Well this is really it ... I'm leaving for India ... to open the hospital that we've built in the garden!! It's taken two years; there have been moments when I wondered why I've done it; days when I wish I'd stuck to the seeds and plants that I know back home; but after two years of hard work, we're ready to open our doors to patients in rural Rajasthan.
And as a passionate gardener, I can say it's been a bit like making a garden from scratch. We started with nothing except a plot of land (above) and a lot of determination. We planted the seeds and waited anxiously for them to grow. We watched nervously while we endured terrible weather conditions - days when the temperature went well over 100F and torrential rain that rendered working on site impossible; but the seeds survived. After a few months they began to grow into very small plants and slowly the building began to rise from the ground. Construction work started a year ago in November 2009 and although progress seemed slow at times, we had the basic building in place by April of this year (below).
Over the two-year period, I've been to India six times, often in difficult conditions and leaving my family at times when I should have stayed home. I've encountered illness, unhappiness and even a sense of desolation when we've run into problems that you just wouldn't find here in the UK or the US. But I'm not complaining, because it's been an enormous challenge and we're now ready to open our doors. I've travelled many miles since this project began and met many wonderful people in rural India (below).
Now is the time for me to thank everybody who's helped along the way. None of this would have been possible without Dr Deepak Babel (below), the man who looked after my husband when he became so sick in India two years ago. It was because of his care, compassion and courage that my husband got better; and it was because we met that this project began. I'm not going to go into all the history here, because if you're interested you can read about it on our Raven Foundation blog.
And thanks will never be sufficient for all those who've helped along the way - our families, our friends, our benefactors and readers - all of whom have encouraged us, supported us and helped us achieve our goal - Disha Hospital (latest picture below) - which will be inaugurated this coming Sunday. (You'll all be asleep in the UK and the US when it happens, but do spare us a thought when you wake up!)
It's spring in Rajasthan, so I'm hoping to get out into some of the glorious gardens there once we've opened Disha, so more from there .... and thanks again for all your support in the last year.