Having just read Dan's post on what 2009 was like for him, I'm looking forward to seeing what 2010 brings, for him and also for me.
Last year was a bit of an eye opener on so many levels, and one of the things it's taught me is to focus on what I have acheived, rather than what I hadn't - so here's my 2009 breakdown.
I decided upon returning from India for Christmas 2008 that I would head back out to volunteer for the charity that I visited out in India. It was a tough decision as I felt pretty loyal to my employer, and although aspects of the job weren't pretty, I'd landed on my feet straight from University into this job and wanted it to last.
Feb was a bit of a nothing month; most of the time I was preparing myself for India, though I did manage a couple of trips out to see Macclesfield Town FC.
I had an awesome birthday/farewell party and headed out to India. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, yet within days I was up to my eyeballs helping the Doctors with their work.
We had two teams of volunteers come out from the UK and help run a couple of Childrens' Summer Parties. It was an absolutely rewarding and humbling. We catered for nearly 300 children, whilst the Doctor's ran a Parenting and Health Course for their carers. I cannot overstate how much this course has changed the lives of the carers and the children. Whereas before the parents were acting based on hearsay and poor advice, they are now confident to use basic medicines, and can get first-class advice from a 24 hour helpline. I had no part in either the course or the helpline, but it was brilliant seeing the benefits.
May was probably the first month when we were able to actively help out in the slum communities. Initially this simply meant turning up and gaining the trust of the community. Partnering with the local people already working in the community, I got the opportunity to help entertain and spend times with these kids. They were also my most successful teachers of the local language, Malayalam. I ended my first stint out in India and came back to the UK, to avoid monsoon season, and my Dad's 50th Birthday.
With no job, and a monsoon to wait through, much of my time at the start of June was spent helping out relatives with oddjobs and doing a bit of django development. I spent a few hours a day playing around with a few sites and trying to teach myself a few new things. I also got the opportunity to take a bit of a break, as I'd gone straight from University to employed work in the space of 2 days back in 2007.
Some of my time in July was spent doing UK-based work for the Charity. The Doctor's were back, so I spent a fair amount of time with them, trying to decide on a new name, and general 'team building.' I also got the opportunity to go on a lovely family holiday to Frace/Spain, though I drove most of the trip, and on our final journey (from St. Jean pied de Port to Shepton Mallet) the car started misbehaving and cutting out at low revs. I'd packed a haynes manual, and with a bit of good luck and some rather crude tinkering by me, we restarted the car each time and made it back to the UK.
In August, I helped out in Venue 2 at the New Wine Conference in Shepton Mallet. It's not something that I would have ever done previously, especially with the tagline the Observer gave it - Glastonbury for God. However, I had a really good time and learnt alot about my views on God, and the differences between Christianity and Catholicism. Two days after the conference closed, I was on a plane back out to India. I was fortunate to not just have the Doctors out there with me, but we also had three awesome volunteers. Two stayed two weeks and helped decorate the house and the other one stayed a month and was the only British male company I had out in India.
Once my male company had departed, we spent the rest of the month doing a couple of clinics a week for the partner charity. I was quite depressing hearing the horrible stories that so many of the children have been through, and being helpless in so many ways. It was just great that they had someone helping them out. The Doctors are doing an awesome job.
September was the month of the medical electives. The previous volunteers were 2nd year students, but these guys were 9 months off being qualified, so there was much more of a focus on the medicine. It was quite interesting to be non-medical at this point, as I was quite how much commitment the medical profession involves. Talking about placements, rotations, some forms that needed to be submitted, and a whole load of other things meant that this month was ultra-intense.
This was probably the most impacting month of my time in India. It started with a trip to a more 'classically impoverished' region. That is to say that the poverty was much more obvious and acute. It felt like how I'd imagined foreign charity work to be like when I was a child, but the thing that struck me was the kindness of the people, and their immediate acceptance and hospitality. I felt a bit inept that I wasn't able to help out as the Doctors were doing, by providing them with medical care - however, I played my role as best I could, as a runner for the Doctors and trying to help out where I could.
It also brought and end to my time in India.
Having got back to the UK, I immediately restarted work for my old employed, who'd I'd been working for 10 hours a week from India (where possibly). We had a PCI DSS Level 1 audit within a day of my return. The guys had been working very hard, but it was great to be able to immediately contribute my experience to securing a successful outcome.
I also came home to find my father much more involved in the work on the Birmingham and Solihull Rugby Club.
So that was my year. It's not got as many defining moments as Dan's - and some of it may have been repetitive. However, I'm hoping that in 2010 I can start to embrace the opportunities that are coming up to get more experience. I intend to go and volunteer in another developing county - but with my experience comes the realisation that I need more before I am able to commit long-term to any development efforts. I'm not sure in which direction 2010 will take me, however, I know I have the full support of my family and friends.