Monday, 24 January 2011

New site for the Raven Foundation

We've moved our site because we are about to
start work on the garden at Disha Hospital -
you will find out more at:

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Disha opens its doors .....a memorable day!

Disha Hospital has officially opened its doors in Lio ka Guda near Udaipur Rajasthan. On Sunday 31st October, Disha was inaugurated by Maharaj Kunwar Sb. Shri Laksharaj Singh ji Mewar (the Prince of Udaipur, above left with Dr Deepak Babel) and several hundred guests attended the ceremony.

Now we are open, we can provide high standards of medical care to villagers in the area, and we are arranging walk-in clinics staffed by Dr C.S. Babel (below left with the Prince), Dr Deepak Babel and Dr Meetu Mehta.But providing medical care is only the start of our work. The long-term success of this project lies in our ability to educate the people of rural Rajasthan about the value of healthcare at the most basic level, so they will be sufficiently motivated to make decisions for themselves.

The Raven Charitable Trust will be working with other NGOs in the area to enable us to access the rural villages and we have incorporated a conference/teaching room and accommodation for visiting doctors at the hospital.

We are embarking on a Disha Health Literacy programme, involving medical experts and educationalists, who will work together to ensure that the basic healthcare needs of rural communities are met.

By working together, the Disha team can evaluate which medical facilities need to be provided in local communities, and the Health Literacy programme can be developed to meet specific needs.It is already agreed that there are key areas that need specialist input:

General healthcare and hygiene


Women’s healthcare (Gynaecology/Obstetrics)

Children’s healthcare (Paediatrics)

Healthcare education

RCT is also committed to setting up a research programme and evaluating the data it collects through interaction with patients and their families. At present there is little or no data available on rural communities in Rajasthan. RCT recognises that reliable statistics and information will form a significant role in bringing change to rural India, particularly when outside support, both in terms of manpower and finance becomes available in the future.

Dr Deepak Babel is heading the innovative part of our programme involving Thalassemia and other children’s blood cancers in Udaipur District.Charlotte Raven, founder of the Trust (above right), is working with Dr Meetu Babel (above left) on a Women’s Healthcare programme to provide better healthcare for women and children in outlying communities.

With construction completed, the first part of the RCT project is finished. Now our real work begins!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Here's hoping you'll join us - at least in spirit!

Here's your invitation to our opening in two weeks time. We know it's a long way to come, but hope that you'll be there in spirit with us! We'll be posting pictures just as soon as we can.

Deepak and Charlotte

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Update from Udaipur


Just to let all our followers know that the official inauguration
of Disha (pronounced Deesha) will be on Sunday, 31st October 2010
and we are honoured to announce that our Chief Guest will be
Maharaj Kuwar Sb. Shri Laksharaj Singh ji Mewar,
while Dr. Praful B Pawar, CEO of Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad
has kindly consented to be the Guest of Honor for the ceremony.

** This replaces the original date 21st October announced here

Monday, 27 September 2010

Latest pictures from Udaipur ...

Work in progress ... on the run up to the opening ...
These are the latest pictures of the hospital - just sent by Deepak Babel - who was on site earlier today. It's finally stopped raining in Rajasthan and the hospital is set to open on Thursday, 21st October - FULL DETAILS TO FOLLOW!
I'm leaving for India in just over two weeks - to be there a few days before the opening. Watch this space for more news and pictures.

Friday, 6 August 2010

On site in Udaipur - work continues despite heavy monsoon rain!

Udaipur, India 4th August 2010

I have just returned from a week in Udaipur and this is how the hospital looks. India is currently in the grip of much-needed monsoon rains, so work on site has been considerably slowed down by the weather. But work continues on the interior.
We have water and electricity and work is now concentrating on the interior, where walls are being plastered and floors laid (above). I spent much of the week on site helping with interior plans and looking at furnishings and the plan is to open the hospital when the monsoon rains are over. We are also deciding how to best use the land adjacent to the building and at the moment the plan is to have a medicinal garden on site.
We said a big welcome to our first "Gap Year" helper, Bertie Hamilton from Canford School in the UK (above). He is helping me to set up a programme for 2011, for students planning to visit India in their year off between school and college. Bertie remains in India looking at the options and we hope to announce an India Gap Year programme later in the year. We are looking at volunteer options in Udaipur, Jaipur and Goa, so that students will be able to combine different work experience options within India. More on this in the next couple of months. If you are interested, please mail me on:

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Latest update and a brief recap!

