With her children now doing their own thing, Kathy, 51, felt she needed a challenge and tentatively floated the idea of overseas volunteer work to her husband. Ken’s response, “Off you go,” put her on the spot, propelled her into action and six months later she was in Tamil Nadu, South India, helping at a home for disabled boys, all from very poor backgrounds and affected by polio or cerebral palsy.
From the moment she walked through the gate and met the home’s wheelchair bound director, Kathy knew “this was where I was meant to be”. In a way she is still there. On her return back to the UK, Kathy did not go back to her lecturing post; instead she and Ken, who had already taken early retirement, set up the Neem Tree Trust, a registered charity dedicated to supporting the boys’ home and named after a tree renowned for its healing properties. The Trust’s fundraising activities include talks given by Kathy and the sale of Neem oil products, gift stationery and articles made by the boys themselves.
Kathy’s original trip was organised by Teaching & Projects Abroad. This company offers a range of placements worldwide for durations to suit each volunteer, from two weeks to a year…….As well as the placement itself, the ‘gap’ package typically includes accommodation, food, briefings, insurance, on the ground support and, excluding flights, costs anything between £500-£2,500, depending on where and for how long.