Goats in t-shirts, everyone saying ‘hi’, yes! I am in India

I arrived in Bhopal a week ago now, on Thursday, and just settled myself in. I got my room ready and met up with Maude who took me into New Market where I could purchase a few things that were needed. It was such a culture shock. I have been to other parts of India before but it always takes a few days to get used to the amount of people, bikes, rickshaws, goats and even goats witht-shirts on! also the dusty, noisy lanes and everyone saying ‘Hi’.

My second day  I was introduced to all the workers in the Sambhavna Clinic by Shahnaz, who has been very helpful. I worked for a few hours in the medicinal herb garden cutting back a shrub/herb by the name of Chitrak. There was a lot there, so for the next few days that was my job. Hot and dusty work. The root is used to make powder and tablets to treat stomach disorders. All cuttings that are not used for medicinal purposes are put into the compost.

At the end of the day I had a chance to have a look around the garden and working area; also the composting system and the solar panels; the various tools and machinery to help in the preparation of the different herbal medicines; the large dishes for boiling the herbs set on top of fire pits in the ground, as well as some indoors. It is fascinating.

On Saturday I continued cutting back the Chitrak. Maude [a longterm volunteer photographer] arranged for me to meet Rashida and Champa on the Monday at the Chingari Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. Knowing that my profession  (I have a degree in garden design) could be used there she put me forward to design a garden at the new clinic building. We met at the present centre and I was able to meet the different therapists: speech, physio etc…but more importantly, I met the children who were so smiley despite the physical handicaps they are dealing with. The workers there were so excited, telling me the success stories of the various children there, some who were unable to walk and were now running around playing and shouting out ‘Good Morning’ to me. It was so good to meet them first before we set off to have a look at the new premises where there is a decent space for a garden. It will be a garden of interaction. It’s so important for them to have this garden as a learning and creative space that will invite all their senses to be used: touching, seeing, smelling, hearing and also movement. I have started putting a plan together and feel quite excited by it. I also finished off the last bit on the herb I was cutting back.

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We believe Dow & DuPont must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.