In loving memory of Christine Laing

Sunrise: 11th February 1948 – Sunset: 6th April 2012

Christine Laing, known to many as Chris, was a 1969 trained teacher with extensive qualifications and experience of special needs and inclusive practice (delivered training sessions on inclusion at the School of Education in Cambridge, etc).

She retired as Head of Learning Support Services of London Borough of Newham. Chris’s first visit to India with Rama Foundation was in February 2008. She visited Divya Prem Sewa Mission’s residential school near Chilla / Rishikesh for 200 boys of people afflicted with leprosy and was extremely disturbed by their deprivation and all round disadvantages. In particular she was distressed by their social exclusion. On her return to London after this first visit she commented: “I am sort of back to normal now – though I don’t think I will ever be ‘normal’ again for I’ve left part of my heart with the school at Chilla….I really did feel a sense of satisfaction but real joy at being able to teach such keen, bright boys who have such a positive sense of hope…”.

After this visit, she returned many times always with renewed enthusiasm. Before her second visit in February 2009 she discussed her experience and this was reported in Network News of the Humanitarian Centre at Cambridge ( See A volunteer's experience with the Rama Foundation in India. Even when she couldn’t visit she was still concerned about the well being of the children and they were never far from her thoughts. She requested that we distribute ice cream, fruits etc on her behalf during our trips when she could not go. Her individual initiatives over the years range from providing musical instruments for a school band to presents for each child. Bringing Christmas cheer to such boys and not surprisingly, she became Chris Mother to these boys. Even on her last visit she took with her an Easter egg for every child at DPSM residential school. Just imagine carrying 200+ Easter eggs thousand of miles away as she wanted her ‘boys’ to experience spirit of Easter too like children in Britain! But before she could carry out another amazing experience for these boys, she passed away in sleep just a few miles away as she had to lead teacher training in Rishikesh.

On her this last visit, she was in the middle of an exceptionally useful teachers’ training sessions where we had 45 teachers from 6 Projects. The local teachers (who many of us had actually thought would be poorly motivated due to low pay and poor training) were in fact incredibly engaged enthusiastic and her sudden death on Good Friday of 2012 left everyone shell shocked. Even after a year, individuals still speak of her as lovable individual and particularly mention her enthusiasm and happy nature with exceptional professional skills.

She has left a big gap in all our hearts and little did we realise she had over the years become so central to our efforts and impacted our various policies and direction. She was particularly keen on empowering sisters of these boys. ‘What about the girls?’ like so many of our Volunteers, this also became her core concern. Despite wanting mostly to be with her ‘boys’ at Chilla, she became crucial contributor to Rama Foundation Core Group with visits to other Projects and their potential sites for creating such much needed opportunities for girls. Network News item titled ‘Sustaining Development and Gender Equality’ by the Humanitarian Centre reflects her thoughts and the progress by Rama Foundation till then. We would particularly like to mention her drafting of the Rama Foundation’s ‘Safeguarding Policy’, which is very child centred and specific to the needs of these children.

Chris was cremated back in London after a very moving service that was attended by many of her family, ex colleagues and friends. Like many, we are sure you too will be touched by the Poem ‘Remember Me’. Everyone came together to bid her farewell and offer thanksgiving for the pleasure of knowing such a wonderful human being who was truly above all divisions. Despite the sadness of the sudden and untimely departure, we march on with our efforts that became so close to her heart. She has left behind many saddened family members, ex-colleagues and friends, not only in England but in many parts of the world and particularly in Rishikesh. Her ‘boys’ at the residential school miss her and often remember her very fondly.

Sunita and Balbir Datta, 6th April 2013

'Remember Me'

Do not shed tears when I have gone
But smile instead because I have lived

Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I’ll come back
But open your eyes and see all that I have left behind

I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me
But still I want you to be full of the love we shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow
because of what happened between us yesterday

You can remember me and grieve that I have gone
Or you can cherish my memory and let it live on

You can cry and lose yourself,
become distraught and turn your back on the world
Or you can do what I want
Smile, wipe away the tears, learn to love again and go on