China Quest, one year on…

Quest reflections

Alice Lewthwaite

24 November 2016

Just over a year ago, after tearful and joyous moments of individual appreciation in our final workshop, I left my fellow Questors and boarded my plane back to London. Scribbled in my reflective journal was a page of things I planned to do as a result of the experience. I was faced with a choice: to ignore them and return to my life enriched (but possibly un-changed), or to do some of them and see what wonderful encounters might transpire.

I chose to do. On the Quest I met Ashok Rathod, founder of OSCAR India, an NGO improving the lives of children from Mumbai slums through football and education. I was moved and humbled by what he had achieved with so little, and his passion to achieve his goal of changing even more lives. I also met Elmar Boëkenhoff – by day the chief designer for Daimler Trucks, but also a passionate musician who plays the organ. When I left China, I told Elmar that I was going to find a wonderful organ for him to play in London, and we would do a fund-raising concert for Ashok. And this is what I did.

I found St Katharine Cree Church which has an organ that was played by Purcell and Handel, and an Indian community choir who worship there. I persuaded a family friend (a professional tenor) to be my musical director and, with the help of many others, I planned my first attempt at a fundraising concert. In June, Elmar, accompanied by his wife and children, flew to London. Ashok was also able to join us and we had the most wonderful night under a From Baroque to Bollywood banner. We raised £5,000 to help fund OSCAR’s emerging programme for girls. Since the concert, the OSCAR team have managed to get matched funding from two other organisations, so many more girls will benefit.

Another of my scribbles said: ‘start learning Mandarin’. One of our LQ facilitators, Kit, had told me it wasn’t actually that hard to learn the basics (!) and with his kind help I found a lovely Beijing-based teacher. We’ve since been talking weekly by Skype. At the beginning of October, I returned to China (without the LQ safety blanket) for a trip to practice my very hesitant language skills, meet my teacher in person, and continue my exploration of themes from our Quest.

While my personal achievements pale into insignificance compared to some of the amazing people with whom LQ works, my reflection is that the thing we probably all share is this: if you do chose to do something, something will happen. From that first thing, many other things may follow on. Whatever does happen – success or failure – some sort of learning will emerge. So here’s to those of us who chose to do!