Speaker 8th April 2013 - Rotarian T Anderson

A few notes on my recent trip to Asia. l was one of six Tearfund volunteer speakers who recently had the privilege of travelling to Thailand, Nepal and Mumbai to see, at first hand, some of the work that is supported by the Tearfund organisation. We were led by two of their full-time workers. Four of the team were from England. Anita Harron from Christ Church, Bangor and me were the two Irish members.

The whole trip took twelve days and in that time we had eleven air flights involving four different time zones, two nights with no sleep (one on an over-night flight and one on a 13.5 hours overnight drive) and one with just a few hours sleep, covered about 15,000 miles, visited six partner organizations, slept in eight different beds and met and interviewed dozens of different people. To say that at the end we were tired and jet-lagged would be an understatement. However the experience was not only very worthwhile, interesting and informative but also very humbling, challenging and inspiring.

In Thailand we visited some of the projects of the Mekong Minority Foundation who work on behalf of migrant workers and their families from neighbouring Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Cambodia. These people often suffer from discrimination, exploitation and social insecurity.

In Nepal we witnessed work supported by l Sagoal (a Nepalese word combined with the English word "goal" implying "working together") and had the opportunity to spend a night in homes of church family members. This was very special to each of us as we were shown overwhelming hospitality in very simple dwellings from people whose material possessions and income is a mere fraction of any of ours. We may be much richer in this world's goods but came away with the distinct impression that their spiritual commitment and love for our Lord is very much greater than ours.

In southeast Nepal we met many people who have been rescued through the work of United Mission to Nepal in conjunction with Nawa Jeewan Samaj Sewa (NJSS) meaning "New Life Social Service", an NGO formed by all of the Christian churches in the city. These people were suffering from severe illness and in some cases near-death resulting from HIV/AIDS.

We had two nights and one full day in Mumbai (still called Bombay by the local population). This city of >20 million people could best be described as an all-out assault on the senses. No photographs could ever convey the constant noises, smells, bustle, traffic and contrasts of this metropolis where more than twelve million people live in slums or on the streets, interspersed with the centre of the Bollywood ?lm industry and the mega-rich. The Tearfund partner with whom we spent the day here was Inter-Mission Cares (IMCARES) - a Christian organization drawn from local slum churches whose main out-reach is to those who are considered to be at the very bottom of the human pile, who have no one else to show them love, care and compassion. We walked through the very slum seen in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire", witnessed medical care given on the street pavements and visited day-care centres for the children of the slum dwellers. Our last drive was through one of the "red-light" streets of the city, an experience which we could only describe as emotionally devastating. It is to the victims of such that IMCARES reaches with the love of Jesus.