Rapar – India, a spiritual retreat to improve me as a human being

How I obtained a positive decision for my trip to India it’s a mystery. For my surprise, after submitting the application, I received an email with an invitation for an interview, I went and gave my best but and after a few days, received a negative answer… They didn’t select me.

Rapar, India
Wearing classic Gujarati dresses

However, many weeks later a new email turned up, it was a new invitation to join the group! I was astonished as it wasn’t in my mind to travel abroad. It took me a few days to re-think the invitation and organize all my school work and personal responsibilities to take a final decision and join the journey.

 

Without any doubt, the trip was a great experience that helped me to improve myself as a global citizen and be more human. I practiced empathy and compassion every single day of the trip.

What did I expect?

I went to India without any assumptions, only the idea that I was going to give a hand in the construction of sustainable houses and see how people live there, but that was just a tiny part of all I have experienced and learnt.

The objective of this trip was to know more about the situation in Rapar, India, a small village in the state of Gujarat, also support the Institute for Social Action and Research (ISAR).
This Institute helps women in vulnerable situations, many of them due to problems related to SATA marriage (a system of exchange marriage) or simply because of their gender.

Life Stories

While in Canada we still dealing with some gender issues, in India be a woman, gay, lesbian or queer is a synonym of minority and inequality. This sad situation brought me to the point that sometimes we need to look beyond and support those in need on time because this can affect generation after generation.

During our stay, we had the chance to know and talk to a few women that suffered from violence, their stories impacted us a lot, It wasn’t easy to digest. However, thanks to the hard work of ISAR, now those women are empowered and ready to help their community.
It’s exciting to hear stories of bravery and courage, listened to them with opened hearts motivated and made us realize how cruel and unfair a human can be when moral and ethics are not part of our life, no matter where you live.

What we did

We have visited villages, schools and some touristic places to know more about the history of Gujarat. To know more about the reasons for the current status in India, we also had the opportunity to follow a few lessons about Sociology, Feminism and Economy with excellent teachers that I hope I can see again.

 

A fantastic experience

We made friends with locals who made us laugh and helped us with everything. I have no words to explain how they treated us, how much we laugh and cry together.
India wasn’t a school trip, was more than that, was a spiritual retreat which pumped up our souls and allowed us to be aware of the necessity of this world; Love and compassion.

Thanks to ISAR and Centennial College, I re-confirmed the following quote:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Listening with my eyes

I knew that going to a new country and communicating with a language barrier would be a challenge. I will admit that I was worried about it. How am I going to connect with them? How will we build a relationship if we don’t understand each other? I wasn’t too anxious about it, but these thoughts were certainly on the back of my mind.

To my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined! We did have the help of translators when we were presenting health information to a group but for one on one things we often did it by ourselvesNicaragua. It was a very interesting and enlightening experience because for the first time in my life, I was listening with my eyes. People would explain their body aches and pains and instead of listening to the words they used, I was listening to how they told their story, when they used inflictions to emphasize a point, or when they used gestures to explain that something was important. I have always been a good listener but I have never consciously noticed how much people speak with their bodies. Through these expressions, gestures and varying tones of voice I was able to understand what was being said to me, as well as communicate back. By the end of the trip I had learned tons of techniques for communicating across a language barrier, and realized that I had nothing to worry about in the first place.

  • Amy Mepham, Nicaragua 2015