Posts Tagged With: volunteering

India hots up

It’s the start of week 4 in India with Raleigh.  The venturers arrived this afternoon, and the craziness metre in logistics land is continuing to crank up.

I’d love to write you a concise, witty post containing my observations and experiences from the last 3 weeks, but I feel like it’s been so overwhelming and I’ve had so little time to myself to process anything, that any attempt to begin at the beginning might result in my brain exploding all over the computer.  So instead, here’s a few snippets in no particular order. In the last 3 weeks there’s been…

…the forming of a tight-knit staff team and new friendships.  Ordering copious amounts of food from a wholesaler who at that stage knew more about my stores than I did.  Elephants stopping traffic in down-town Mysore.  Amazing indian food.  Less amazing indian gut illness.  Feeling extremely unfit while climbing the 1000 steps up Chumundi Hill.  Working my way slowly up to being the person who has the answers to everyone’s questions about everything.  Learning comms skills and answering the phone for the first time with ‘Hello unknown callsign, this is zero, comms check, over.’  Working out how much bamboo to order for an environmental project group to build their camp.  Establishing that the door mat liquidation sale guy is a handy landmark on the way into town.  The cow calmly lying in the middle of a 6-way intersection as a bus (and the rest of the crazy traffic) tried to corner around it.  The great mix of tiny shops in town selling everything from old newspaper to designer shoes.  Relaxing by the pool at the Lalith Mahal (summer palace), and the way it glowed as the sun set.  High security supermarket shopping.  The joy of a pizza after 3 weeks of curry.  Having a guess at how to wear a sari for an evening of trivia, bad dancing and general hilarity.  The building sense of panic as venturer arrival approached.  Glorious sunsets.  Sweat, sunburn and a new appreciation of a good bucket shower.  The clicking sound of the palm trees and the jangling of the cow’s bells around fieldbase.  Magi the cow sticking her head curiously into logs.  Little Cow with a bucket stuck on his head.  The morning throat-clearing ritual.  The guy who walks unhurriedly past the gate at about 6pm every evening behind his cart drawn by two yoked cows.  Gorgeous indian children with huge smiles.  Trekking soon after dawn past neatly plowed and planted fields.  The women washing their clothes laughing incredulously at us jumping into their river.  Evening volleyball games.    Living in the giggle tent.  Sleeping in the mosquito net cocoon…

…which is where I’m going to head now.  First full day of venturer induction and training kicks off bright and early tomorrow.

Hope you’re all well.

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Meanwhile, at Crossroads…

I feel like I’ve posted a lot of touristy things (which is all fun and interesting, and there’s plenty more where that came from), but wanted to let you know that in between the weekends of Hong Kong adventures, there has been lots happening at Crossroads where I came to spend the bulk of my time.

In just the last few weeks, containers have been packed full of furniture / clothes / blankets / hospital beds / school desks and chairs / computer equipment / cooking and hygiene kits / all sorts of good useful stuff to be shipped around the world to places like the Philippines, Nicaragua, Uganda (2 containers!), and Vietnam, and all kinds of goods continue to be processed and packed up ready for more upcoming shipments that will help all kinds or organisations doing great work in places of great need.


One of the containers had FABBAS written on the side in large letters, so you can imagine the kind of music I sang a lot that day as I walked around the site looking after our many volunteers 🙂


I was passing the loading area last Saturday just in time to snap a picture of these ingenious garden furniture wheelchairs while they were waiting to be packed into the container for Vietnam.  A plastic outdoor chair.  Some bike wheels (in this case I think they’re actual wheel-chair wheels with the extra rim).  Some straps and harnessing.  Bam – wheelchair.  Imagine the difference that could make to one person’s life.  To their family.  A community.  The effect multiplies so quickly, for such a small initial cost.

While all that goodness has been heading outwards through Hong Kong’s enormous port area, many local people in Hong Kong who are struggling for many reasons have come to Crossroads in order to pick out furniture and electrical appliances and small household goods that will help them immeasurably in their own situations.  About half the goods that come into Crossroads is redistributed locally, within Hong Kong.  This is a hugely important part of the work here.

Meanwhile, generous people – individuals and businesses – have donated all kinds of interesting stuff for us to redistribute to those who need it.  It’s not always immediately obvious how all the items will be useful (50 karaoke machines for example, or a single carousel horse – sans carousel).  And sometimes it is a huge effort to get the goods here (like the entire contents of 26 serviced apartments – had to be picked up 3 days after we got the initial call as the new fit out was happening on the 4th day.  If we couldn’t take it, the whole lot would have been thrown out!)  And sometimes the processing required seems Everest-like (2 x 40 foot containers of hand sanitizer – donated as it had been labelled incorrectly and shipped here all the way from Antwerp.  We will relabel every single one of the thousands of bottles before we send it all out again to many willing recipients.)

But always, a way is made where one is needed.  We can only do this because cheerfully willing volunteers from the local community continue to appear to help the much smaller number who are here full time.  Some come regularly for years, others occasionally and some just once.  It has been both incredibly challenging and a great joy to be part of that process – meeting the people, and finding tasks for them that will match both their skills and abilities, and our needs.

And while the Hong Kong tourist-adventuring has been great, it’s my time at Crossroads that I’ll carry away with me from here when I go.  All too soon.

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Volunteering with the volunteers

While I’m in Hong Kong, I’m visiting a group called Crossroads Foundation.  I have had a number of friends come here over the years, so I’ve been in touch with their work for a while.  It’s very exciting to be here in person – see the site and meet the people I’ve been hearing about in monthly newsletters for more than 10 years!

Crossroads is operated by a team of full time unpaid volunteers, which includes people who are here ‘permanently’, and those (like me) who breeze in for shorter periods – from a few weeks to a few years.  There are about 60 people on full time team at the moment.  None of these people are paid – all their living expenses etc come from other generous financial supporters.

This is not nearly enough people do all the work that goes on here, so we rely heavily on ‘community volunteers’.  These are local individuals, school and corporate groups and occasional international teams.  Some come regularly, and some just once or very occasionally.

I tell you this, because while I’m here I’m helping out in the volunteers office, where two of us try to work out who is coming in each week, and where to place them according to what work needs to be done.  It involves a fair bit of admin, being welcoming and friendly to all the volunteers and knowing lots about everything that’s going on around the place.  Very importantly, it also involves developing good relationships with all the department managers so you can variously tell them there’s no volunteers available today to do the job they want done, or cajole them into taking lots of  volunteers and finding worthwhile tasks for them to do when they may not have expected any!  It’s busy, interesting and people-intensive, and I’m enjoying it so far.

I’m working with a lovely lady called Mandy, who most recently lived in Darwin, so the heating in our office is always ‘tropical’.  Mind you, for the last three days (count them, three!) there has been blue sky and intermittent sun here (amazing!) so there was actually a fleeting moment of having the office window open today!

Flowers and fruit trees are decorating the site at the moment ahead of  Chinese New Year – a major festival in Hong Kong starting this weekend

Reception / volunteers (that’s me!) / Silk Road Cafe / Global Handicrafts shop… all this way. And note the blue sky in the background!

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