ChildFund New Zealand Sponsor Services Manager Kathrine Seavill travelled to India and Kenya with Kathy McKay. In the following post Kathrine talks about her unique experience of India.
Saturday – Chennai, India
We arrived in India after a very long flight. The Chennai airport is very busy with a lot of people coming and going and all speaking a language I do not understand so you immediately know that you are a long way from home.
We were relieved to see a gentleman with a board with our names on it. We went outside to the taxi and I think the driver was a little surprised to see me and my wheelchair. Kathy and I had two large suitcases and a wheelchair to fit into a very little car. After some discussion our driver decided he was going to tie the wheelchair to the roof of the car.
Once we were loaded in with our suitcases and the wheelchair on the roof we were off!
The streets of Chennai were very crowded but we were assured that it was a quiet night. It would have been very interesting in rush hour!!
Looking out the window it was fascinating to see whole families on the scooter with the women in beautiful saris sitting side-saddle with a child sandwiched between the two adults with not a helmet between them.
It was with some relief that we arrived at our hotel as we were certainly ready for a shower and bed.
I woke up to a beautiful day in Chennai and I was really excited to have the opportunity to do a little exploring before the week of meetings began.
I met up with some colleagues and we decided that we would take a taxi as it would be easier than a tuk-tuk with the wheelchair. We walked a little way down the road and a gentleman approached us with his tuk-tuk and offered to take us on a tour of the city and to visit the markets. We declined as we had the wheelchair but this man was very insistent that we could take his little vehicle. With a little trepidation I decided that “When in Rome do as the Romans do” and agreed to take the tuk-tuk. He picked me up and fed me like a sausage through the very narrow opening of the tuk-tuk and off we went.
We had a great day visiting the city and looking at the various things on offer at the markets. I must have got in and out of that tuk-tuk five or six times that day and when preparing for bed that night discovered bruises in places I did not even know I had! But the best Tandoori Chicken I have ever eaten made up for it.
Today we visited projects in Chennai. Our group visited a Gypsy settlement and I do not think I have ever seen poverty like it! Despite the conditions they lived in the children were beautiful and very excited to see us.
While there I spoke with a very young woman and her husband who had a very tiny baby and invited me to see where they lived. With one of the project workers we walked a short distance to their family home. They live in a shelter that is made of flax woven into a tent and was completely devoid of any of the comforts that we take for granted. Four people live in this tent with a tiny baby who was born prematurely and is very tiny. I felt very honoured to have been invited into their home.
Tuesday and Wednesday
I spent the next couple of days in the Sponsor Relations Network meeting. It was great to catch up with colleagues that I had not seen for a year and interesting to hear about the challenges they are facing in their offices, as well as consider how we can improve our support of our sponsors and children.
Thursday was the last day in conference and in the afternoon we had a last chance to see more while tearing around Chennai in tuk-tuks. We had a last dinner together and a chance to reflect on our time in India with friends and colleagues.
I was up early ready to catch my flight to Kenya. I am very excited as this will be my second visit to Kenya and it will be great to see how well the friends I had made during my last visit are doing.
Stay tuned for Kathrine’s next posts on Kenya.