I’ve been to India once. That trip was very different to this one! I had a different intention, I was with a group of friends and I visited Mumbai and Goa. It was more commercialised and most of our day was spent on the beach or going out.
With this trip, my intention was to go and check out the humanitarian projects that the ashram in Sayla is involved in and to spend some time thinking about my spirituality.
So we left London to go to Sayla, (which is in Surendranagar) on Monday 6th April and we returned on Friday 17th April.
This is what happened…..
We reached Sayla on Tuesday.
It wasn’t a good start for Suraj. He had an upset tummy on the plane when we left London.
His health wasn’t that bad so we arranged to see some of the humanitarian projects on Wednesday.
On Wednesday we visited the local eye hospital where they carry out many cataract operations. Although there are many similar hospitals all over India; patients travel miles to have their operations done in Sayla. They favoured this hospital over their local one because the treatment was free but most of all, they had heard that; the success rate was extremely high, the pre-operation assessment and the aftercare were not faulted and the doctor who works there does not focus on his wages, but rather, the reward of helping those in need.
We saw the general hospital which was about to be closed and replaced with a dental hospital. This is the local general hospital. However, there is a much larger one with 10 minutes of the one which has now been closed. This is the state general hospital which the Rajsaubhag ashram will now take over because the government has asked them to. So they will contribute towards some of the costs to run it but the ashram will now manage it, improve it and fund the shortfall.
We also visited L. M. Vora girls school. This is part of the Prem ni Parab project in which the aim is to put education back into schools, rather than, passing the students in grade 7 even though they don’t know letter names and sounds. It is amazing! It is not system based which may sound chaotic but it truly isn’t. The project focuses on nurturing the skills that the children have, increasing their self-esteem, encouraging them to enter competitions and value education to empower them and better their future. The project also encourages parents to see beyond the income that their children can earn them in the short term. Thus they are shown how much their children’s lives will improve if they are educated as they will have more options available to them which will mean that they can earn more.
Later that afternoon, I went to visit the Ashirwad Vikland Center. This is a school for children with physical and/or learning special needs. I saw films of the projects that they are involved in, how they assess children at home and so on. The work they do is amazing! They help the children become independent and if possible, they are reintegrated into mainstream schools.
The children and staff are singing together
On Thursday we met Chandrakant Vyas. He is the person leading the Prem ni Parab project. He took us to see 2 local schools involved in the project. It was amazing! The teachers were so enthusiastic. Their ethics, ideologies and attitudes had been turned upside down in a positive way! They were fully supportive of the project and were sorry that this 5-year project was now coming to an end. However, the government liked what they saw and they have asked Rajsaubhag to carry out this project with over 50 more schools. Excellent news! 🙂
Now here’s where things changed. I had a nap after visiting these schools. When I woke up I felt very weak & I had a fever. We visited the local Dr again! He gave me medication and said he’d see how I was the next morning.
On Friday I was admitted to a hospital 50 minutes away. 8 bottles of glucose, injections and some tablets later; my tummy had settled and I was no longer nauseous. The doctor suspected sunstroke but blood tests revealed a server infection. Anyway, I was discharged on Saturday evening. Although I was better I was on a strict diet of plain rice or khichidi. 🙁
From Sunday – Tuesday we visited the local Doctor a few more times as my health had got a little worse so they gave me 2 more bottles of glucose. However, I then began to feel better. Yippee! 🙂 I began to vary my diet a little and I did not suffer for it so things were looking up!
On Wednesday the new departments in the eye hospital were officially opened and the general hospital that the ashram has now taken over was opened too. We went with Bhaishree and others, to participate in the puja before the opening. It was intimate and special. I’m so glad we could be part of it.
The official opening of the general hospital: –
That night we did the last thing that I really wanted to do. We went to see a school called Pragna Chakshu. It is a residential school for young children, teenagers and young adult females who are partially sighted or completely blind. They have now begun caring for the elderly too.
If you imagine the tears that a bride sheds during the vidai. These girls get married from and by THE couple who manage the school. They are a blind couple themselves. They stay there and look after and educate the residents. Many of the girls see these 2 special people as their parents. They may not have parents, they may have been abandoned as they were born out of wedlock or rejected because of their special needs. Can you imagine how special this couple are to all the girls there? Their vidai must be so much more emotional for them.
Most of the residents do not have a ‘family’ to visit during the holidays.
Anyway, it was amazing to see what they can do, the photos of previous weddings and the design of the building itself. These girls can fry food, clean, iron clothes, fit fans into the ceiling of a room, sew and much more! Remember, they cannot see. Amazing 🙂
Here are some photos of the ‘everyday’ activities that these girls can do: –
Before we left we went to a nearby village and helped members of the ashram distribute food to the poor. The way it works is that the villagers come forward and explain why they can’t earn or why they need more income. If the chief of the village verifies their position, they will receive food on a regular basis.
We then left on Thursday and landed in London at 6:30 a.m.
It was good to be home but the best feeling was that I left Sayla having recovered from the infection I had, Suraj had completely recovered, we saw the humanitarian projects I wanted to see and we spent some time thinking about our spiritual progress too. The spiritual side was the most important part of going to Sayla for Suraj.
So all in all, a FAB trip! : ) No regrets at all!