Day 217: a visit to SCARF

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Saturday, February 22, 2014

We had another pretty terrible nights sleep at this hotel last night, ahh the joys of Chennai. I now know why it's just a transit city for most tourists.

At midnight staff decided that would vacuum the entire hotel. Then at 3am the auto drivers started work and were talking so loud outside our window. Our window faced the street and we couldn't close it properly so it was very noisy. At 5am the horns began to start. We were also next to the drain of the entire hotel, so every time somebody went to the toilet it flushed right outside our window and sounded like a very loud, gushing waterfall being pumped by a steam engine. When somebody showered it was even worse! This was all on top of the immense humidity.

By the time it was light, I felt as though I had only just gotten to sleep. It was pretty annoying. I was not great company this morning. I think I have become accustomed to traveling in Europe haha!

Kaete had organised a visit to scarf for us today. So we got up, had a tea and made our way over to the centre with a funny auto driver. We arrived an hour early so we went for a little walk around the block and discovered a very nice suburb of Chennai indeed. It was called Anna nagar west and there lived judges, high officials and probably a lot of other rich people. It was leafy, quiet and clean. A nice change to where we were staying.

After a half an hour walk around the block we returned to SCARF And waited inside.

SCARF is the Schizophrenia research foundation, an NGO and not for profit organisation in Chennai. Dad works with a psychiatrist in newcastle who formally worked for SCARF. he suggested that we take a visit whilst we were in Chennai.

I am so glad we did. It was a very interesting place. The centre is based in a four storey old building and has a number of facilities, some of which were the first of its kind in India. These include: an outpatient clinic, Day program, vocational units for men and women, a research centre, training and education centre, a residential facility for 35 people, an auditorium, a library and a teleconference room. The organisation also has outreach facilities, the main which includes a bus. This bus equipped with social workers and nurses drives to the most rural areas of Southern India and provides support, information, referrals and access to health care for some of the poorest people in the area. The bus has a teleconference room which connects to the main centre in Chennai and individuals can have sessions with a psychiatrist.

We had a tour of the building and met many staff, clients and workers. It seems like a really great place and one which is well needed in India. Apparently mental health facilities are not so accessible for the majority of Indians, particularly in rural areas where they are needed most.

We were able to meet some clients too which was nice and reminded me of my work at home. They have a lot of things going on up on that level, some of which included making plates out of bark for conferences, screen printing, bag making and artwork : all of which are sold to local businesses.

We had a good chat to the staff about the some of the issues they come across between religion, spirituality and modern mental health treatment. I found this extremely interesting. Religion is such a major part of the way of life here. The general philosophy that the team has is that religion and treatment can coexist and both can work together. So they encourage the continuation of religious practice to improve mental health, but they also encourage other types of therapies too.

Anyway it was a fascinating visit and I am glad we went. If you want to have a look at the website, here is the link: www. scarfindia.org

We stayed at SCARF until about midday and then caught a truck auto to another part of Chennai where I thought some markets were. On the lonely planet it said pondy bazaar, but I think this was just the name of the suburb, or the street. There were a lot of shops, but no markets. There was also no shade and the midday sun was becoming intense. We decided that it was lunch time.

We found a Restaraunt and went inside. It was absolutely packed. We were quickly ushered to a small table where 2 girls perhaps in their early twenties were sitting. We shared a table with them as they giggled at us. We ordered some food and slowly got talking to them. The one on the left was quite confident and spoke English exceptionally well. The one on the right was really shy and just giggled the entire time. It was good fun and they ended up telling us a lot about themselves and Southern India. It was a nice lunch.

After lunch we walked past quite a large slum, met many cows and goats and found a river with a beautiful view of ...garbage. It was clogging the entire waterway and the smell was horrendous. Such a shame. Their is so much rubbish around the place. It really forces one to think about the impact of plastics and other waste products. It's all there, the difference is that at home we bury it. Here it just rots or washes down into the river. Sometimes it is burnt, which adds to the marvellous smell of this place.

I am painting a beautiful picture aren't I?

There really are some beautiful parts of India. however, in my opinion Chennai just isn't really one of them..well on the outside. I am sure there are some very cool aspects to Chennai that as a tourist I am Yet to discover.

We had dinner one the other side of the river tonight at a small place on the side of the road. We each had a curry and shared a rice. It was a tasty meal. After dinner we caught an auto back through the crowds of people. At times I closed my eyes because I was sure we were going to hit someone. I am a little relieved we are leaving this intense city tomorrow.

Goodnight Chennai!
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