran pool; and between weddings and dinner parties many of the weekends aren’t free anyway. I didn’t want to take holidays as I planned to finish early due to the holidays in April and the temperature, and my friend from home decided to come and meet me so she will arrive in Goa on the 27th March so I have my last day at ROSHNI as the 25th. Only one week and Cath also leaves on the 29th. Charlie left us on Sunday! Time flies! There were a lot of holidays and I had the odd late start or early finish when I needed to as I know the breaks are important to help keep you healthy and awake and keep your motivation!
My landlords, the Tripathi’s granddaughters are at my home a lot now which is great - I usually have a good natter to Aditi (the older one - 21y) when I get in from work over a cup of tea so I will miss them lots when I go!  She hopes to come to England to study in 2010 so I really hope she can as it will be interesting to be on the other side of the travel world helping them as they have helped me. She is so lovely, it would be great to see her again.
I’ve got a lot to do this week – I’m doing my OT awareness training on Monday too.  Its funny, a couple of weeks ago I felt like I was floating aimlessly and not achieving, and in the last week or so things seem to be coming together, and when I look at my original goals I’m not that far off!! It is so rewarding when you achieve something, and the kids and teachers are amazing, but it is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think I could explain it to someone – it’s just something you can only experience yourself. One day I'll be so down and feel negative and like I’m not doing well/I’m not helping, and then the next day I’ll have the best day ever and be brimming with emotion over a child’s progress or a family's hospitality - crazy!

I’ll be ready for that beach in Goa next week though, I tell you!

My experiences at ROSHNI  – Caroline Regan, Occupational Therapy Volunteer, 2005-6

Caroline in Kilkari Hospital
Caroline in Kilkari Hospital

i was a newly Qualified OT when I arrived in India. It was an amazing experience and gave me the opportunity to use my training in a manner that isn't possible in the UK. I felt it helped me establish what my skills were and what I can do as an OT. It was a massive challenge to put skills in such a different setting and I learnt a great deal about my profession, and indeed about myself. I had the opportunity to gain experience in aspects of OT that are very hard to come by at home. For example, I was involved in ROSHNI's NICU service in a local maternity hospital. I learnt about neonatal assessments and positioning, and helped design training programmes for hospital staff. I learnt a lot about problem solving, being self-directed, and most of all thinking outside the box. In many ways it is quite liberating to practice in an environment where the restrictions that exist at home are not an issue. Referral criteria and government directives on what is provided are not something we needed to think about. Although poor resources led to some massive challenges, it taught me to be more resourceful and have a solution-focused attitude to work. What can I do rather than what can't I do.

I was invited to attend World Disability Day in Delhi during my time at Roshni. It was really inspiring and motivating to hear how the disability rights movement is present and growing in India.

I worked with children of all ages at ROSHNI and took part in a range of groups and activities. The staff, children and their families were very welcoming, and helped me work through issues like the language barrier, although I did learn a little Hindi too.

Back here in the UK I often reflect on how much my experience at Roshni has done for my career and my ability to be a good OT. Prospective employers were really interested and impressed with my experience. I also feel that I am able to show a greater degree of ingenuity in the interventions I undertake in my practice here. Most of all I returned feeling confident about my professional ability and with a clearer understanding of what the role of the OT is.

Working and living in such a different culture was a truly wonderful experience. I made so many lovely friends and was made to feel so welcome by everyone at ROSHNI. India is a truly amazing place that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of thoughts, emotions and experiences. Volunteering is hard work and can be frustrating at times, and often achievements seem small, but it is wonderful to be part of something that makes such a difference to the children at ROSHNI and their families.

Caroline Regan, Occupational Therapist