Volunteer stories

Hear what our Aussie health professional volunteers had to say about their life changing appointments with Equal Health.

Gillian Buckley [Physiotherapist/Lymphoedema Practitioner, 2018 Camp]

APA have published an article on volunteering with Equal Health in India. It is one of a number of interviews with physios in an article entitled The Human Touch.

In Motion Article May 2018

Kristy Tomlinson – Vice Chairperson/Team Leader Equal Health.  [January Camp 2018]

The January 2018 team comprised of 15 passionate and highly motivated individuals from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. The team split their time and energy between two of Equal Health's partner sites, Shishur Sevay in Kolkata and Anandaniketan Society of Mental Health Care in the rural town of Katwa, West Bengal. The team spent 5 days at Shishur Sevay working alongside the founder, Michelle Harrison, and her staff to implement projects that enhance the health, education and quality of life of the 15 girls living there. The team developed a curriculum to train special education/therapy assistants how to work effectively with children with disabilities, designed a literacy and mathematics program tailored to the specific needs of the residents of Shishur Sevay, modified a child's wheelchair to support her posture effectively, supported the implementation of various AAC communication devices for children who are non-verbal, trained the staff in basic first aid, and renovated the outdoor area to encourage outdoor play and recreation. Phew! Safe to say it was a busy 5 days!

After leaving Shishur Sevay, the team caught the train up north to Anandaniketan – a home for children and adults with disabilities and mental health conditions. There, the team created a sensory wall for the girls and boys shelters, provided soft helmets to children who suffer frequent seizures, trained staff in first aid, hygiene, behaviour management, safe feeding techniques, and physical exercise, re-stocked first aid kits, conducted mobility and feeding reviews of all children to ensure safety, treated all residents for head lice, made bibs to preserve the dignity of children who cannot manage their own saliva, modified a room used for 'time out' to ensure safety, developed daily activity boxes for carers to use with the children to encourage activity and stimulation, purchased warm clothing for all residents, set up vocations for some high-functioning residents, replenished the sports equipment supplies, decorated the interior walls of the girls shelter with colourful murals, purchased lockers for the boys so that they can keep personal items safe, upgraded the outdoor play area, repaired windows so that rats can no longer enter the bedrooms, fixed wheelchairs, organised plumbing in girls shelter to repair toilets and taps, adapted a ramp to allow accessibility of children in wheelchairs, and purchased a machine that will provide sanitary napkins to the female residents.

All projects aimed to provide "equal health" opportunities and outcomes to the residents of Shishur Sevay and Anandaniketan. While the team achieved a lot, we gained so much more in return. Our team departed India with a deeper sense of perspective, compassion, humility and hope. Lasting memories were made and, echoing so many volunteers that came before them, our volunteers stated "that was the best thing I have ever done".

Angela Hardie [Optical Dispenser 2018 Camp]

"My Equal Health trip to India has been a very humbling experience and I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of many people we helped. The organisational skills of our team leader Paul Clarke were exceptional, who always was one step ahead of what needed to be done."

Ann Grace [Teacher, 2017 Camp]
It truly was a surprise to feel so welcomed by local people.
'Whilst the purpose of our visit was to work alongside staff at the school, I found unexpected delights in the generosity of the people in the local villages. Our early morning walks took us past rice paddies and small villages. Some women invited us in for chai on their pressed earth veranda and in return asked us to do the chicken dance. We heard the morning music playing to celebrate a local wedding, mask makers offered us a fitting and our regular afternoon chai drew ever increasing crowds with people keen to communicate. A breakfast date was arranged one morning with an ex-navy gentleman who offered our group chai and biscuits in his elaborate home.
During our two weeks when venturing outside of Anadaniketan, the locals smiled, waved and shared their world which communicated more about the kindness and lifestyle of the people than any organised tour could ever imagine.' Ann

