Tales of the unexpected.

One aspect of being involved in Chennai Challenge is the unexpected. Many times in India we have had an unexpected situation that we have had to deal with, some positive and some not, all of which have added to the experience. This weekend is a little unexpected. Well not the weekend itself, but the fact that I am NOT training a team to go to Chennai. As part of the training for Chennai Challenge we normally use the early May bank holiday to take the team to a camp site a practise the activities they will be leading in Chennai, to fill in visa forms, to make sure they know the kit list and look at what it is like in Chennai. However, this year we are not taking a team, but doing a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work to make sure the Charity is running efficiently and continue to help both volunteers from the UK and people in Chennai.  If you had asked me 18 months ago, I would not have expected this to happen.

I would like to share with you a few ‘unexpected’ stories from my experiences and encourage you to embrace the chance to have some unexpected experiences of your own.

My first trip to Chennai was rather unexpected. All the way back in 2000 I was still studying Chemistry at university. Without really expecting it, I had the chance to get involved with a project run by Guildford YMCA, to go and help in Chennai. A slightly random connection as I was studying in York, but my then girlfriend (now wife) was in Guildford. I didn’t really expect that I would go to India to try and help, but some how I did.

When I arrived in Chennai, it was not what I had expected. Even with people who had been before telling me what to expect, my mental picture was different to the reality. The thing that I found to most unexpected however was the way in which we were welcomed. On the same evening as we had arrived we were taken out to dinner by Madras YMCA. At this point in time I was tired after spending so long travelling and still trying to adjust to being in India. I, and others on the team, bumbled out to dinner wearing what we had travelled in. We arrived at a very nice restaurant. Far nicer than the sort of place I would normally go to in the UK. I felt completely under dressed and quite bemused at why our host were taking us to somewhere so nice, when we had done nothing for them and they didn’t even know most of us. It was totally unexpected by me and a very generous offer of hospitality.  Later I could see the benefits it had, we had no local currency, so would not have been able to buy a meal ourselves on the first night, also the Madras YMCA were thankful for the fact that we had gone there, even before we had started to do work.

I hadn’t expected it, but by the end of the trip I did not have to decide if I wanted  to go to Chennai again, I knew that I had to. So I did, twice more under Guildford YMCA. During those projects so many unexpected things happened, quite often to do with where we we gong and at what time, that just gave a great character to the experience I had.

There is one conversation that I can remember, and I certainly was not expecting at the time. On my last trip with the YMCA I was talking to the head of Madras YMCA (the Late Dr. G. Ebinesan), who told me that I should bring a team of people out. This was a bolt from the blue for me as I expected to keep being a team member more than a leader. Initially this didn’t really change much, however within a few years I would be leading teams out to Chennai with Chennai Challenge.

I didn’t expect that Guildford YMCA would have to stop taking a project to India. This, and the words from Dr G. Ebinesan, were a huge motivation for me in being part of setting up Chennai Challenge with Cathy and Isaac. We didn’t expect to set up a charity, but it has been a hugely rewarding thing to do. Through it we have been able to help people in ways we had not imagined, both people in India and the UK in visible tangible ways and in unseen and personal ways. Our expectations of what a particular team would be like have often been wrong and we have seen people surprise us and themselves with the things they are capable of.

Through these unexpected things I have seen in myself and others things that have developed character, strength and many other qualities. Have you got space for the unexpected in your life? Can you risk it, not knowing what will happen? It might not end badly, it could be rather good. Why not get involved in our 2014 project and see where that will take you. Or you could just comment below on an unexpected event of your own

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