Hands on India 2014- A Chiropractic Volunteer Trip

Thursday, 12 March 2015

It's about time I blogged about the Hands on India 2014 trip! I embarked on this trip in December 2014 after a whole year of fundraising- you can see how it all came together in my post about the charity ball we threw which raised over $40 000 for the impoverished community of Siliguri, India. This trip would not have happened without our student leaders and clinicians, so a big thank you and round of applause to them because the trip was so successful that we were featured on the ABC news website! Read their article 'Indian rock breakers, tea pickers rely on Australian chiropractors for back and neck relief' here!

I am privileged, despite having a difficult (rather shitty) childhood and the fact that I have to work hard for my money. It's important for me to give back, not only monetarily but to see for myself the difference I am making in the world. This was my third volunteer trip so far and I plan to do many more. See my experience volunteering in Nepal here if you are interested!

This kid be sh**ting bricks!

"Hands on India began in 2005 when chiropractor Dr Brett Dellar and a group of Murdoch University students visited Siliguri, a remote community in the far North East of India to volunteer chiropractic and basic medical care. The trip was such a success groups have been returning annually to the community.
The region is largely tea plantations, where the majority of the poor work as tea pickers or in stone breaker communities. Stone breakers search for stone in the river bed and then break it by hand to sell for road base. Tea pickers pick 20kg bags of tea which they carry all day on their heads.  In both these highly vulnerable, poor communities one third of children aged 4-14 are in child labour. The average earnings is $1 per day for this hugely physical work.
All attending cover their own travel and living costs and are involved in fund raising for this amazing program. All money raised goes towards equipment, medical supplies, interpreters, transportation, and community projects in Siliguri to allow the community to become more self-sufficient." - Hands on India blog
After our hectic journey to India and before we started our chiropractic work, the team visited the Taj Mahal- check out my pictures! None of these pictures on this post are mine, all credit goes to our assistants (thank you so much!) and fellow students who took some amazing photos. Truthfully, between treating, sleeping and eating there was absolutely no time for me to take any photos.


All the students and clinicians outside our beautiful hotel in Delhi before boarding the bus and flight to Siliguri. The lady in red is our head clinician, Dr Sue Ferguson, who is an amazing woman and chiropractor. She has been to India 4 times (wow!), leaving behind her business and family to carry out this work.

The team after our warm welcome to Seva Kendra, our home for the next two weeks. We lived simply with all the girls sharing one room. There was no hot water which was a bummer (to say the least), but we all survived.... 

I was actually sick the entire time, first with a virus and fever, then with a nasty bacterial chest infection. I felt absolutely awful the whole time, but still went to clinic every day to treat. I downplayed how terrible I felt because I felt it was really important not to talk about it for myself and the team. Conditions were hard enough and I just didn't want to add any negative vibes to everyone else's experience. 

Our time was gruelling, but rewarding to say the least. We woke up at 7, drove to the clinics where most of us would get carsick (have you seen Indian roads?!), treated until 5-6pm, had dinner and sometimes a tutorial, then went to bed. Chiropractic is a physical and emotional profession,  and I was battling sickness at the same time, so I was completely spent every day.

I feel like I would have bonded with everyone much more if I had not been so scared to talk lest I start coughing in everyone's face! Oh well, what can ya do.

This was our lunch which was delivered to us on shift every day. It usually consisted of naan (sometimes nice, sometimes tasted like plastic), rice and some unidentified balls floating in curry. By the end of the trip, most people didn't touch their lunch. I for one, ate it every day, but then again I'm not fussy with food hehe.

Squeezing 3 people on to a 1 person rickshaw. Only in India. Warning- these photos are not going to be glamorous! 

Now have fun scrolling through all the pictures of our beautiful patients! There were some fantastic photos of other students, but I'm not sure if all of them would be comfortable being showcased on my blog, so most of the photos are of Yanto and I. 

Note the angle of his knees...

Piglets on the way to the toilets.

This baby goat was just born a few days ago. You can still see its umbilical cord!

The following photos show the tea plantations and tea pickers. Their job is to pick tea leaves by hand all day.


I can't imagine how much that bag weighs! No wonder they have pain!

At the end of the day all their bags are weighed and emptied.

The tea pickers leave their babies/toddlers in these hammocks as they work.

We also treated a lot of the rock breaker community. If you thought tea picking was hard work, wait till you see what these people do. 

They sit all day in the hot sun, breaking rocks by hand. They use primitive tools such as other rocks and scraps to break the rocks into smaller ones. I tried it and it took me three tries to break a rock! As you can see, these women are elderly. Even more heartbreaking are the children as young as 2 or 3 who must work to earn money for their families. Some of the money we raised goes to sponsoring these kids through school.

We didn't get any pictures of the kids, but this photo was taken in Siliguri in 2004.

Now for some action shots of us doing what we do best!

Getting an adjustment from the lovely Dr Lily!

We worked with translators to take the history and feedback from our patients. Couldn't have done it without them, and they were all super nice!

We visited schools and orphanages to treat the children too.

The line of patients to see! Granted, most of the kids were malingerers and just wanted someone to give them some love and attention.

Geez, the children are beautiful :O.

That's one crowded 'school bus'!

We had a Bollywood celebration towards the end of the trip, so everyone purchased traditional Indian outfits to wear! Sari shopping was a great experience- the range of colours, patterns and embellishments was stunning. There was a bride picking out saris for her wedding whilst we were in the shop and we were all drooling over how beautiful her saris were!

The first to leave the party because we were all sick. Haha. 

Chiropractic-wise, the trip was fantastic. Not having treated patients before, I was floored by the power chiropractic has on the human body. I saw a 3 year old who couldn't walk at all take a few steps by himself after 2 treatments. A girl with continuous tics and fasciculations stopped ticking as soon as she laid on some SOT blocks. A man couldn't lift his arm more than 90 degrees raised it to 160 degrees after 1 treatment. Numerous people with chronic headaches walked out of our makeshift clinics pain free for the first time in years. After seeing these events, I now believe in my chosen profession more than ever.

I saw so many conditions you would rarely see in Australia such as leprosy, polio, numerous stroke patients, movement disorders no one knew how to diagnose and one tea picker even came in with a full break of her forearm. It was clearly broken and bent off at an angle and guess what- she had been working for a month after breaking it. So hard to comprehend...

There were thousands of pictures taken and these are just a small selection of them! I hope you enjoyed this post.

Now please tell me about your adventures! Have you had any life changing moments lately?

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