My husband and me in Udaipur, November 2008

We've been running this blog for 11 months, but I wanted to post a special entry for all the new fans of The Raven Foundation. I know that many of you have come to support us because of your connection with "The Galloping Gardener", or indeed through Garden Lovers of the World, but I wonder how much you actually know about us and what we are doing??

We started the Foundation a little over 12 months ago, following a trip to India with my husband. We spent two weeks in Rajasthan travelling together, but unfortunately he became ill about 10 days into the trip and was hospitalised in Udaipur, where I first met Dr Deepak Babel. It was thanks to Deepak and his team that my husband recovered and we could return to the UK, but I suspect that this was serendipity, because Deepak and I formed a friendship that led to the start of The Raven Foundation.

Dr Deepak Babel, me and Dr Rashid Merchant - April 2009, following our Thalassemia CME

But in order for you to understand how this project has come about I need to tell you a little of the history. I spent many years in India at the end of the 1980’s. I lived and worked in Srinagar, Kashmir and ran my own business designing carpets, which were made up in local villages and exported to the UK. This was not an easy time in Kashmir when local militants were seeking independence from India. I'm not here to dwell on those times, but will say that during those four years, I developed a great love and understanding of India; I worked in the villages of Kashmir and came to understand the culture of village life, together with the needs and necessities of the local people.

The land where the hospital now stands ... before building began

I know that Kashmir is a far cry from Udaipur, but the basic facts remain the same and the needs of the people are no different. There is no public health system like we have in the UK; there is rarely access to a local doctor; and because of the way the education system is structured, many villagers are unable to unable to understand the basic concepts of healthy eating, treating illnesses or providing for future generations. And the reason for this is that they live a hand to mouth existence.

I am extremely privileged in that I have lived in the West since I was born; have had the benefit of a National Health Service and always been able to access doctors and medics when in need. The same applies to my family and friends. But here in India it is a very different story.

Early construction shot - November 2009

In November 2008 I travelled to India with my husband because I wanted to show him it’s enormous cultural wealth and diversity. We travelled in Rajasthan for two weeks and he marvelled at everything he saw. We had a wonderful time and were welcomed with open arms wherever we went. But two weeks into our trip fate intervened and my husband fell ill with a serious urinary tract infection. We had both escaped the infamous “Delhi Belly” on our travels, but sadly he succumbed to something else and we were in Udaipur when this happened.

Finishing the roof - December 2009

I am not going to dwell on our time there, but I will say that the standard of care we received was exemplary and during the four days that we remained in Udaipur prior to getting my husband medi-vacced to the UK, I spent an enormous amount of time talking to Dr Babel and his family about treatment, our options and how to get my husband home. This was the beginning of the Raven Charitable Trust.

We flew to London and my husband was admitted to hospital there on arrival. He now remains under the care of a British urologist, but his condition is controlled and I know that we would never have made our safe return, and more importantly achieved my husband’s successful recovery without the Babel family.

January 2010 - work in progress on the 1st floor

In April 2009 I returned to India to talk to Deepak about the possibility of setting up a hospital here. He and his family owned land, and I was prepared to raise the funds for construction.

I’m not going to say a lot more about the intervening 14 months, because the proof is in the building and the progress of the project, which we post on the blog. But the fact remains that we are here now and the hospital will be ready to open very soon. So now you know the history, I can talk to you about the future.

April 2009 - the building on my most recent trip - nearing completion

It is our shared vision and belief that medical care should be provided to all on a non-selective basis. This is what brought us together for the first time in 2008, and we continue to share this vision 18 months down the road. The difference now is: the vision is about to become reality. Thank you all for becoming fans of The Raven Foundation and I hope that now we are getting ready to open, you will also follow the blog.

Charlotte Raven April 2010