The past twelve months proved both challenging and rewarding.
I no longer worked as a nurse with the Red Cross Blood Service, taking holidays every few years to volunteer on a casual basis in India. I was now CSM’s fulltime Program Director, with the responsibility of setting up the operating structure of the organisation in Kolkata. I was in a foreign country, experiencing a foreign culture and facing a way of life that was so different to what I was used to (not to mention the extreme weather conditions I was to yet endure).
However it was re-assuring to know that I had a very committed CSM Board back at our administration base in Perth, who used their talents to guide and support me whilst in Kolkata.
From my prior experiences in Kolkata, I knew that CSM could not achieve our intended goals without help. The best way would be to link in with an already established organisation.
I knew of the Loreto Day School situated in Sealdah, in a poor suburb in Kolkata. Loreto were first established in Kolkata in 1857 and now has over 1500 female students of which half are so poor that their every need has to be taken care of – food, medicines, rations, shoes, books, and uniforms.
Loreto provided me with tremendous support, guidance and advice and I was thankful to be able to make a base there for CSM.
Through Loreto I was shown the needs of the community and thus CSM’s mission in Kolkata started.
With Loreto’s guidance it was ascertained that CSM could provide beneficial basic medical care and health education to the needy. I started out by myself working two mobile clinics, one at a village in Dhapa and the other at Topsia, an area of Kolkata.
It was tiring work but extremely rewarding.
Whilst in Kolkata I lived in an area known as Sudder Street which is well known in travel books for its budget accommodation and is popular with travellers from all over the world. It was there that I met many other volunteers who were working with different organisations. People started taking an interest in CSM and wanted to come out and see the work that I was doing.
Over the span of a few months interest grew and through word of mouth many volunteers visiting Kolkata chose to spend their time with CSM.
Volunteers from Spain, Sweden, Australia, America, Poland, Germany and Ireland all with different backgrounds, religions and beliefs have volunteered for CSM. Many with vastly different vocations, Doctors, Pharmacists, Lawyers and Nurses to those who were just carefree backpackers passing through Kolkata, were happy to offer CSM some much appreciated help.
CSM was also lucky to have the assistance of several Australian schools, whose students were on pilgrimages to experience different organisations that help the poor of Kolkata.
With a growing volunteer base to cover the increasing workload, I was able to spend time implementing a Food Programme to administer food parcels to the homeless who live at one of the train stations. This is a wonderful project that involves the local community.
Currently I am home in Perth for some R & R. In my absence from Kolkata, Kavita Gandhi, one of CSM’s long term volunteers, has taken over the position as CSM’s Operations Manager and will oversee the Medical Clinics and Food Programme. Kavita is a dedicated Registered Nurse from New Zealand and like me is of Indian descent.
Since my time home I have visited a few schools to give presentations about the work CSM is doing in Kolkata. It is heartening not only to see the children’s interest in learning about the poor in Kolkata, but also their willingness to actually try to do something practical to help.
It was always CSM’s vision to involve the community when the charity was established. However it takes more than just a board or volunteers to bring a vision to reality. It takes the good hearts of those who generously give to help us to ease the burden of those less fortunate in the world.
Without the support and belief of many of you, CSM may not have achieved so much in such a short period of time.
Together we are making a difference.