In attempting to raise awareness of my volunteer work in India, through talks, exhibitions and fundraising drives, I am often confronted with the same questions by potential donors. Here, in brief, are some of my responses...
Why do I volunteer in India?
It is true that India's economy has been on an upward spiral in recent years and, yes, the Government spends heavily on its armed forces and space programme. However, the gap between the haves and have-nots remains as wide as ever and I am responding to poverty and hardship on a par with almost anything seen in third-world countries.
Why volunteer abroad when you could be helping people struggling within your own country?
Wherever you go around the world you will find those who are struggling to survive, make ends meet, or battling their own demons. I did not choose India, India chose me... seeing images of small children and entire families struggling for survival on the streets, sleeping rough on railway stations, pressed into child labour on rubbish dumps - and worse - was too much for me to ignore. However, I have not neglected those in need of support at home... my volunteer work has included years helping troubled children through ChildLine, bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of orphans across Europe via Operation Christmas Child, straining every sinew in my body to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research, not to mention supporting schoolchildren in faraway Zimbabwe.
Who has paid the millions spent on state-of-the-art facilities at HEAL Paradise Village?
Yes, Paradise Village is a multi-million dollar educational campus, but HEAL founder Dr Prasad always had the vision of a model for others within India to follow. His argument is that the orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children who come to HEAL should be given the best possible chance to achieve their full potential in life. The Hans Foundation have been massive supporters of Dr Prasad's dream - providing funding for two wonderful boys and girls dormitories - while his former medical college friends have stepped up to donate the majority of the remaining buildings. Child sponsorship remains at the heart of meeting all current and future running costs. Visit Paradise Village, spend time with the children and you will quickly come to understand why they deserve the best we can offer them.