January 26th, 2017 Community News Article - It has been a long-held dream for speech pathologist Kirsty Pitcher to help under-privileged children in developing countries.. Speech pathologist heads to India to help underprivileged children with cerebal palsy

February 4th, 2014 Community News Article - Ms Lee and her colleagues from Challis Early Childhood Education Centre raised $3800 for educational resources for disadvantaged children through the Equal Health organisation. Passage to India to help children

21 January 2014 Community News Article - The group set off for India with Equal Health, an Australian volunteer charity organisation that improves the sight, dental care and health of some of the world's most vulnerable people by calling on medical professionals to donate their time. community news - making-time-for-orphans

May 7th, 2013 Community News Article - Three years after graduation, Miss Rushton spent two weeks earlier this year in India working as an occupational therapist. Work in India 'challenging and difficult'

April 30th, 2013 Community News Article - It was the husband and wife team's third trip to India as volunteers with Perth-based health aid organisation Equal Health.India fix for pair of health care junkies

"With the Equal Health program in Trichy, we are providing treatment to the students, staff and community of the SEVAI organisation, so annual visits over a number of years services a cohort of people and provides tangible results."

Dentist Volunteer - Cristy Norton Read the full story

"What a place! The immersion into the rural scene of Tamil Nadu was hardly arduous with very comfortable accommodation and great food, along with simply having to 'follow the leader' with regard to day-to-day organisation."

General Practitioner volunteer - Tony McDevitt Read the full story

"We met Dr Michelle Harrison who founded the Shishur Sevay Orphanage. Her vision to help her rather large 'family' of 13 girls with varying degrees of learning difficulties to reach their potential was very inspiring."

Primary Education Assistant - Heather Sinclair Read the full story

"This will be my second trip with Equal Health and I'm looking forward to getting there and doing some work and immersing myself in the Indian culture.

Volunteering provides many wonderful memories. My favourite is when the kids in a village took me down to the river at the end of the day to show me around. They put all these chain daisy leis on me and I then had all the little kids following me like the Pied Piper."

Dentist Volunteer - Cristy Norton Read the full story

"I had wanted to do some voluntary work for quite some time and when I saw the information regarding Equal Health in the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) newsletter, Country Watch, the decision to volunteer was easy as everything came together at the right time - family, finance, experience."

General Practitioner volunteer - Tony McDevitt Read the full story

"I could not refuse when I received an email from Equal Health earlier in the year asking for dentists to go to East Timor to work with the clinics operated by Co-operativa Café Timor (CCT)."

Dentist Volunteer - Paulo de Figueiredo Read the full story

"Equal Health's catch phrase - a life changing appointment - sums up my personal experience of going to India with Equal Health this year, where I saw the joy of sight for people receiving a pair of glasses for the first time."

Optical Dispenser Volunteer - Roger Henley Read the full story

"This was an incredibly rewarding humanitarian experience."

Nurse Volunteers - Trisha Davey and Jodie Pengelly Read the full story

"The look on her face when she propelled herself for the first time was just priceless. It was just the most amazing feeling to see that with a simple piece of equipment (that is readily available in Australia) meant she could now move around independently and take herself to school every day."

Occupational Therapist Volunteer - Amy Rushton Read the full story

"A desire to give something back to society through his profession was what motivated Brisbane dentist, Peter Caswell, to go on the Equal Health India camp this year. Peter speaks to Equal Health about his experience on the camp."

Dentist Volunter - Peter Caswell Read the full story

"In India, you work in extremely challenging situations which are often dynamic and volatile - there is none of the structure you find in Australia."

Dietitian Volunter - Achamma Joseph Read the full story

"As an optometrist I always thought volunteering is something I would like to do. My children are now at an age I can do this. Before the trip I was looking forward to helping the blind see, seeing how the whole thing works - how India 'ticks' and Equal Health 'ticks'."

Optometrist Volunteer - Helen Keen, Adelaide, South Australia Read the full story

"On arrival in India, I found it quite emotional. Reading the Anandaniketan reports and talking to people gave me a bit of an idea of what it would be like, but nothing can really prepare you, unless you have experienced something similar previously."

Massage Therapist Volunter - Kelsey Saar, Read the full story

"My first impression of India was of a mad riot of sights, sounds and smells. Chaotic activity everywhere, it was an amazing assault on the senses. I was taken aback by the poverty and the disorder, but cheered by the friendly, warm faces everywhere."

Dentist Volunteer - David Walters Read the full story

"It was a whirlwind trip of long, busy working hours. The optical team tested the eyes of over 3000 people and dispensed over 2600 pairs of glasses. We were also able to arranged free sight-restoring cataract surgery for approximately 20 completely blind people."

Optical Dispense Volunteer - Lacey Strachan Read the full story

"Something I will never forget from my experience in India, was when I was fitting an elderly man with his new glasses, and he stood back and looked around at the room stunned, as if it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Then he looked down to his arms and started playing with his arm hair with the biggest smile on his face, he was fascinated, it was like he had never seen the hair on his arms before - he was very grateful for his new glasses."

Optical Dispenser Volunteer, Caitlan Plowright and Optometrist Volunteer, Erica Johnston Read the full story

"A few things made me want to participate in India Camp 2012 ... I always wanted to go to India and I always wanted to do volunteer work. Also, the Health Department is making it easier do humanitarian work. Then, the opportunity came up to volunteer with Equal Health in India so I took it."

Psychiatrist Volunteer - Adam Brett Read the full story

"While I was doing a Community and Heath Development course at uni I saw an Equal Health advertisement in a physio journal. It fitted in with the voluntary work I always wanted to do and what I was studying at the time. Being a musculoskeletal physiotherapist it is not common to find volunteer positions and Equal Health had positions available for this role. So, I happened to see the information at an appropriate time."

Physiotherapist Volunteer - Kathy Finlay Read the full story

Wow! ...was my first impression of India. As I was going through the airport I could hear the noise ... it sounded so busy.

As a kid I always wanted to be a doctor and work in Africa so when I finished school I studied nursing. I had wanted to do voluntary work for awhile as I always felt the need to help those less fortunate. I think it is our obligation as Westerners to help others as much as we can.

Nurse Volunteer - Lydia Graham Read the full story

"We were staying and working in the mountain villages in Malabe and Lauana, which was an unforgettable memory. It was incredibly peaceful and the people were so friendly and lovely. Conducting 'school screening', or check-ups in the classroom, was a memorable experience. The children and teachers were very enthusiastic and delightful."

Dentist Volunteer - Kelly Chau Read the full story

"The highlight for me was the team of people that we got to work with, the different perspectives, sharing the days' stories and learning about the way of the world in East Timor, and of course, learning the language badly."

Dentist Volunteer - Maria Chan Read the full story

"Last February was the second time I attended the Equal Health Camp to India as a nurse. It was such an honour to be able to provide a medical service to a community that struggles to get good health care, so I jumped at the opportunity to do so again this year."

Registered Nurse Volunteer - Lynette Cheverall Read the full story

"One funny memory was after pulling out 'umpteen' teeth in kids about five to seven years of age, who were unbelievably well-behaved and stoic, we did a topical fluoride on a six year old who promptly burst into tears and left sobbing her heart out! Another funny memory was the teacher who was upset after we checked her teeth and gave her an adult toothbrush - she wanted a Barbie one! Last funny memory - after working on all these people who had never had a filling, with no equipment, no drills or anything, we had a guy walk in with a perfect amalgam who wanted it changed for a 'white one'!"

Dentist Volunteer - Chris Snell Read the full story


"My first impression of East Timor was shock and disbelief ... the conditions that the local people live and work in every day. However, there were many highlights and favourite memories of my time in East Timor: Timor Leste, the people and the mountains. It was amusing to have an elderly man with a good amalgam filling want it changed for a white filling! Needless to say, there were a lot more important jobs to do."

