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13 Herschell Sq,
Walmer Kent CT14 7SH.

The ROI became a recognised UK
charity on 2nd September 2004
and its number is 1105706.
Reflexology Outreach International
REFLEXOLOGY IN INDIA TAKING IT BACK!

By Dawn Gosling MAR MROI

Mark Twain is acknowledged with saying, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

ITCHY FEET!

In 2005 I read an article in Reflexions Magazine about an expedition to Uganda in 2004 by Nancy Porter. It was her personal reflection on her time there teaching and training 126 students but also how the work they were doing was providing a great source of research into the effects reflexology had on people with HIV and AIDS. She ended the article by asking other Reflexologists to get in touch if interested. The organisation was Reflexology Outreach International (ROI) – I noted an interest but did little with it.

In 2005 the organisation was off again to Uganda and another delightful diary of events and aims achieved jumped out of the pages. “Hmm,” I thought, “maybe one day.”

Then in 2007 I read an article by Marilyn Williams on another ROI expedition, this time to my soul’s home, India, I couldn’t put it off any longer - I knew that I had to get involved. I went on their website to see what I would need to do to became a member.

So in February 2010 I threw off the bowlines, caught the trade winds (thanks to British Airways!) and explored, dreamed and discovered.

TO INDIA

A group of five of us, Marilyn Williams, Alicia Falero, Jo Jeffery, John Parham and myself, went to Bangalore and Mysore with the aim of teaching people with or working with AIDS & HIV the basics of reflexology. Here’s our account:

Day 1 – 30th January 2010
We landed in Bangalore at 4.30 in the morning into chaos - we couldn’t find our allocated driver. He had been there all the time but failed to hold up his name card!
I am still amazed at how he managed to get our entire luggage into the ubiquitous Ambassador “Vintage” car – and get it to move. It must have been at least 50 years old and held together with goodwill and luck. I swear he was pushing his body forwards to help it get up the hills!!

We arrived after a very bumpy hour journey to our flat in Bangalore at 6.30 a.m – too exhausted to deal with much more than sleep.

1st - 7th February - Our week with SPAD
Our training day started by getting through Bangalore. This time with a slightly younger car organised by our hosts. It took an hour from our accommodation to our venue. An hour of traffic fumes and hair-raising driving that seemed to obey no highway code. Eventually we ended up at the Society for People’s Action for Development (SPAD). Our hosts for the week.

Our venue was a youth centre in the back streets of Bangalore – little more than a slum area but full of colourful trading stalls selling the most amazing multi-coloured fabrics and saris that appeared to shimmer in the hot sunshine. These stalls would nestle in between engineering workshops and food shops. Dogs, children and women in vibrantly coloured saris weaved their way around our car as we finally stopped, a little weary from our journey but excited about starting our programme.

We were introduced to Mr. Augustus – who organised this training after meeting with ROI representatives during their previous year’s reconnaissance. He introduced us to the main project workers and Rashmi – our interpreter.

SPAD is a non-profit non-government organisation (NGO) established in 1993. Their vision is the reduction of HIV and AIDS among vulnerable communities through a holistic, participatory, and empowering process of intervention. To this end, SPAD works to create an environment in which high-risk sex workers are able to address the issues they face and to get support. They offer training, guidance and support as well as practical advice, food and shelter.

I cannot describe how wonderful this group of people were. Their personal stories imparted to us over the week were heart wrenching. We were told how they lived from day to day in fear of violence and being arrested. Their status is very low and sex workers face constant police violence, and extreme social rejection. These girls are in danger of not only getting marginalized but also becoming far more vulnerable to HIV. Accessing health care services or even using condoms sometimes becomes almost impossible. As a large part of their earnings go to police and the government (as court fines), they are forced to work long hours, and often put themselves at risk. Despite these difficulties they approached our training with enthusiasm, respect and great humour. On one day we were given an impromptu musical display - therapeutically, the women compose songs about their lives - although we didn’t know the language we could feel the anguish in their voices. However, this was followed by the most exciting dancing of which, when invited, I HAD to join in!

During our first day we met a lawyer called “Rosie” – a diminutive woman in her late 60’s. She worked with the project giving advice, training and support to the girls regarding the human rights and their rights when arrested.

By day five, the final day the group was fully cognisant with the foot sequence, hand position and some anatomy and physiology. Bearing in mind that most of the participants worked during the night they returned to us in the morning ready to learn reflexology.

It was a sad day too as we had to say “goodbye”. Bangalore we will be back!

DAY 10 – 13 at Asha Kirana Hospital
Our journey now took us to the city of Mysore. Mysore is the second biggest City in the State of Karnataka. It is 80 miles from the State Headquarters, Bangalore. The journey took hours!

Our hosts this time were the Asha Kirana Hospital - Asha Kirana means “Ray of Hope”. The 30 bedded hospital’s aim is not only to build up awareness and de-stigmatise AIDS but also to undertake clinical and social aspects of HIV /AIDS research projects. They provide “life after HIV” counselling – which helps victims cope with the challenges of HIV. They also provide in-patient and out-patient care. It was the first time I had been so close to people dying of the disease.
This time we faced our own challenge as we were asked to give the weeks training in three days! However, we now had an extra body in the shape of John, Marilyn’s uncle – a seasoned ROI trainer

The group that consisted of nurses, and counsellors had to work really hard but were helped by Nayana Somaidia, a family physician who interpreted for us and worked wonders with the A&P. At last, I thought, the medical profession and complementary therapy can work together.

At the end of our 3 days we were taken to meet Dr. Mothi the Director and his staff, including Dr. Swami who helped Nanyna organise our training. We were given honorary sashes from him and his team and personal gifts from the group. It was a very touching moment and another “red letter day”.

When the rest of the team returned home Jo and I stayed on for a couple of days in Mysore and did a bit of exploring before returning to Bangalore and flying home. Our final journey from Mysore to Bangalore involved three modes of transport – and therein lies another story.

I am so pleased that I made this trip. Although at times it was a yin and yang experience – India is full of contradictions; I met the most resilient, charming, spiritual people who gave me personal courage and positive experiences to take me on to the next stage of my journey here in the UK. I truly caught the trade winds in my sails. Explored, dreamt and discovered.

The ROI intends to return to India to train more groups and to teach to practitioner level those groups we taught this time. This may give many people a new start in their lives.
Reflexology can help people with HIV/AIDS by reducing the side effects of anti-viral drugs and acting as an immune booster.

 





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