By Elaine Houlihan
This time last year I never thought I’d be back in Bangalore this soon! Of course I always planned on coming back, but in my head I was taking this year off and coming back hopefully in 2019 after graduating college. Well that was the plan anyways but low and behold I’m here now!
I bet you are wondering what drew me back? Was it to people I met? Was it the smiley faces I missed? Was it the work I didn’t complete? Was it the culture I missed? Or hustle and bustle of Bangalore?
To answer the question it was all of those things I missed. Over the past year, at day didn’t go by without thinking of Bangalore and reminiscing on the memories that I made there. When you first mention that you are going overseas to volunteer of course you are going to get the people who think your absolutely mad as they don’t understand the impact you can have. If I listened to the majority of people I told, I definitely wouldn’t be here today writing for the second time volunteering overseas. All their opinions changed when I returned home last year and shared my experiences and stories that both impacted myself and the people I worked alongside! Even if it only seems like you have made a small impact on your trip I promise you it has made a huge difference in somebody else’s life and you won’t realise until you return again.
On my first day, returning to The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) was surreal to say the least. I never thought I’d have to opportunity to walk through those gates again so soon and be greeted with open arms by the fellow colleagues I worked along side last year. Of course I was worried walking in the gates thinking “oh no why if they don’t remember me?” But that wasn’t the case at all. I was literally went through every emotion fighting back the tears when I walked into the Physiotherapy unit to see everyone again and seeing how excited they all were to see me again! While I am a leader this year, I couldn’t leave without helping them in any way possible I could no matter how big or small the task. I can’t even describe how amazed and excited I was when Amala the physiotherapist asked me to give a parent training day again this year. Last year I had the privilege to carry out a 3 day training course for parents with children who have disabilities and personally I never thought my PowerPoint would be used again till Amala said “I am using your PowerPoint still so since you are here it makes more sense for you to do it” this was something I really, really thought last year had a small impact in my eyes but I can truly see it was much larger now with parents saying what I taught last year has really helped them. My heart has never been filled with joy so much ❤️
After carrying out the training day, I decided to carry out a kinesiology taping workshop with all the physiotherapist in APD as it has been proven to help children with Cerebral Palsy. I have never met so many people so eager and willing to learn new skills that can benefit these children greatly. So we set off on the taping workshop and between us all we easily applied tape to over 30 children in one day. For me I have always used this practice of K-taping but have rarely seen the effects so rapidly. One moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life was when I applied tape to a child who was struggling to walk and with the tape on he was able to walk I have never felt so happy and when he turned around and smiled, it moved me to tears.
People do not realise in life that the small things really do matter the most, and by volunteering here in APD I have learned that the most. Another opportunity I had this year in APD was being able to sponsor fruit trees that are all cared for by the people with disabilities and will all be planted out in the community for those in need to have access to the fruit. Sponsoring the trees seemed like something so small but as they told me the impact these trees will have in the community is absolutely huge. I am extremely proud to say that 32 of those trees have Irish roots, thanks to all the support from Ireland.
In all the partners here in Bangalore that I visited along with my fellow leaders, it was clear to see the impact all the SERVE volunteers have had through the past 8 years here. Walking into Jyothi Seva a school for children with visual impairments, and all the teachers and students still asking about about volunteers who were there three years ago, really proved that they never forget us even though we are only with them all for one month every year!
As the last week approaches I am filled with a mixture of emotions. I am personally dreading the thought of even saying goodbye again this year. I really don’t know when I will ever see these amazing and inspirational people ever again in my life. Even writing about saying goodbye is making my eyes fill with tears!
I know they say goodbyes are never easy in no matter the situation but this is the toughest thing I have had to face during this experience in Bangalore. I know they are all going to say thanks to me for everything I have done for them over the past month but they don’t realise how much they have done for me and I am forever grateful to them all for that!
So, the day as officially come upon me the day I really have to say goodbye. From the minute of waking up this morning I have been dreading the thoughts of walking into APD again. The last two hours I had in APD were filled with laughter and of course the heart breaking goodbyes I had to say to those who treated me like I was a part of their families. I made a promise to Amala the physiotherapist I worked it over the last two year and the children that I will return to APD in the future!
For now APD and Bangalore, it has been amazing!