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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Introducing the 2013 Team

We are an interdisciplinary team of Western University healthcare students, who will be travelling to three sites in India in the summer of 2013 to share our knowledge and the financial assistance made possible by our donors at home.  

We are, clockwise from left:  Randy is a first year occupational therapy student, Sonika is a second-year medical student, Courtney and Jen are in the final year of the nursing program, and Jody is a first year occupational therapy student.  

We are very excited to meet the people who run and live at the NGO sites in India.  We are grateful to the IHI 2012 team who made this possible for us, and set a great example of how to make a program like this work.   We will be posting regular updates about our travels here.  Stay tuned

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back At It!

We are all home safe and sound and getting settled back into the school routine. We are looking forward to sharing our stories and experiences with everyone at school and in the community, but it is also time to begin to choose the 2013 India Health Initiative team!

Below is the link to the application form for those interested in being part of this amazing initiative. Please fill this out and email it to by Sept 26th. After reviewing the applications, interviews will be held to help choose the team. Thank you in advance for your interest and we are excited to meet all of the applicants!

Click here for the application form.


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Comprehensive Rural Health Project

The team is wrapping up our week at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project and getting ready for our individual travelling adventures. This past week at CRHP has been an incredible learning experience. CRHP is focused on providing primary healthcare to the rural villages surrounding Jamkhed by providing resources, education and training to the villagers to promote sanitation, physical and mental health, and equal rights for all. We spent our time here learning about how CRHP accomplishes this using the 3-tier Jamkhed model. 

The first tier is the community. CRHP facilitates many groups, including a women's group, young farmer's club, adolescent girls group, and adolescent boys group, as well as provides training for 1-2 village health workers per village. The village heath workers are women who are chosen by their community to provide and educate villagers about healthcare. We have been lucky enough to meet many of these inspiring women and hear their stories. These women have gone from being discriminated against to now being the rock of the community. They have learned preventative healthcare strategies that have alleviated many issues that once caused mortality and hate through the training they have received from CRHP. 

The second tier is the mobile health clinic/team. The mobile health team bridges the gap between the community and the health professionals. This interprofessional team is made up of a nurse, social worker, doctor, paramedic and development personnel. The team conducts weekly home visits as well as works with the village health workers to collect vital statistics for healthcare monitoring. We had the opportunity to visit local villages with one of the social workers who is very active within the community and is a member of the mobile health team. It was a moving experience to see how the village people live and how the community helps each other. We were impressed when we saw the simple yet effective techniques used for diagnostics and treatment within the villages.

The final tier is the Julia hospital, situated on the CRHP campus. The hospital has 50 inpatient beds and is equipped with diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Using a sliding scale fee structure this allows the less fortunate to afford the services and treatments needed. The hospital also hosts weekly cataract surgeries and monthly family planning camps free of charge to all patients. Ravi (the son of the founders of CRHP) gave us a great tour of the hospital. We were amazed to hear that there has not been any post-op infections in the past 40 years. 

CRHP has also helped facilitate an intricate watershed program in the district which allows communities to collect water and prevent erosion. Another project facilitated by CRHP is their organic farm. It provides food for the community and campus, as well as provides a source of income for the organization. It is run by women who have been outcasted from their community due to stigmatized illnesses or violence, providing them with a home and self-fulfillment.

Our time at CRHP has given us a new perspective on healthcare. The way the community utilizes their resources from within is not only sustainable it is effective. Hearing the stories of some of the villagers who  overcame illness and stigma to become a valued part of their community reinforces the impact of the Jamkhed model. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn and experience the effects of the services provided by CRHP. We are eager to see how this new knowledge will influence our future health practices at home. 

As we prepare to leave CRHP and reflect back on the past five weeks we are amazed at everything we have learned and experienced. Although our time volunteering in India has come to an end, the experiences we have gained will influence us for the rest of our lives.  We are so grateful for the time we have spent at each NGO and we are looking forward to our next adventures travelling through India.

The team exploring the organic farm on a bullet cart

Women washing clothes in a nearby village

As we visit with a village health worker

Learning from the Young Farmer's Club

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A little time off..

Following our time at FFC the team had decided to take a week to tour the beautiful state of Kerala. First we made our way to Allepey where we planned to spend 2 nights houseboating. Choosing a boat was an adventure in itself and the team had a lot of fun looking at all of the different types of boats. After some intense negotiations we found a boat and were off to explore the backwaters of Allepey! We really enjoyed our time singing, dancing, eating, and playing cards on the boat amidst the lush backwaters.

