“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”- Dalai Lama
I decided to take the above statement seriously by choosing to go to Kargil for a month. One of my friends from college shared her experience of working with REWA, and after listening to her I knew that I wanted to go there and work too. The dearth of mental health professionals in the country, especially in the remote and rural areas coupled with my long drawn fascination for Ladakh compelled me to contact REWA society. I immediately wrote to Ms. Karola Wood who agreed right away and there on started my month long symbiotic journey of giving what I knew, and learning something in return.
The day I reached Kargil, the peace and beauty of that place took me by awe. The next day when we reached Munshi Habibuallah Mission School, bright and radiant smiles of the staff and children welcomed us. Rapport formation was like a cake walk with children, they were receptive and enthusiastic about activities we planned for them. Our interaction with their parents threw light on their open minds and willingness to bring their children for treatment. We spent some time observing kids at the special centre of REWA, and came up with a curriculum tailor made according to their individual needs. We conducted group sessions with the regular school children covering various themes such as inclusive education, respecting diversity, bullying, self awareness, problem solving, etc., which was well received. Whenever time permitted we used to also assist physiotherapists working with children having physical disabilities. The school management and staff were highly open and flexible, and allowed us to plan and carry out our work with full support and encouragement. This place taught me that therapy and learning doesn’t necessarily have to occur in fancy air conditioned buildings. It was inspiring to see the staff making the most out of the available resources and working hard despite the fast they kept for the whole of Ramzan season. I realized that all it takes is a strong dedication and passion for the work one does.
Alongside school work, I took time out for travel. Each Sunday and holiday was spent exploring new places- gigantic mountain passes, vast green valleys, lakes and monasteries. Kargil also allowed me to make some beautiful bonds, and to learn from them. Nights went by singing French songs, cooking Swiss food, dancing to Punjabi beats, watching an English series, sharing travel stories, capturing memories with a camera, and talking about the benefits and struggles of growing up in different parts of the world. The house where all the volunteers stayed under one roof became the global haven for all of this. The perfect end to this was Eid celebration, just a day before we had to leave. For the first time in my life I got an opportunity to witness Eid and be a part of the grand feast with a bunch of people who became like family.
I am so grateful to REWA society, the director, coordinators, staff and managers, and the management of Munshi Habibullah Mission School for having given me the opportunity to come and work in Kargil. I have come back with an immense sense of satisfaction and appreciation for the work done by REWA in Kargil. I know that I am definitely coming back sometime in the future. I would also like to add that my month in Kargil would have been incomplete without the company of my lovely friends- Prerna, Ratna, Mudita, Mathilde, Rebecca, Hannah and Basita. I had a great time with all of them.
I wish to conclude by saying that Kargil is much beyond the India-Pak war which unfortunately is the only thing we associate Kargil with. It is a land of rich culture, electric blue skies, untouched beauty, open minds and warm hearts. It is commendable that REWA society is working for such a great cause, helping differently abled childen to the best of their abilities. I highly recommend it to people with zeal to contribute to a good cause that they come and work here and return with a deep sense of satisfaction that can be held on to for a lifetime.
Best wishes and regards
Swathi J Bhat