Get To Know… Helen Cranston

“For the last two years I have been doing my dream job as Project Manager for the Makhad Trust, a sister charity to The Isbourne College & Holistic Centre. It all started in 2004 when I saw an exhibition of photos by Ruskin Mill students from their trip to the Sinai Desert in Egypt. The exhibition room was deserted when I passed through but a strange feeling of expansiveness, a ringing sound that was not a normal part of the room, and a sense of stillness, instantly made me feel as if I were in the desert of the photographs. It filled me with such excitement I knew that I had to go there one day.

“In 2008 I got my wish and joined a journey to build a dam in the hihelen_cranston2gh mountains of Sinai. We worked alongside the Bedouin to build Oda’s Dam which provides water for around 40 Bedouin gardens. In this high desert environment water is scarce, access is difficult and the people struggle to survive. Afterwards we trekked up Mt Sinai where Moses received the 10 Commandments, and then went out to the desert. The sound of the silence and feeling of expansiveness was just as I had experienced in the exhibition room years before. A few months later I went back for a desert retreat spending three days alone in the beauty of the desert. Next, I joined other journeys to build dams, then organised journeys and led them, at least one a year, until two years ago when Susie Drummond, my predecessor, handed over the job of Project Manager.

“The bulk of the work is to facilitate the wells project, where funding from the UK pays for the restoration of garden wells and community drinking wells belonging to the Bedouin of South Sinai. So far we have helped to restore 328 wells bringing fresh drinking water to 155 small communities, enabling 173 orchard gardens to provide food and an income to Bedouin families. The job involves assessing all the wells to be restored, checking on progress of ones we start and writing reports to sponsors when the work is finished. Many of the wells are half way up mountainsides so a good head for heights and nimble footwork is essential. The rewards of the work are seeing what a difference it makes for families to have fresh water. The Trust is doing amazing work in Sinai and helping a disadvantaged community of people who get little assistance from any other source.

“In October this year, tutors and therapists from The Isbourne will have an opportunity to experience the expansiveness, the silence, and the stillness of the desert for themselves.  I will be leading them on a journey to build a dam in the high mountains working alongside the Bedouin.  Then we will trek to Mt Sinai for a short visit before going out into the desert for the silence and inner contemplation.”

Helen’s journey runs from 8th to the 20th of November. For more information contact Kelly Peacey via email.

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