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Guest Blog: Passage to India

27th April 2018

By Sam Evans, Youth Developer Officer & Volunteer for St John Cymru

After months of planning on Friday 6th of April, in the early hours of the morning, I had the pleasure of meeting 11 volunteers from across Wales as we embarked on our journey to Northern India to deliver first aid training to school children, house mothers, medical students and Tibetan exiles.

We left National Headquarters at around 3am and made our way to Manchester Airport. We were all very tired at this point but I knew we had lots more travelling ahead. From Manchester we flew to Dubai where we had a very quick stop before getting back on the plane and flew to Delhi.

At Delhi we had a 10 hour wait before we could catch our flight to Dharamsala so most people had a few hours’ sleep.  I sat awake wondering what kind of experiences I was about to face.

This was not a first visit for St John Cymru and I had heard so many amazing stories before I left I was so excited to arrive!

We arrived at Dharamsala Airport where we were greeted by Jacky and Wang Chuk. Jacky and Wang Chuk are no strangers to St John Cymru and both play vital parts in each of our missions.

Wang Chuk presented us all with a Khata, a traditional ceremonial scarf that is presented to guests on their arrival or departure.

We jumped into our taxis and headed off towards Hotel Tibet in McLoedganj.

My first impression on driving in India – very different from at home although we soon got used to the terrain, sound of car horns and cows blocking the roads!

Over the next 10 days the team worked tirelessly delivering First Aid training to almost 1,200 members of the community! Our team worked with Doctors, Nurses, House Mothers, Teachers, Medical Students, Crèche Staff, Monks, Nuns and school children, providing everything from basic first aid courses to more specialised courses such as Baby Safe and Advance Life Support. I would like to say a big thank you to our translators without you we would not have been able to reach such a tremendous number of people.

This year we had the pleasure of inviting our National Cadet of the Year, Mitri and Deputy National Cadet of the Year, Charlie to take part in the Mission. One of my favourite highlights of the trip was teaching with them both at Petoen School, we had a fantastic morning delivering Basic First aid to over 60 children and their teachers.

I don’t think we’ll forget how to shout help in Tibetan in a hurry!

The team’s biggest challenge was when they taught 320 school children and their teachers Basic First Aid! To see every student practise the Recovery Position and CPR was amazing!

We hosted a Centenary Dinner during our stay which saw dignitaries from across Dharamsala join the team to enjoy great conversation and a fantastic meal prepared by staff at Hotel Tibet.

St John Cymru presented each guest with a certificate of thanks and 4 guests were even invited to become honorary members of the Order of St John Priory for Wales.

On our last evening the team were invited to a special dinner hosted by Lower TCV School where they put on a cultural performance in celebration of St John Cymru’s centenary. Children sang and danced and we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday it was time to prepare for our long travel home but before that we were invited to an audience with the 14th Dalai Lama! What a fantastic way to end the mission.

I can’t put into words how truly honoured I feel to have been a part of this year’s Mission! I have spent time with 11 amazingly talented volunteers who should be extremely proud of their hard work and dedication. Not only did they spend hours and hours each day delivering training in very different circumstances than they are used to but they did so with a smile on their faces!

A huge thank you from me to the whole team, you are all amazing and helped to make this an experience that will stay with me forever.

If you would like to contribute as a guest blogger to the St John Cymru website, email us at: web@stjohnwales.org.uk with your ideas.

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