The amount of excitement a group of five foreigners causes in an orphanage is somewhat unbelievable.

We were given a tour of the vicinity the day after we arrived and immediately realised that even without the various sweets we’d brought to give them, we were going to cause quite a stir among the kids. The children were aged between 5-18 years old, although most seemed to be towards the young end. Two even younger little boys were staying in the girls group and they were SO excited to see us. They simply couldn’t stand still and kept asking for lifts up and around while beaming at us. The girls gave us flowers, asked us questions, told me I was beautiful *blushes* and when we went to have a group photo decided that once a hand was held, it wasn’t going to be relinquished for some time. I’d adopt them all if I thought that was in any way practical.

The boys were much the same except they weren’t ready in time (getting changed for school) and so we saw the rest of the buildings first and then came back to see them.  Once we had we gave out more sweets and handshakes, made some of them laugh and smile and were sung a song as we left.

I hadn’t realised that as well as being an orphanage it was also a shelter and rehabilitation home for destitute or mentally ill adults. They’re cared for, given tasks to do and provided the help they need to recover. You can see exactly what it means to the staff to do their jobs and also how much they appreciate the money we’ve raised to donate to this wonderful cause. We were shown the building that would be converted into the new clinic and they explained that it would be used not only for the patients and children but also as a more easily accessible health centre for the local communities who would otherwise go without adequate medicine.

This really is a fantastic project. They are currently at full capacity and so plan to extend the accommodation for both adults and children and to also provide rooms for volunteer workers at the facility. We were told that often the children are brought in from the hill tribes surrounding that area and so adjustment into this new setting is difficult. They don’t speak a written language and don’t understand Hindi so have to start from scratch in a completely new environment. It was brilliant to see that the staff, led by Molly and Matthew (the couple in charge of the centre), are devout in their ability to help these children and seem like genuine, loving people.

If you supported this cause then firstly, thank you once again, and secondly, your money has been most gratefully received and is going to make a huge impact on these people’s lives and many more from the community around Sengulam.

If you didn’t donate but you’d still like to then it’s not too late, follow this link and help us reach our target, we’re so close now.

We’ve now been in Cochin for a few days, enjoyed some backwater boating and then popped 170 km down the coast on motorbikes and spent a couple of beautiful days in the sun on the beaches of Varkala. Clearly we hadn’t done enough travelling yet. If you’re looking for a hot, sunny, touristy destination with potentially hazardous swimming then that’s the place to be!

I decided I hadn’t done enough travelling at all. With my flights back to England booked for a few days time, I found a volunteering position working in Nepal for a month to help with the impact of the earthquakes from the 31st August. My flights have been delayed, insurance lengthened and excitement increased once again.

I’ll be working for All Hands Volunteers in the Sindhupalchok district by helping demolish unsafe buildings and clear debris and rubble from people’s homes. Despite the considerable support for this disaster there is an awful lot more to be done and so any support you can give, from donating money to buying tools from their wishlist, would be extremely welcome. Two charitable plugs in one blog, I hope you’re feeling generous!

Sunset in Fort Kochi, Kerala

India has been an amazing experience. I’ve only had a snapshot of its culture but from what I’ve seen the people are generous and kind, the history and culture are rich and incredibly interesting (and would be more so if we English hadn’t ‘acquired’ lots of their fantastic artefacts, as I’m reminded occasionally. . .) and the views can be utterly spectacular.

You can have a family of six on a scooter, eight adults in a rickshaw, an obscene amount on/in a bus, potholes the size of elephants, bus-driving road-racers, goats, dogs, cows, buffaloes, camels and actual elephants on any road, large or small, a full meal for a negligible amount of money and more head-wobbling than you can shake your head at.

Rocking the non shoes, anklets, pink dress and sideways hat look

The variety of people and cultures within India is huge. I haven’t had anywhere near enough time to say I understand everything that is going on here but if you ever get the chance to visit, you absolutely should. Going by tuk tuk on the Rickshaw Run is certainly entertaining and well worth doing, but if I had one recommendation, it’s that you allow more time when you’re travelling to see places in more depth and talk to more people. Maybe also learn Hindi.

A special thanks to Emma, Hugo, Luke, Ali and Sarah who came with me on this journey, it’s been absolutely brilliant and you’ve massively helped make it so.
Next stop, Nepal.

On the Happy Camper Hostel wall, Fort Kochi – *next