Charity nurse

In January 2015 I signed up as a volunteer for the Asha Foundation – a charity promoting and enhancing the health and wellbeing of the thousands of slum dwellers who live within the perimeters of Delhi. This amazing organisation also educates and supports any child who expresses or shows a desire to improve their life through education.

Asha believes passionately in the empowerment of the slum dwellers, encouraging them to become advocates of their own physical, psychological and mental wellbeing. They look to inspire a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride within their own slum area – something that you cannot put a price on.

My volunteering has taken me to India on several occasions to work directly with those living in the slums. I’m also part of the ‘Asha Holywood volunteer team’ and when we’re not in Delhi, we’re busy raising the funds needed to build and maintain health centres for the slum dwellers.

My role is very rewarding and I truly believe we have helped to make a difference. When in Delhi, every morning as our cars arrive at the slums (a typical slum dwelling can house up to seven or eight hundred dwellers), we’re greeted by beaming smiles from children flocking towards us and the welcoming arms of the mothers who embrace us with love and respect.

One of the most precious memories I have is of nine-year old Jini. On one particular day, we had arrived at the slums and I was allocated the task of helping the children to make a card (using materials we had bought with us) for their mothers, to celebrate Diwali. When the class was coming to an end, Jini approached me and handed me a card she had made. Holding back the tears, I asked her why she hadn’t made the card for her mother and she said ‘Mam it’s for you because I want to say thank you to you for all you have done for me and my mummy and wish you a happy Diwali.

I don’t believe this experience has changed my perspective on nursing but what it has done is open my eyes to how much of the UK’s healthcare resources are wasted every day. The people of the slums have minimal resources in their health centres; they work with out-of-date medicines, no glucometers for diabetics, opened bandages, rusty scissors and wounds are treated with old iodine liquid.

Although we can’t do much about the lack of facilities, we can harness the commitment and passion the slum dwellers have for helping each other. We’ve trained women to be midwives, first aiders, counsellors, advocates for children and women’s health and much more. These women report every week to the slum meeting held within each health centre and any issues raised are debated, managed. If necessary we will seek financial support to overcome a problem.

I have learnt many things from my role in Delhi but the most humbling and memorable learning curve has been recognising the misconception in western culture of what we think we need to get by, compared to what we actually need. The slum dwellers have a sense of community, respect for each other, children who can play freely without manufactured stimulation and a simple contentment for their ‘home’ even if it’s not to our standards.

To any of my fellow nurses who are thinking of using their skills to supporting a charity, I would encourage you to do so. Take your skills and knowledge and use them to assist less fortunate people who don’t have access to basic healthcare provisions. What you’ll gain is an invaluable regard for the values in life that really count.

Thanks for listening to my story – I hope you enjoyed it.

Catherine, RN
Thornbury Nursing Services

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You may also like

Join in 3 steps

You can join in just X days. Here's how it works:

1. See if you’re eligible

Find out if you can work for us in just 2 minutes.

Go to eligibility checker

2. Apply

Fill in your details and tell us your skills, qualifications and employment history. This should take around 10-15 minutes.

3. Register

Take part in a short video interview and upload documents on our registration portal. This takes X days – X weeks.

Join now

Talk to a member of our team

Call us on 0345 120 5252