From Scotland to India: the volunteers facilitating healthcare training

Ruth, a practice Nurse, and Justin, a retired GP, live in Scotland and have been volunteering with SBT since 2017. Justin has since become a trustee of Friends of SBT. Pre-pandemic they spent a month in Delhi every year, during which they led healthcare training for to the shelter home staff and ran workshops with the children covering hygiene, nutrition and health. Following a covid-hiatus, they returned to Delhi this Spring.

Newer and inexperienced staff benefitted from learning First Aid, while the more experienced staff chose the subjects in advance, asking Justin and Ruth to facilitate workshops covering medicine management, TB in children, acidity, HIV, and skin problems. The children, of course, were a key focus. Here Ruth talks us through her experience on one teaching visit...

“I was invited to take a health education session with the boys at Apna Ghar Shelter Home. I had visited this home on a number of occasions before and so I knew many of the staff there and had a good idea of how to approach giving a health education session to the boys there. Previously, I had found the boys to be very lively and noisy, understandably they didn’t want to sit listening for long periods. My idea was to do a session which involved understanding normal development during adolescence - both physically and mentally - and to discuss the different changes experienced by boys and girls. I also aimed to discuss sexual health, different methods of contraception and unplanned adolescent pregnancy - with the negative outcomes that this has.”

“Initially, I found the boys to be quite restless and noisy, with a lack of engagement from about half of them. Interestingly, when we moved to discuss the differences in the development between boys and girls during adolescence, specifically the subject of menstruation, the boys became much more engaged and actively involved. They showed a real interest in what happens during the menstrual cycle, the common problems that girls face during menstruation and together we discussed common misunderstandings and myths that surround it.”


“I’m sure that at least 50% of the success of the session was due to Mayurima, the counsellor at the shelter home, who helped with translation and classroom control. She was also surprised and pleased with how engaged the boys were during the session, saying that it had given her ideas for future health education sessions.”


In addition to medical awareness and health training, Justin and Ruth also visited a small, specialised unit within SBT. The Child Development Unit (CDU) sits within the Aasra shelter home and currently looks after six children. Typically children here have neurological disorders, including autism and ADHD, are deaf or have more severe learning difficulties.


Thanks to SBT, nearly all of them go to school and learn some form of employment options. Many of the children are on medication and all of them need significant, high-level support. Justin and Ruth learned that there were four hugely committed staff, led by a psychologist, for the six children, and that SBT is the current legal parent of those in care here. Once they reach 18 years old, the young people either go for further training for one year or into a private support home funded by SBT – a major commitment for the charity.


Thanks to funding, the Child Development Unit has been able to develop a special playroom and improve the food offering for the children there.