I’m climbing Everest for charity

Actually, to be clear, I’m not climbing to the summit, just Everest Base Camp. I’m ascending 3,000 metres on foot in 8 days to reach base camp which is at 5,300 metres above sea level.

I’m raising funds for a humanitarian campus in India.

Please donate, your money will go to care for disabled and underprivileged orphans and to also empower poor rural girls to tackle patriarchy, by providing them with free education.

Here’s my donation page that also has details about the trek: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ebc

Every penny, cent or rupee will help me get to Base Camp and go to a fantastic cause.

Thank you very much

Keval.

Charity Website

Facebook Page

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Is it better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all?

It’s been three months since my first blog in October 2011. I didn’t expect to write my second blog quite this late. I probably would have focussed on sharing my initial experience of working in a rural orphanage and school in India. Well, I got the saddest of calls three weeks into my stay here before I could share that experience.

My Uncle Chris died in a road accident on the 12th of November 2011, aged 40. After I recovered from the initial shock, I chose to come back to London to be with my family. I thought I will only have this opportunity to say my goodbye to him and thank him for being an amazing Uncle to me. I also thought I will only get this opportunity once to be close to family at this most vulnerable hour  and offer my support especially to his two sons, aged 9 and 6, his wife, his Parents and Mother-in-Law.

I left the orphanage after being there for only one month in what was meant to be a 4 month stay and was pained to do so. It’s a horrible truth that all volunteers leave after having gained the trust of these children that have suffered abuse and other hardships for most of their short lives. Leaving, let alone suddenly, probably exacerbated their feeling of neglect. It probably wasn’t easy for them to build a Brotherly or Fatherly love for me and for me to then disappear quickly. It ate at me during most of the 25 hour journey back home.

Back in London, I started living in my Uncle Chris’s house with my Aunt and my little Cousin Brothers and like other family and friends; I grieved, consoled, got angry, confused, ill, made hundreds of cups of tea and other practical things. I’m still not entirely sure if I’ve come to terms with what’s happened, or whether I will in the future, or even whether I need or want to? Rather, I do feel I want to focus my energy with family left behind, however futile the task or reward.

I do this knowing that as great as my grief may be, I don’t want to lose sight of family members whose lives could forever be filled with anger or confusion or end up being destroyed by not being able to cope with such a tragic, sudden, unexpected and unfair tragedy like this. The best gratitude I can give him wherever he is now, is to follow the example he had set; that is to live with a sense of immediacy, practicality and undue hesitation. I hope I make you proud Uncle Chris.

I had no firm date on when to return to the orphanage. I did however set myself a goal of ensuring my Aunt gained some sense of emotional, physical and financial stability before I returned.  Quite bizarrely, I initially tried to board a flight on the 14th of December 2011 but stupidly forgot the 60 day period required before re-entry to India is permitted on a Tourist Visa. It was a blessing in disguise even after being declined quick re-entry at the Indian High Commission. The extra time in London enabled me to stay with my Aunt and Cousins for a little longer, recharge and be in the company of amazing family and friends.

In the days leading up to my flight on the 17th of January 2012 to India, I couldn’t help feeling pained yet again. It felt as if I was repeating the same “mistake”; that of building up trust and love with my little cousins where routines and expectations were established, only for me to leave again forcing them to re-readjust and take a step closer to life without Uncle Chris. Both sensations, leaving the orphanage unexpectedly and leaving London after staying with my Aunt and my Cousins, will be with me for life I’m sure.

I hope the next blog focuses only on my experiences living and working in a rural Indian orphanage etc etc etc.

Thanks for reading.

Flights booked

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.

 

"My Computer"

 

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.

Keval.