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British couple of an AIDS mission to India

The work schedule of David and Debby Chedgey includes teaching art to autistic children to educating truckers about safe sex.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2006 19:41 IST

A British couple have decided to take a difficult journey to help stop the spread of AIDs across the Indian subcontinent.

During a six-week tour taking in Delhi, Kolkata and other parts of India, David and Debby Chedgey of Norwich, will carry out work ranging from teaching art to autistic children to educating truck drivers about safe sex.

Mrs Chedgey is already well accustomed to the reality of sexually transmitted diseases through her role as co-director of the Matrix Project which helps sex-workers in Norwich.

The couple feel ready for the task ahead when they go to India in March.

Artist husband David, known simply as Chedgey, said, "We just felt we needed to do something different. We were fed up of coming home in the evening and watching Eastenders.

"You find that you slip into a routine and do the same things day after day, week after week and even year after year.

"We took a holiday in India and decided it is a wonderful country but one with a lot of problems. We just decided we could do something to help."

If their trip is a success Chedgey hopes to divide his time between the UK and India, spending roughly six months a year in each. In the longer-term Mrs Chedgey would also look to commit more time to the work.

Both have skills which they believe could prove invaluable in improving the quality of life for people in India. Mrs Chedgey, who also works as a medical practitioner, said, "The work I do in England and the work I will be doing in India present very different challenges.

"There is a large legalised sex industry in India and it is almost accepted that men will take advantage of this.

"It is about changing attitudes. It will be interesting to see how macho truck drivers take advice on sexual health from a woman.

"But I don't intend to wade in and lecture people without first understanding their culture. Our aim is to immerse ourselves in the country to gain and insight into their way of life."

The trip will also involve Mrs Chedgey helping street women in Kolkata and Chedgey, who was head of art at Wymondham College for 18 years, will undertake various teaching roles working with disadvantage children.

He said, "We have been given a rough idea of what we will be doing but we won't really know until we get out there. It is a bit of a leap into the unknown but that makes it all the more exciting because it leaves open so many possibilities.

"At the moment I don't speak the language and, although I am learning, I will still have to face the language barrier when I arrive there.

"The idea is to spend six-weeks finding out what we can do to help and then look at ways we can help in the long-term. We will be staying in apartments rather than hotels because we believe this will give us a feel for the day to day lives of normal people in India."

Chedgey also takes a keen interest in reconstruction of historic buildings and hopes to becoming involved in such projects in India.

"There are many beautiful monuments crumbling away and it seems the government out there is now interested in doing something to stop this," he said.

Since planning the trip the couple have been inundated with offers of help including items and funds to take to India to help with the projects they undertake.

"We are funding this ourselves and are not looking for people to pay for our trip," said Chedgey.

"But it is great that people want to contribute things like paint for art classes which we can take out there."

First Published: Jan 03, 2006 19:41 IST