As we are all aware , we work best when we have partners who support and encourage us in our ventures; with volunteers who help us implement our plans and when we know we are making a considering difference to the target group that is our beneficiaries . While we know , and rightly so , that it is our beneficiaries who matter the most , it is also important to remember that our partners who give us our resources and our volunteers who also give us their resources in order to take our interventions to our beneficiaries , matter as much .
If we need to ensure there is no exploitation of our patients through our intervention programmes , then we also need to make sure we keep the trust and faith reposed in us by our donors and sponsors by letting them know through proper documentation how their generosity is not being abused but reaching the right target group in an efficient manner .
The resources our volunteers bring to the table are as precious and important as the financial assistance our donors provide us with. Without the contributions that cannot be measured in monetary terms but that which is generously given to us in terms of time , devotion and dedication to the cause , is irreplaceable and without their efforts on the ground , locally , there is not much we can do to make our projects , campaigns and projects attain expected levels .
The two readings we did in Delhi last week in the respective hospitals were a great eye opener indeed . The first event , The Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Cancer Research which is in the distant Northern limits of the sprawling city, saw all the required arrangements made as per the specifications and instructions given to them by our FOM volunteers . As soon as I reached the venue ( earlier than the others as I had the banners and the cartons of books with me ) I found everyone from the Security at the gate to the ward boys and support staff ready with their assistance . We met the medical oncologist we work with , Dr Gauri Kapoor who is adored by the little ones and her paediatric counsellor and soon the little waiting area in the play room was cleared and in half an hour we were set to go . Patients and parents joined us one by one , a few adult patients too and in no time the reading began , followed by a very interactive session . The age group ranged between 4 and 24 , yes ; so you can imagine the varied scale of sharing and exchanges . This was the Day Care ward and the patients seemed to be in good spirits most of them in fairly good health given the background of their therapy . The theme of the discussion strayed and stayed settled on their school and the grades they were in and what they liked to study most . They were eager to share their aspirations ; the young lady ,, who was the most articulate wanted to be a teacher , a serious 12 year old wanted to be a Government Officer while the most energetic and restless one of them all, 5 year old Sid who took almost 20 minutes to settle down and tell us his name decided he would be the custodian of all the books and refused to let us give out any more. It took some wily but playful coercing to get him to relent .
Explaining the meaning of Maximo’s name and every one happily giving us the meaning of their names , finding out from their parents if they did not know and who out of them had named the child ; all this led to breaking the ice . FOM shared their history of facing cancer and their life story and before we knew it it was time to wrap up and say our fond good byes .
Perfect – the children happy, the parents comforted , the doctors appreciative and the volunteers thrilled that all their preparations, permissions and other leg work resulting in a good event that gave much to all .
Cut to the next event at AIIMS , the other end of the vast city of Delhi and two hours in which to get there with cartons and gift boxes and a pit stop to grab a quick a bite of lunch as none of us had time to even grab breakfast in the morning having had to leave home and hotel really early . Ayeshah had come straight from the airport after a red eye flight brought her there from Bombay . So armed with Hindi books for the hospital and the English books for the event in the evening at the bookstore as well as the Activity Book we RUSHED .
Two readings were scheduled in AIIMS and as soon as we entered the first ward , the apologetic look on Dr Sameer Bakshi’s face told us all was not well ….Dr Sameer is the paediatric Oncologist and we know FOM Delhi had worked closely with him to arrange the sessions . We were a little late and he had to rush out on an emergency and so he very regretfully took his leave , leaving us kind of rudderless for in a hospital like AIIMS one needs a strong , decisive physician by our side to ease our passage through the wards . There are many patients ,, some in need of round the clock care and the nurses do not like to be disturbed by groups like ours breaking their routine . We were a bit lost and felt most uncomfortable for it was obvious we were creating an intrusive situation in the wards . We were also quick to realise that the patients were not in a position to be disturbed and brought out of their beds. It did not take us more than a few minutes of deliberations to decide that no matter what had been planned or agreed upon , we would move our plans and take our session away for now for it did not seem appropriate to hold it here. Almost all the Day Care patients had left too .Our volunteers from FOM needed no more to be said and we softly made our way out into the elevators and out of the building , Not before leaving copies of the books and crayons with the parents or in the beds of course .
It is important to know it is not what WE want to do that is important , but what the patients want from us that is important .
We then made our way to the building that housed the main paediatric ward in the other section of the Institute where also FOM had taken permissions and were ready to abandon the whole event here too , if we even remotely felt that even one patient would be disturbed .
We walked in to find a ward with all the beds occupied, and the children in one or another stage of being administered their chemo. Many of the children were no older than toddlers and snuggling up to their Mom or in the lap of their Dads. We hesitated but realised the sister in charge was already preparing the area and getting little cane and coir chairs for her children to sit around . We were only told to be mindful of the condition of some of the children , and not be too boisterous or loud. We slowly and silently began to set up the banners and distributing the books . Once the audience was settled the reading began . Seeing they were mostly so young , instead of reading I began to simply tell the story …anyone who has read a story to a child knows that feeling of joy when you know you have their complete attention . And so it was just ten minutes into the session , not one child or parent was not lost in Maximo’s dilemma or revelling in his victory over his own fear
The volunteers played it slow and came forward only when they knew every child was in his or her comfort zone and began distributing the Activity Books and the crayons and little gifts and the Resident Doctor and Staff Nurse who had been listening too, were thrilled to receive their copy. We waited till they were all comfortable before we asked them if we could take pictures and then we realised the atmosphere in the room had changed . It was filled with the laughter and the chatter of the little ones as they began to vocalise their thoughts and ask for answers and explanations …if we brought the children joy , I knew in each of our hearts too there was greater joy .
As for the volunteers , they were now all charged for the bookstore event and each one of them attended that too.
I know I have been sharing a lot these days – but each outing with Maximo is teaching me lessons I want to share – thanks for listening
Viji Venkatesh, MAXIndia