Friday, February 12, 2010

Train Back to Delhi

We are now sitting in one of the 3-tier AC sleeper class cabins on the train back west to Delhi. It’s around noon and the train is already four hours late. “3-tier AC” means that each compartment is air-conditioned (much more important in the summer) and contains three bunks (bottom, middle, top) on each wall. With two more stacked bunks on the end, our 10 ft by 7 ft compartment is home to eight individuals for our 12 (now 16) hour trip. Of course we all have luggage as well, meaning four large suitcases, three backpacks, three small bags, and one disassembled wheelchair stuffed around our feet and under bunks for just Jon, Vicky, and I. However, the ride is surprisingly comfortable and the tight squeeze creates a great opportunity to get to know our neighbors.

 We have been lucky during this ride back from Varanasi to have four English speakers in our compartment. Jon and Vicky are particularly gifted in striking up conversations with these new friends. Jon gets a little embarrassed as his mother energetically conveys the story of his injury and work in India to anyone who will listen. In both our train rides so far we have pulled out a computer and speakers and played “More Than Walking” for our fellow passengers. This usually creates the opportunity to distribute DVD copies of the film to those who ask. Between train passengers, airport attendants, church members, hospital workers, taxi drivers, and other acquaintances, we have so far given away over 40 copies of the 200 Mr. Sigworth made before we left.

So this post comes at the end of a three-day stay at a rural Christian hospital outside of Varanasi (names and places have been avoided at the request of our hosts). The hospital’s director and his wife are old friends of the Sigworth’s and were eager to hear from Jon, Vicky, Karen, and Joy to see how they might expand their facilities and outreach to engage with disabled people in the area.

Currently the hospital aims to care for a rural population of 100,000 in about a 100 km radius. In the last seven years they have started several hundred village schools (leasing land, training teachers, encouraging families to send their kids, etc), dozens of home churches, and offer vocational training for individuals below the poverty line. All these programs are in addition to the health services offered by the hospital complex and their traveling clinics.

Needless to say the director and his staff are incredibly busy with good work but also surprisingly eager to add disability advocacy to their radar. During our time at the hospital we showed Jon’s film and discussed possibilities with many different groups in the complex (directors, eye technicians, nurses, visiting teachers, electrical students, etc).

The experience of Joy and Karen working in hospitals and the networking capabilities of Jon and Vicky (connecting needs in Varanasi to contacts all throughout India) were fully in use in each of these meetings. With less practical work to be done (assisting, filming), I felt much less engaged and took the role of quiet observer during most of this trip. Additionally, I was completely out of commission on the first day due to a 24-hour food poisoning bug. Everyone reminded me that this stomach sickness was part of my initiation to India and where better to be sick than at a hospital?

More photos coming as soon as we’re settled in Delhi again!

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near, says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
Isaiah 57:18-19

(this verse was given to me this week and seems particularly suited for the patients we met at the hospital and in the surrounding villages who are in need of healing, medical and otherwise)

1. train compartment before bed
2. visiting villagers dine during hospital training

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