Monday, 28 December 2009

Onwards and upwards ... work on first floor

Hope that you have all had a peaceful time during the holiday season. As we get to the end of December, you can see that work is progressing really well on the hospital and that construction is no going ahead on the first floor. This is how the building looks right now and Deepak has just sent these photographs from India.

I was there just a month ago (in fact I landed in Delhi on 28th November) and you can see how work has progressed since our last blog entry. We are hoping to have the roof on the first floor by the end of the month and will keep you posted, so do check in again later this week.

We would also like to say a big thank you to all who have donated over the holiday period - every penny counts and we are very grateful to all our benefactors! We are now looking at names for the hospital, and would like to hear from any of you who have suggestions.

Deepak and Charlotte

Saturday, 5 December 2009

All this in a week!!

In just a week, the hospital has got its first-floor roof! It's incredible... so I'm not going to write a long entry here, just show you the pictures.

29th November 2009 - only left wing constructed

30th November 2009 - showing construction of right wing

3rd December 2009 - both wings constructed

5th December 2009 - cement being carried to the roof

5th December 2009 - smoothing the cement on the roof

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Just arrived in Udaipur!

I've just arrived from England and have visited our site to see how building is progressing - and progressing it is as you will see from these pictures. I will be giving a full update in the next couple of days, so will leave you with these images in the meantime.

Dr Deepak Babel (right) on site with the contractors

Sunday, 25 October 2009

You've had the plans .... now look at this!!

Just a few days ago we posted news about water and electricity, but now building work has really begun!! Deepak just sent these pictures from India and we will be posting as often as we can now to show you how work is progressing. I know how fast projects progress in India, and think you will all be amazed at what you see in the next few weeks, so PLEASE log in regularly and do tell your friends about The Raven Foundation.
At this rate we'll be up and running early in 2010 - if any of you are planning to visit India on your gap year, we'd be really pleased to see you in Udaipur - and with tourist season just beginning, any of our fans are welcome to visit if in the area. Please contact us and let us know your plans and we can show you the site.

Hope you'll log in regularly because each day will bring change for the Foundation.... so watch this space.
Best wishes to you all,

Deepak and Charlotte

Monday, 19 October 2009

Plans unveiled ... water and electricity on site!

This is a great day for The Raven Foundation and here is the first picture of how the hospital is going to look! We posted a few weeks ago to let you know that construction has begun on the hospital and are now putting up some more images - there is now water on site and electricity - and once the important Diwali Festival is over, building will begin. We know that to most of you, this still looks like a piece of land with a few holes in the ground, but PLEASE check in when you have time, because there will be many more pictures in the next few weeks!!

New electricity poles (on right)

Boring holes for foundations

Deepak has been working incredibly hard and I wish I could be there with him to help, but I'm staying in the UK for a bit because we have a lot going on here and I'm busy fund-raising. You will start to see progress in the next few weeks and we will post regularly on the blog - Deepak will be taking photographs so you can see how the building is progressing ... so watch this space!

Friday, 25 September 2009

A new day and building begins!

We haven't posted for a few weeks, but after a flying visit to the UK, Deepak returned home to India to sort out final details before construction could begin on the hospital. Just three more weeks have gone by and work has begun. This is a memorable week for The Raven Foundation and the part of the project that we have all been waiting for.

We couldn't begin work earlier because of the monsoon rains, but now the plans are finalised, the rains have stopped and construction has commenced. I would like to put the plans here on the blog, but because I am currently in the US fundraising, I don't have the facility to scan them.
When I return to England next week, I will be able to show you how the hospital will look.

Do check in again soon, because we will now be posting on a regular basis and thank you all for your continuing support.

Charlotte and Deepak

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Too long since we last posted!! Part 1

Hamish, Deepak and Alex at the proposed hospital site near Udaipur

Apologies to all our followers for the time that's elapsed since our last post! We were all so busy in India that it was hard to find time to upload photographs and I hope you'll forgive us. But our trip was a great success and after the laying of the foundation stone, Deepak and I were joined in Delhi by my son, Hamish and his juggling friend from Brighton, Alex. Both are on Facebook and for those of you who know them, you'll be able to see their photographs on their home pages.

Hamish arrived from Nepal just two days after the puja and Alex arrived from London the same evening, so I spent most of my day at Delhi Airport - waiting for them, but both arrived safely and since we were staying with our wonderful friends, Martin and Annie Howard at Tikli Bottom (definitely the place to stay when in Delhi - you won't find anywhere better!), I was able to relax there in between the rigours of meeting flights at Indira Gandhi Airport. After a couple of days at Tikli, we left for the Taj - a must for all first-time visitors to this part of India.

It was hot and dusty and filled with tourists, but still a great sight to behold! The boys were completely aghast when they saw the white marble. And here we are - Hamish and me (left) at Agra, but we couldn't stop for long and the next stop was Jaipur. Another wonderful city in the Golden Triangle where we took in all the sights including City Palace, Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar, the markets, the Lake Palace and the boys rode elephants, camels, rickshaws and shopped!

With so many of you away on holiday right now I am going to split the trip into several posts, and for the moment I will leave you with these images from the beginning of our travels together. As I mentioned earlier, those of you on Facebook will have already seen many pictures of Hamish and Alex ... but watch this space ... there are many more pictures to come and just wait till you hear about their juggling!!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Foundation stone laid today!

Yesterday saw the true beginning of our hospital, with the laying of the foundation stone at the site and a celebration afterwards. And even though many of our followers are based in India, I shall write from an English person's perspective today, because I know that many of our overseas readers will be as ignorant as me in terms of the Indian traditions that were followed. This gives me the chance to tell all of you what actually happened at the ceremony.

First there was a "puja" (prayer ceremony) delivered by the pundits, who you will see in the photographs here. But you should know that Dr Meetu Babel had spent many hours earlier in the weeks gathering together all the items that the pundits needed for this ceremony. The original list read like a shopping list for the larder, with items like herbs, milk, yoghurt fruit, honey, but it was the extra items like cow's urine that made this list surprising!

At the appointed time, the puja began, with the pundits chanting prayers and telling Deepak and Meetu when to scatter various items including rice, rose petals and water onto the prayer table in front of them. (The top picture shows Deepak and me with pundits before the ceremony).

Then came the blessing of the five stones (above right) with various offerings and we were then asked to climb down into the large pit that had been prepared, so that a further ceremony could be performed to prepare to lay the foundation stone. Deepak and I are pictured below in the pit with the pundits, and at appropriate moments in the ceremony the five stones were passed down to bottom of the pit and placed on top of a concoction of milk, curd, grass and, most importantly, a token representing the Hindu Snake God - "Naag Devta".
All the invited guests were present for the ceremony and when it was over, I planted a tree to commemorate my father. Afterwards we went to the village temple for lunch. But more of this tomorrow, because I am leaving on an overnight train for Delhi shortly to meet my son Hamish who's arriving from Nepal.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Digging a huge hole for tomorrow!!

On Tuesday morning I arrived in India from the UK, albeit at an ungodly hour and caught a connecting flight to Udaipur, where I was met by Deepak - a wonderful smiling face after such a long journey! And now I am ensconced with the Babel family here.
Yesterday we visited the hospital site and it is quite changed from last time I was here because the monsoon has brought greenery to where there was only mud before. In fact, the whole city is now looking refreshed and on the way here in the plane, it was amazing to see the verdant landscape below and the huge rushing rivers which had flooded into the surrounding plains, to create huge pools of water in areas that I have only ever seen looking parched.
We went to Lio Ka Guda, Bari - the village where we'll be building the hospital - with Deepak and his father - Dr Chandra Babel - who is also a doctor (Deepak pictured left below) and his father on the right), working with the contractor to decide how far from the boundary wall, the building should be sited.
The placing of the foundation stone is critical in India and it took the help of the pundit to determine where exactly the stone should go. Yesterday and today men were at work digging the hole for the stone and you will see below the work in progress - by tomorrow, we will be ready for the official ceremony with the pundit. I am told that this involves both Deepak and me getting down into the hole with him and judging by the work in progress as we left today, this is going to be quite a challenge for me, since the hole was getting deeper by the minute! It also has some bearing on what I shall wear tomorrow!
While the digging was going on, the lawnmowers arrived (see top picture and below), because the site is currently covered in grass and we need to make space for all the guests attending!
And while Deepak and I have been inspecting holes in the ground, his wife, Dr Meetu Babel has been busy preparing the list of items required for the pundit for tomorrow's ceremony - this is no mean feat since the number of items is enormous and the variety is extraordinary, ranging from different foodstaffs to special ribbon and robe, talcum powder, herbs, spices and cow dung to name just a few. But I will be able to tell you more of this tomorrow when I finally get to inspect the every-growing assortment of items arriving here all the time.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Let's sow the seeds of change!

Today is my last day in England. I leave for Delhi tomorrow and will be in Udaipur by Wednesday afternoon. The foundation stone ceremony takes place this coming Friday, and I will be updating the blog regularly from India, particularly after the celebrations to mark the laying of the foundation stone.

Thank you all for your support to date - we hope you'll continue to drop in on us, because now the blog will be becoming much more active, with pictures and many updates as building work on the hospital commences.

Hamish, who many of you already know, arrives in India next Sunday and will be joining me in Udaipur. Sadly he cannot be there for Friday's ceremony as he is currently in Tibet, making his way to Delhi via Kathmandhu. But we spoke on the phone yesterday and he too is looking forward to seeing the site of our planned hospital, and to meeting Deepak and all the other people who are working so hard in India to make this project work. We are also being joined by another English friend of Hamish's, who wants to work with us on the project, so I hope that all our UK fans will watch this space!

I know that both Deepak and I feel the same way about the distance we have come in such a short time, and now that building can commence, we are starting to fulfill a dream that my father was also part of in the last few months of his life. Indeed, none of this would have been possible without Paul, because he gave me the motivation to go ahead with this project. Deepak has also given most of his spare time to putting arrangements in place and I have just been busy fund-raising and for that I must thank my donors to date.

We must also thank my husband, Vivian, because although at the time, we could not see the silver lining to the huge cloud that enveloped us, it was his illness in India last November that brought all of us together for this project.

For any of you that already know my gardening blog, you'll know that my personal motto is "Let's Sow the Seeds of Change" and that's what we're hoping to do in rural Rajasthan.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Foundation stone to be laid on July 31

All our Facebook followers will recently have received an invitation to the laying of the foundation stone for the hospital on July 31st in India. I know that our European followers are unlikely to be able to attend, but we will be covering this on the blog, and both my son - Hamish - and I are travelling out from the UK to be there, so for those of you who know either one of us (or in many cases, both), you may want to keep an eye on Facebook around that date!

Please don't think that we are being idle in between updates. Deepak is incredibly hard at work in Rajasthan making all the necessary arrangements for work to begin on building, including the supply of water and electricity to the plot. Meanwhile, Hamish and I are busy fund-raising in the UK and I have also been in the US recently, doing the same.

We are making progress on all fronts, and although this has been somewhat hampered in the UK this last week by temperatures reminiscent of Rajasthan, we are really pleased to see that the numbers of fans are increasing all over the world. And of course, we are grateful for your support, because we believe that if people are actively engaged in this project - by following - that it will create a lot of positive energy for the future.

If any of you have thoughts or ideas to help us with our fund-raising, we would be extremely grateful. But in the meantime, best wishes from all of us and we will keep posting you on our progress.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

"The future depends on what we do in the present"

It’s just another six weeks until I go to Rajasthan with my son to work on The Raven Foundation project with Dr Deepak Babel and we thought it would be helpful to have an update. 

We have the land and we are waiting for the electricity and water to be connected to the site.  Now we need to start on the perimeter walls, and the building. We hope to lay the Foundation stone in the first week of August and will keep you updated from Rajasthan. 

Of course we have a long way to go, not least with the construction work and more importantly, the building up of trust with the local people, who are superstitious and naturally resistant to change.  But as Mahatma Gandhi said: “The future depends on what we do in the present”.   

In India, we work closely with Dr Deepak Babel, who already manages a 100-bedded Private Limited company hospital in Udaipur. You can visit Deepak on Facebook to find out more about him, but for those of you who don’t subscribe to social networking, Deepak is a highly qualified medical doctor, An Orthopaedic surgeon and has done his M.B.A. - International Hospital Management in Frankfurt, Germany. During his course he had a chance to visit many hospitals in Europe, UK, USA, UAE, Singapore and China and study the health care structure in these places. As you already know from our first entry, he saved my husband’s life in India last November. 

In India, there is no healthcare system except for those who can afford to pay, and as Deepak says:  “When you do not have sufficient funds to eat or drink, you forget about paying for your health”. 

“As a doctor, I have been seeing this for the last 15 years and watching people die just because there are inadequate medical facilities, especially in rural areas.  Another major problem is the spread of communicable and infectious diseases. 

“We need to do a lot, and perhaps if everyone does a little to help, even by just watching our progress, the project will grow. 

“I ask you all to join hands and spread the word about this humanitarian project and help those people who are deprived of basic medical facilities.  After all, we humans are the only ones who can help others”. 

I support Deepak in all these comments and as a westerner, am amazed by how little it will cost in relative terms to provide a basic facility for the local people.  I’m not going to quote all the figures here, but for the cost of a new car in Europe or the US, we can buy an ambulance; for the price of a new conservatory, we can build a clinic; and for the outlay of a new washing machine, we can pay a nurse’s salary for a year! 

We are truly grateful to those of you who are already supporting this project by following our progress and are now looking at ways of widening our coverage, so that those interested can donate online – if anybody reading this can help or advise on the best way to go about this, please contact me at:  

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In memory of Paul....who gave us HOPE!

This project was a dream for my father, Paul (left), who died in March of this year, having made four score years and one (81).  He was a simple man, much loved, who came from very humble beginnings and who believed that anything was possible if you worked hard enough.

During the last two years of his life, Paul battled against cancer, but like so many of the village people that we hope to help in India, and with the same generosity of spirit that is typical there, he did not seek to get help, and felt that the needs of his family should be met before his own.

As a family, we endeavoured to get the best possible treatment for him.  I hope that we matched Indian standards in terms of our ability to love and care for him.

Paul knew all about this project and was, until the very end, interested in what we were planning to do.  He was fascinated by all the photographs of India and the tales I told on my return to the UK.  He loved to look at the pictures of the lake in Udaipur and of the wonderful landscapes in India. 

Sadly, he died just three days before I left for Udaipur last time in the spring of this year, and everybody that I am working with in India, knows how great my sense of loss was.  I shall always miss him, as will everybody else who knew him, but Paul's spirit will live on with all of us at The Raven Foundation, because he was so brave.

In the weeks before he died he used to say to me: "It's so important to help other people everywhere".  

Dr Deepak Babel and I were talking about him just recently and we have decided to use part of what he said as our slogan:  "Help Other People Everywhere" which also translates as HOPE.   

Sunday, 31 May 2009

The beginning....

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, but this story is just beginning, and I hope that as more of you follow it, we will begin to progress to the middle.  At the moment, the end is a long way off, but with hope, hard work and determination, we will eventually reach the end!

This story starts a while back, but I won't bore you with all those details - it is the recent history that matters.  In November last year I travelled to India with my husband.  He had never been before and we had a wonderful trip touring Rajasthan, visiting many of the places that I had been to when I was younger and working in India, and some places that were new to both of us. But ten days into our trip, my husband became unwell and was admitted to a hospital in Udaipur, where he was looked after by Dr Deepak Babel - a truly caring and committed doctor, who not only saved his life, but has since become a friend, along with the rest of his family.

It was because of Dr Babel that my husband recovered and we were able to return home to England so that his treatment could be continued there.  Six months later my husband is well again, but our involvement with India, and Udaipur in particular, has led to The Raven Foundation - a charity that will eventually build and operate a hospital outside the city for the village people who are unable to access medical help.