Helaina Jackson's blog, India April 2019

By Helaina Jackson, Specialist Dietitian
I have been working at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge for over 3.5 years, initially as a newly-qualified dietitian before deciding to specialist in head and neck cancer.
Pre-qualification, I completed a degree in Food and Nutrition while working in a nursing home in my home town Bangor, Northern Ireland. Here I had the privilege of looking after many residents with different illnesses ranging from Huntington’s disease to epilepsy and learning difficulties. These experiences cemented my desire to work with people and feel like I am making a difference.
Every person can make an impact and create positive change. In truth, my main driver in life is helping people, whether that is through my career or in my personal life; I enjoy “giving back”. Both the Rama Foundation and my employer, Cambridge University Hospital Trust has given me a wonderful opportunity to visit India and use my skills in educating and supporting both schooling and hospice communities.
A lot of work has taken place in the background together with lovely colleagues in preparing for our volunteer trip. This includes collecting unused supplements from patients who no longer need them, planning itineraries, getting visas, travel injections, fundraising, developing talks and evaluations. I have learnt so much even at this planning stage. I have also watched Indian travel documentaries to give me an idea of what I can expect but I have a feeling that there are some things that I may not be able to prepare for!
My job teaches me something new every day and through my career and previous experiences, I have always thought that I have seen a lot in life. However, this experience will challenge me in a completely different way as there will be a lack of resources available. I hope this will allow me to reflect on what we do well at Addenbrookes and also help me to adapt to unexpected situations and understand barriers to change. This will help my future response to challenging situations.
Notably I have already felt that I am actively developing my skills in project planning and management in view of the preparation work already completed for this project. What I am most looking forward to is meeting new people, sharing and learning from them. The one thing I know I will find difficult to the level of poverty I know I will be exposed to.
Follow Helaina's personal reflections from her trip to India on @Jacksonhel1.