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

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

New medical site for Raven Foundation

We have launched a new medical site for The Raven Foundation, so that Dr Deepak can keep all his medical contacts informed about news, upcoming conferences, seminars and news that is relevant to the hospital. The new address for the site is:

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Update from Udaipur ....

It's been a hot (40-45C!!) and busy week since I arrived in Udaipur! I was lucky enough to beat the cloud of volcanic ash out of Heathrow by just a couple of hours and arrived in India early on Thursday morning. Deepak and I have been to the site, and work is progressing well (above).
We hosted our first major conference: "Advances in Treatment of Thalassemia" on Sunday, 18th April, with some impressive guest speakers and a full audience of paediatric specialists, so will be providing a full report on that shortly. In the meantime, I am just leaving to look at tiles for the interior of Deesha Hospital ... an indication that we really are progressing well!


Saturday, 10 April 2010

First major seminar for Raven Foundation

Childhood illness - and cancer, in particular - is an emotive area, yet it is a real problem in rural India and a major cause of death in village communities in Rajasthan, where there are currently few facilities for diagnosis or treatment.

As part of our commitment to providing treatment to rural communities The Raven Foundation will be offering specialist services in this field, since treatments are becoming more available and accessible in India.

Both Deepak and Charlotte realize that part of the commitment to the community that they will be serving is to provide support and health education to local people, so that issues such as childhood cancer can be addressed early enough to facilitate treatment, and hopefully, cure.

Deepak is already engaged in looking at specialist areas where The Raven Foundation can make a difference and as he says: “The advancement in this field (childhood cancer) includes early diagnosis by investigation and availability of new and effective drugs, bone marrow/stem cell transplants and regular blood transfusions.”

He adds: “We have already been talking to specialist Oncologists and surgeons in this field and they are ready to provide their services for this noble cause. And, the blood banks/pharmaceutical companies are ready to provide blood/drugs at cheaper price.”

We will be hosting our first specialist seminar for The Raven Foundation on this issue – Childhood Cancer and Effective Treatment Strategy - on 18th April, when Charlotte will have arrived from overseas. And we look forward to welcoming doctors and specialists from the local community.

We also welcome feedback from our followers and fans on this emotive subject, but would like to stress that our basic aims and objectives remain the same:

· T *To promote the concept: better health means greater security and wealth

· T *To teach the concept: “PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE”

· T *To educate the village people of Rajasthan about the importance of nutrition and diet in relation to health matters

· T**To conduct health camps in the villages

· T**To promote the status of women’s health care

· T*To provide an understanding of the importance of good health for existing and future generations

· T**To educate villagers in the importance of nutrition and diet in relation to health matters