Welcome to my blog to keep you updated on my work in India over the next 5 months.
I fly out on the 26th of October and return on the 5th of March 2012. I had planned to leave in September but I knew a friend’s engagement had been booked for mid October that I wanted to be at.
I’m staying with Gwalior Children’s Charity in Madya Pradesh. The charity has developed a campus called Snehalaya. The campus looks after and empowers children and other vulnerable people who are disabled, abused or orphaned. More details about the work they do can be found at http://www.helpchildrenofindia.org.uk.
It will be the longest period away from London I’ve ever experienced and am
looking forward to the challenge of being away from everything that’s familiar like
family and friends. It will be a world away from my previous job working for London Stock Exchange where a bad day for the bosses would be seeing its Members – mainly investment banks, move trading activity between competitor stock exchanges and trading venues just to keep each other keen. The world’s eyes are on the LSE and what level the FTSE closes at as this provides a guide to everything from consumer confidence for economists to the success of ones pension, and much much more – unfortunately.
Occupy LSX Oct 2011
My day-to-day activities in Gwalior aren’t fully clear at this stage. I will take an open mind and will be keen observer until the Charity’s Founder and I have worked out where I can be of most use.
There might be an opportunity to get involved in teaching the school curriculum, writing funding applications, doing some fundraising road shows across India, developing the charity commercially, research and analysis of child abuse, orphan rates and causes of neglect amongst the disabled.
I’ll take a video cam, camera and laptop to try to capture and record the charity to use in fundraising and awareness campaigns. I’ll be an avid listener and keen observant. I hope to build up a picture in my mind from speaking to the children and staff (if willing) to understand the children’s lives and their hardships. It will also be useful to learn what they feel about the charity and how it’s helping bring about physical and emotional wellbeing.
The Founder has some ideas about my contribution and I have some of my own which I’ll detail in the next blog.
Some of the extra time I had on my hands over September (now that I knew I wasn’t flying out until late October) was devoted to visiting the Indian High Commission to apply for Overseas Citizenship of India status. As my Dad was born in India I’m eligible to be apply for OCI status. Unlike a tourist visa, this would remove travel limitations and restrictions, is for life with no other payments and grants certain rights (albeit non- voting). After 3 days of filling out a form online about my life and anccestry, I had 2 crisp printed copies to take into the Commission. After 6 hours of queuing, I was told “sorry sir, this will not be possible”. It turns out the proof of my Dad’s Indian citizenship is not enough. It’s an official paper from the UK Government with his first UK passport confirming him giving up his Indian citizenship and passport which they confirm sending to Indian High commission in London. After another visit and 4 hours of queuing, I was told there is no way they can accept this document.
My only option would be to visit the remote Village my Dad was born in, which is in North West India. I will need to find the local office of Births, Deaths and Marriages and see if I can wrangle a birth certificate from 1950 off the Counter Clerk.
So I think the winner is, the 6 month tourist visa!
By September, I had also finished my hunt for 2 great house mates to move in with me. I had also spent some time helping an Asian Elders society organise the Hindu Nine Nights festival http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navratri
and volunteered for the Little Big Peace Event http://www.littlebigpeace.com.
Leaving later also meant I was spoilt with some great birthday parties, some very special good-bye dinners and visits. Some from as far as Holland.
And lastly, I get to help my Aunt who has organised a charity gig for Oxfam on the 22nd of October. If you’re in London and free, I hope to see you there. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/139214.
Please leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing.