Speech Pathologist Volunteer - Nicki Hurwitz

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.

The India Camp 2011 was our second camp and this time I participated as the Allied Health team leader at Anandaniketan in Katwa. On my return to Anandaniketan, my first impressions were very positive. There seemed to be a lot of development with new buildings and some plans to improve the physical environments of the boys' and girls' shelters. However, I was soon to lose my rose coloured spectacles, as many of the important recommendations regarding health issues had not been acted upon, which highlights the need for ongoing visits and follow up.

There is no comparison to working in Australia. At Anandaniketan, you have a communication problem, not only because of the language barrier, but because you are working with a disabled community, where most of your caseload is language impaired. In addition, you have cultural differences and also limited equipment or technology, items you would take absolutely for granted in Australia. You have to be extremely creative and think outside the square, which is challenging and often very rewarding.

As this was my second time, I have come to feel a strong emotional connection to the inhabitants of the refuge, and also to many of the locals in nearby villages. The camp experience has made me more aware of the very privileged life I live in Australia, and thankful for my bountiful gifts and blessings, on all levels. Certainly, I got more out of the experience than what I was able to give.

The highlight of this camp for me was the Autism Seminar that the Allied Health team presented to the university students and teachers at Anandaniketan. Used to a passive, formal approach to learning, it was inspirational and exciting to see their positive response to the practical, interactive and appropriately adapted sessions presented by the team. I was really proud to be part of this event.

My advise to any new volunteers is to find out about the Indian culture, history and traditions before your departure, and to read reports carefully, so that you have realistic expectations of what you will find there and also of what you can achieve.

Nicki Hurwitz - Speech Pathologist, Private Practice