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Sharing the Happiness and Sorrow. Carers Worldwide Chair of Trustees’ visit to India and Nepal

Our Chair of Trustees, Jonathan Freemen, MBE, joined our Founder Anil Patil on a visit to Nepal and India this month. Here he reflects on his experience and his key takeaways from the trip.

 

There really is no substitute for seeing for yourself the impact of an organisation’s work.  In the case of my own recent visit to Nepal and India to see our work first hand, this is absolutely true.  And, for me, seeing really was believing!

 

Having been appointed last July as Chair of Trustees for Carers Worldwide, high on my list of priorities was to visit the areas where we work with our charity partners to be able to judge for myself the impact of our work.  With COVID-19 restrictions finally abating, I spent a week with our brilliant Executive Director Anil Patil visiting projects in Nepal and two regions of India.  And what an incredible week it was!

At the launch of the new telephone helpline for Carers in Nepal ‘At Your Service’

 

Over that week, I was able to meet with five different local partners, see all aspects of our programmes– from carers groups, to mental health clinics, to livelihood support – in action, and meet with the fantastic Carers Worldwide India trustees and staff.  Excitingly, I was able to formally launch the new Carers Helpline in Kathmandu and also the expansion of our work in Odisha state to the area of Narayanpatna.

At the launch of our new project with charity partner WORD in Odisha

 

Most importantly, I had the very deep honour of being able to spend time talking directly to carers and their families in their homes, during which they shared emotional stories of the challenges that they had faced and the transformational difference that our work has made to their lives.  In Kathmandu, one mother I spoke to told me how our carers group had provided her with the opportunity to share with others “the happiness and sorrow” of caring for a loved one.  Having been ashamed of struggling as a carer before, this opportunity to share and learn from others who understood her situation was immensely important to her.

 

One of the most important things I learned was that the apparent simplicity of the Carers Worldwide Model belies an approach that is extraordinarily powerful on so many fronts.  Like most brilliant ideas, the Carers Worldwide Model appears obvious at first sight.  But, as our local partners explained to me again and again, the model gives them the framework to support carers in a way that they had never been able to before.  Most of our partners have great expertise in supporting individuals being cared for, but not for the carers themselves.  Our model enables them to put a powerful package of support in place for carers – and the results are very significant.

 

The visit also reinforced my strong belief that the Carers Worldwide approach is a model for how truly sustainable development can be delivered.  The model focuses on putting in place the framework for carers and their families to be able to thrive themselves, rather than relying on repeat handouts and help.  More than this, the model shows how local areas, communities and, indeed, countries can put in place systems and structures that will ensure that carers are properly supported so that they can stand on their own two feet, both emotionally and economically.

 

My third lesson from the week was that support for carers through Carers Worldwide is a lovely thing to do as a charitable gesture but that it is really just a very solid business investment.  I met one family in a small rural village in Odisha who had really struggled to support their daughter with profound mental health challenges.  Thanks to our local partners’ support, the daughter was able to access health support and the appropriate medication that has transformed her life.  The family also received a small micro-loan to purchase chickens and vegetable seeds; they have now repaid that loan, producing enough food for their own needs and to sell at the local market to provide them with an income to meet their daily needs.  The package of support they were given was modest but has enabled the family a quality of life that they could never have dreamt of before.  Beyond that, of course, the family can now support themselves economically and are supporting the needs of their wider community.  And, having once been in a pretty dark place emotionally, they are now a happy, proud and productive family.

 

What will really stay with me above all else are the voices of the carers I met and how our work has given them confidence in the future and the desire to support other carers and, indeed, their wider communities.  One carer I met in a local carers group, meeting in the shade of a mango tree whilst the cattle looked on suspiciously, told us how she and her colleagues gave everything to support their loved ones but that, in coming together as a wider group, they were determined to fight for change for all carers and for their communities more generally.

 

The secret ingredient of the Carers Worldwide Model is that it put the voices of carers at its heart.  And being able to hear those voices for myself was a privilege and honour.  As Chair of Trustees, I will endeavour to ensure that those voices are always heard loudly and clearly in every step of our journey together.

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