Saturday, 19 February 2011

We're here!

It's strange to be back.  It's been three years since I was last here, and there is so much familiar to me, the noises, crazy chaos and the smells! Yet so much has changed.  The airport is unrecognizable! To be fair both previous arrivals were at night and my last trip here I arrived at 2am, so a noon arrival was a change. There is a strangeness to arriving in any new city late at night, and I have recollections of being hit by the air pollution and swirling dust as it was bounced off the car headlights. Even so, the airport could now be any airport I fly into on a regular basis. (Not so previously) Wide open (carpeted) corridors and a large and organized customs halls.  So tales of the chaos that met me the last time were no longer true. Also the area outside the airport is now a tar road and there are good parking spots, so much change from the outset. Even the journey in to the city shows signs of change, with lots of construction on either side of a wide and open highway.  A lot of the work was done for the Commonwealth Games and I'm sure the difference to the arriving teams and spectators must have been really good.  There are still signs advertizing the games, so it must have been very bright and festive at the time.

The YWCA, where we're staying is just the same, and I'm transported back to my first trip.  The risk of course is to be too familiar with  the area and not to be as alert, but it's great to be with the team. Aah, and there is the same dodgy looking internet cafe, but I'm using the computer in the little lobby, which does not seem to have the same traffic, and appears to be a little more reliable.  Time will tell.

Today, our first full day here had two goals, one to meet the team leaders we'll be working with next week and the second was to get a few outfits for the week.  We wear the traditional Salwaar Kameeze when we visit the amilies in the slums, so spent the afternoon in a local market shopping. I must say to the horror of the guys with us, who managed to get their shopping done in moments and then were ready to find a telly to watch the cricket.  Instead had to hang about watching the street dogs and fending off hawkers.

We spent this morning at the main Asha polyclinic hearing about all they do and the programs they run. The biggest impact on me is the amazing progress they're making with the education programs.  So Asha's initial goal is the medical program and the clinics, which grew to the women's programs and the children's programs.  They work with the men and the elderly, and have financial schemes.  All these to continue to work with improving the conditions and lives of the urban poor. Yet the biggest impact to the slum dwellers is the education program. They were just starting this three years ago when I came out to teach here, but this has grown and the now have the goal of getting 5000 slum children through college education in the next 5 years!  An enormous challenge, but hearing the progress they have made to date, I'm certain they'll reach this goal. It's amazing.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Preparing for the Trip

Once we've decided to do the trip to Delhi, instead of just waiting for the time to pass 'til we go, there are a few things to do.  Unlike other trips I do, when the preparation work for the trip might be about setting up computers or planning your presentations, for this Delhi trip, the preparation is about ensuring we have all our vaccinations up to date, and of course getting our visas in order.  The team had to meet and get to know each other and make a few plans.  One of our team events was spending the day in London "site seeing" together.  Armed with a poster we moved from one notable landmark to the next., taking photos.  It's a fun day and we can walk and chat and get to know each other.  We then each prepare a poster of photos and snippets of information about a landmark, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace etc, which we take to Delhi with us. These posters should brighten up one of the rooms we'll be refurbishing in the clinic in the slum. We've also planned and run a few fund raising activities, and will continue to raise money to send to the charity.  Tonight was our last meeting, so all that remains for us to do is pack (nearly done) and meet at the airport...aah and get all our tasks done at work before we go!

Depending on the Internet access, I'll try to update this site a few times while I'm out there.  There is also a team blog that has news from previous trips to Delhi, and that the team will try to keep up to date.