In our final CALL for Change trip blog, Emma Carroll reflects on her trip to India
Before coming to India I had no idea what to expect. The only things I knew about India were what I’d seen in Bollywood movies or heard in RE classes at school – I was certainly not prepared for the emotional journey ahead of me.
Indian driving is the first thing that shocked me- definitely not how I’m used to driving at home! Aside from that, my first impressions of India were that of complete amazement. Everything was so different to England in a way I’d never experienced abroad before; I think because I was right in the thick of things rather than isolated in a hotel everything just felt more ‘real’. It was almost surreal to see so many people and animals roaming and living on the streets in poverty, having to beg for something to eat or drink. I felt sickened thinking about how much food I waste at home without even thinking, and how I live in an environment where everything is disposable and meaningless in comparison.
Getting involved in The Leprosy Mission’s projects was another real eye opener for me. The first colony we visited in Delhi was just beautiful- brightly coloured buildings, a cacophony of smells and sounds in the air- it took my breath away. Meeting everyone was so wonderful, too. Getting to know all their stories and finding out about their lives in the colony was so interesting, and a real mixed bag of emotions. I couldn’t help being incredibly sad for them that they had either been or felt forced to leave their families to save them from being disgraced, yet I was also in awe of everyone for being so happy- the community spirit and the ‘just get on with it’ attitude was overwhelming and a stark contrast to back home.
This attitude and work ethic has been one of the things about India I’ve loved the most. Wherever you look, despite their hardships, people are just getting on with things whether it be farming, building work or selling on street stalls- I believe there’s a lesson to be learnt from this and I’ll definitely be using it for guidance back in the UK.
The most emotional and hard-hitting part of the visit for me has been visiting the snehalaya (mercy home) in Faizabad. It broke my heart to hear that a lot of the families of the residents have disowned them, and only come to visit when they pass away so that they can take whatever money they can from them without even giving their relative a proper burial. I just couldn’t bear to think that the charming and inspiring men we met had been made to feel lonely and abandoned all because of the stigma surrounding leprosy.
My heart fell full of love for Dandiram and Dhukanthi, two residents of the snehalaya. Dandiram had prepared a song for us and the sheer excitement on his face at something as simple as having a willing audience to listen to his music just blew me away. I was overwhelmed with emotion and felt ashamed of the person I was before coming to India.
Having been brought up in an environment where great importance is placed on superficial and trivial things, I have been a victim of getting carried away in my own little world, wasting time and money on frivolous activities and purchases. I have realised since being in India and seeing what I have seen that I want to live a way of life that focuses on what really matters, in accordance with my own faith and morals.
I have seen first-hand the huge differences that can be made by taking small steps to encourage people to help themselves, and the amazing work that The Leprosy Mission has carried out has inspired me to become a better person. My experience on this trip has motivated and inspired me to use the privileges I have to raise awareness about leprosy in the UK, as well as continuing to work with The Leprosy Mission to make a difference to those affected by leprosy in India.