Dental Assistant Volunteer - Tracey Doble Read the full story


"The most significant experience I had on that first trip was meeting Manik, a 9 year old boy with cerebral palsy who had been living at Anandaniketan for 6 years and spent most of that time lying in bed. While at Anandaniketan I was able to work with Manik everyday and show his carers that he could actually sit independently for short periods, finger feed him self, reach and manipulate objects, smile and laugh; things his carers did not know he could do! It was this experience with Manik that showed me just how much occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech pathologists could do at Anandaniketan."

Occupational Therapist Volunteer - Gillian Read the full story


"I've always wanted to do volunteer work overseas, and when I heard about Equal Health it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to realise a life ambition. My first camp with Equal Health was in February 2007 to West Bengal, India. After a day in Kolkata that introduced me to the chaos, poverty and joy of India (not to mention the experience of being on roads with no rules!), we headed north by train to Katwa. In Katwa I was based at Anandaniketan, a residential home for orphans, and children and adults with disabilities, mental health issues or homelessness. Our greeting at the train station and then back at Anandaniketan was overwhelming. The residents and staff had obviously been preparing and looking forward to our arrival for sometime. Their warmth and generosity inspired me to help as much as I could in the short time that we were there."

Physiotherapist Volunteer - Errolyn Read the full story


"My first impressions of India after leaving Chennai airport was that I had stepped back in time. It was hot and humid despite being a late winter evening, people were dressed differently to what we were used to and the Tamil language that we were hearing was foreign. Although I have travelled a great deal, it was one of the few times in my life that I had felt truly far from home. I could not believe that after much preparation and anticipation I had finally arrived in India! I remember being very excited and realised that my long time dream of partaking in international aid work was about to begin......"

Volunteer - Barbara Read the full story


"For quite some time I wanted to do some work in a developing country and perform cataract surgery on some people who would otherwise be blind due to disease. I have some colleagues who went with Equal Health to India and they found it worthwhile and rewarding. As Equal Health is a small organisation based in Perth I thought I would be able to make a difference if I volunteered with them."

Ophthalmologist Volunteer - Andrea Ang Read the full story


"My first impressions of India … Chennai airport; dust, faces, noise people, cars, trucks, buses, horns blowing … organised chaos at 11:30pm after coming through customs … what in the world was going on ! Exciting ..."

Physiotherapist Volunteer - Rob Harper Read the full story


"I thought volunteering with Equal Health was a fantastic opportunity to work with other professions and it also allowed me to share the experience with my husband, a dentist. The idea of going to India in a professional capacity really appealed to me."

Speech Pathologist Volunteer - Nicki Hurwitz Read the full story


"There is much talk of India becoming more wealthy and technologically advanced, however, in reality little has changed for the masses of people living in the parts of rural India whom Equal Health sees. So, there is still a huge need for programs such as Equal Health's in India and this is why I have just returned from my sixth trip to India, with my first being in 2002."

Optometrist Volunteer - Sue Strachan Read the full story


"It all started with Paul persuading me to volunteer with Equal Health in India and since I worked in a mission hospital in South Africa as a student doctor I was interested in going and so went on my first camp in 1993. I really enjoyed the company of the people I worked alongside and the fact that you didn't know what the next day was going to offer or how things are going to work out- never a dull moment. Everything was so different - it just doesn't compare to working in Australia. My GP experience of many years allowed me to go with the flow and accept whatever happened. I found the teamwork essential as well as good fun and great company."

General Practitioner Volunteer - John Whitelaw Read the full story


"I'm currently studying nursing and when I became aware of the opportunity to volunteer with Equal Health my lecturer advised me to take it because she had been to India quite a few times and thought it was one of the most worthwhile things you can do."

Dental Assistant Volunteer - Karen Widmer Read the full story

Help bring smiles to those who need it most by becoming an Equal Health volunteer.

"My Equal Health trip to India has been a very humbling experience and I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of many people we helped.