From driver to Assistant Manager - Concern India Foundation
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Wednesday, July, 10th, 2013

From driver to Assistant Manager

" Naresh, who started as a driver, got so involved with the programme that today he has risen to the post of Assistant Manager of the community health volunteer project. "

We can clearly see the joy on his face; hear the pride in his voice. We listen with interest as Naresh Dhanwal, sporting a Yankee cap on his head, briefs us about the history and working of the rural health centre.

It was a cold January morning and we had left Mumbai early to drive for 3 hours to reach the rural outskirts of the Palgarh/Thane district where the centre was located. We choose to sit on the rocky lawn of the health centre soaking in the warmth of the morning sun as Naresh takes us 18 years back in time to 1995.

Naresh explains that the area was very much underdeveloped then. Like any typical Indian rural village that one saw in old time movies, there were clusters of mud homes surrounded by fields and thickets spread intermittently every couple of kilometers. There was no tar road. A programme that worked in healthcare through homeopathy decided to have a mobile clinic. Doctors from the nearby town of Vasai and Manor would come on a weekly visit. They needed a local driver to drive them around. Naresh, a young lad from a near by village, who had got his license and was looking for a job, became their driver cum guide.

For a programme to succeed in a place where there is no existing infrastructure or model to follow it is often a period of trying and testing. It was the same for these doctors, especially as they were practicing homeopathy. In the village, people either followed some traditional home remedies or went to a vaid (a local ayurvedic medicine man) for ailments. The first challenge was to make the villagers understand and accept homeopathy as an alternate form of medication. Naresh laughs, “People would put the pills in their mouth and spit it out because of the bittersweet taste. They thought the doctors were making a fool of them as the pills looked the same for all the ailments.”

Over the years, the mobile clinic established its credibility. Seeing their work, a local landowner gifted a plot of land for a clinic. The doctors’ next step was to make the village women folk understand the benefits of an institutional delivery as against birth delivery in one’s home.

It was also important to get the community involved in the activities. Concern India Foundation stepped in to support the training of barefoot doctors or Community Health Volunteers. The villagers themselves choose these volunteers, who undergo certified course training in general healthcare and an induction with the clinic doctors. Each volunteer is assigned an area and is responsible for keeping in touch with the inhabitants. For regular small ailments like cold, cough, indigestion they hand out the homeopathic medicine and have to keep a chart of the same. The volunteers also keep a track of the pregnant women, talk to them about institutional deliveries and bring them to the clinic for regular check up.

Naresh, who started as a driver, got so involved with the programme that today he has risen to the post of Assistant Manager of  the community health volunteer project.

– Ameeta Munshi, Fundraising, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)

Monday, July, 8th, 2013

Understanding the power of vocational courses

I recently accompanied my colleagues for a visit to one of the Concern India Foundation supported programmes. The programme was located in Juhu, Mumbai. I have often passed the area to catch up with my friends in Juhu, but never realised that such a large slum could exist in the midst of such a posh locality.

On reaching the programme, there I was totally amazed to see the way the programme was run. A vocational centre specifically for women, the programme ran tailoring, mehendi and beautician courses. All the women there were between 13 to 50 years of age, coming from different religious and family backgrounds.

Two young girls age 13 years and 14 years respectively, impressed me the most – they had excelled in learning mehendi through a 5 month course and were so good that they could now begin working as professionals. Some of the women who were learning tailoring were so good that they were now taking orders to stitch blouses and kurtas for friends and families.

The most significant part for me was that these women lived in the same area and wanted to handle both their house as well as contribute to their families financially as well. We always hear or see pictures of such cases, but for me the actual experience was vastly different.

I came away with the feeling that monetary aid is not the only way of helping needy people – help can also be provided by running such programs that teach disadvantaged people to learn a skill which in turn could make them self-confident and help them lead a financially independent life in the future.

– Uttsavi Gala, HR Associate, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)

Wednesday, July, 3rd, 2013

Tackling the problem of visual impairment

Vision is a factor that has a significant impact on the quality of life of an individual. I would like to talk about a small incident that made me realise the importance of eye care for the underprivileged.

About 12 years ago, 55-year-old Shafi Mohammed, who lived in a village in Haryana, lost his eyesight completely. There was no health facility in any of the nearby villages. As the rest of his family members were working hard to make ends meet, Mohammed’s grandson was pulled out of school to stay home and look after his grandfather. Mohammed’s grandson was unhappy by this decision, but had no option but to obey his family’s orders.

One of our supported programmes opened a primary eye care centre in the area and Mohammed went there to seek treatment. When corneal blindness was diagnosed, a corneal transplant was done in his right eye at their Gurgaon centre and partial vision was restored. Mohammed could now live without supervision and take care of his basic needs. But more importantly, his grandson could return to school.

The supported programme is an institute that focuses on eye care and provides vision restoration and blindness prevention care for the underprivileged. Observing the great work that was being carried out is what prompted us at Concern India Foundation to extend support to it.

Some of the statics that I came across were startling: according to the United Nations there are 9 million visually impaired people in India and 80% of them live in remote and isolated villages. Another statics shows that every year 3 million people develop cataract, but very few realize that the impairment can be cured with a simple operation.

Visual impairment is more than just a health problem – it has economic, educational and public safety implications as well. It often has a domino effect on the lives of those surrounding the individual.

For me, it is heartening that this programme is trying to make some headway in this area and I am extremely happy to be extending our support to them.

– Nidhi Singh, Director, Concern India Foundation