A once in a lifetime experience by Rachael Mullan, Specialist Oncology Dietitian, Cambridge University Hospitals

Munish.Datta's picture

It has now been a number of weeks since I have returned from India, and it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Paula, Lucy and I spent the first week travelling and we got to see some amazing cities including, Jaipur, New Dehli, and Agra, finishing our tour at the breath-taking Taj Mahal. This was a great start to our trip as it allowed us to immerse ourselves into Indias culture, including the amazing food, the humid weather, the busy streets with no traffic rules but most of all it gave us some exposure to the kind, and welcoming nature of Indian people.

As we reached Rishikesh, our volunteering journey began at the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences & Cancer Research Institute. It was amazing to see a healthcare facility very similar in scale and size to that of CUH, and it was very eye opening to see
the work that the institute is doing to provide better care for unserved members of society in India. Whilst our visit here was short, I have no doubt that this will be the beginning of a very successful partnership. The remainder of our trip was spent with the Ganga Prem Hospice, were we got to support the inpatient facility and we also spent some-time on home visits in the surrounding towns of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dehradun. The home-visits were definitely the most stand-out moment for me, both challenging and humbling. I got to see first-hand, the harsh reality of the poverty within India, however, on the other hand, I got to witness the most amazing care, compassion and love that was being shown to those patients at the end-stages of their illness, by both their family members and the health-care professionals working at GPH. This is something I will never forget.

As I returned to work at CUH, when speaking with my colleagues, I found it very difficult to put into words how this trip has impacted me. I am very grateful to work in such an amazing hospital, with amazing resources available to us at our fingertips. However, it is also frustrating how much is taken for granted.

Overall, I am very fortunate and privileged to have had this opportunity and I feel that I have truly grown as a person both personally and professionally. I feel that I have gained confidence in my role as a dietitian and I have further developed my skills including team-work, communication, public speaking and I certainly feel that I have strengthened my skills of adaptability and flexibility as we dealt with the unpredictable nature of the Indian culture. I am truly grateful to the team including, Lucy, Paula, Helen, Artika, Yush and Munish as we worked so well together, we had fun and most of all, we made great memories!

I hope that one day I will return to India. However, in the mean-time, I will continue to follow and support the amazing work that the Rama Foundation continue to carry out, aiming to improve the quality of life for those living in disadvantaged communities in rural India.

Watch Rachael volunteering in India: https://youtu.be/2YKYL0n9R3g