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.
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.
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.
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