Following our houseboating adventure the team went to Cochin for 4 nights of sight seeing, beach adventures and amazing food! We were lucky enough to visit a spot where elephant trainers bathe their elephants in the early morning. The team had a lot of fun! Especially with the baby elephant. After our four nights in Cochin we began to make our way up to our final NGO but not before stopping in Bangalore for one night. While in Bangalore the team climbed trees in the beautiful parks, visited several art galleries, a museum, an aquarium and even made a trip (or two) to a McDonald's in town.

After a really fun evening we woke up the next day to catch our 20 hour train ride to Pune where we were all very excited to be picked up by our final NGO - the Comprehensive Rural Health Project in Jamkhed. We are now in Jamkhed taking in all of the history of CRHP and learning the stories of the village health workers we have met. It is amazing to meet so many people with such truly inspiring stories. Stay tuned for more updates!

Going for a swim
Our home for 2 days

Catching some fish in Fort Kochi

Our group with an elephant after his bath

Monday, July 16, 2012

At Families For Children

Hello To Everyone at home!

Our time at Families for Children came and went soo quickly. The team had an amazing time there and we all would have loved to stay longer. We were soo lucky to have been at FFC at the same time as Susan Dutton, the coordinator for the schools, and her son Timmy. Sue showed us around the campus and was very helpful in directing us to areas that needed the most help. She provided us with a great deal of insight into the organization and was also great company!

We were able to see some of the donations from last year's team. The high school/training facility bring built for kids with special needs is under way and should be finished in September. The dividers in the classrooms are being used effectively and provide some increased organization.

While at FFC we all helped in our own way, each using our personal strengths. We were each able to create our own individual routines for how we spent our time. We would like to share a few highlights to give you an idea what we were all up to.

Paige: helped with feeding kids in the extra special care unit every morning, spent a lot of time in the special education classroom singing songs and doing fine motor activities, visited the toddler room often, ended the day taking the kids in the extra special care unit outside for some sunshine.

Aleshia: helped with feeding the kids in the extra special care unit, taught the school kids proper hand hygiene using a catchy song (all of the kids were singing it by the end of the week!), shadowed the nurse while they distributed medications and provided wound care, visited the special education classroom, ended the day taking the kids in the extra special care unit outside for some sunshine.

Michelle: Spent a lot of time in the adult special care unit helping the women there with different activities and crafts, visited the toddler room often, read stories in English for the children at story time in the library.

Ashok: worked out with the boys EVERY morning, spent time in the preschool and primary classrooms daily, helped with feeding in the extra special care unit, taught the school kids proper oral hygiene with Dave, played with the schoolkids in the yard.

David: helped with feeding in the extra special care unit, played singing games with the special care school and preschool, spent time in the primary school classrooms, read stories during library story time, and then played more singing games.

There was so many things to do at FFC with very little time. We wish we had a little longer. We all fell in love with the children, staff and the environment. We kept very busy! We woke up early in order to squeeze as much in as possible. 

These are other highlights of our week at FFC:
- On Sunday, which is a holiday for everyone we spent the day hanging out with the kids. We brought all of the boys to the grounds for some playtime, which was great! In the afternoon Paige, Aleshia and Michelle visited the girls and painted everyone's nails while Dave and Ashok gave the boys temporary tattoos, since they all loved Ashok's real tattoo so much.  
- Spending the afternoon singing and dancing with the adults in the extra special care unit.
- Lunchtime- some of the most delicious meals were eaten in that canteen.
- Dance class! Very tiring and a little embarrassing, but so much fun. A great dance teacher and some very talented kids who taught us a lot.

The team relaxing at the waterfalls
Singing and dancing the afternoon away in the adult special care unit

Joining in with the grade 4/5 dance class

Kevin giving the thumbs up sign at the gounds

After taking the boys to the grounds to play sports on Sunday morning

Painting the girls nails on Sunday afternoon

Circle time in the special education classroom

Morning work out

Playing in the yard before lunch

Dental hygiene and hand hygiene lesson

Preschool kids
Sleeper train to the next destination- Alleppey for some house boating

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Recap Of Our Time At ASSA

Three weeks have gone by so fast and it seems we are due for another update. The team has been at Families for Children for 5 days and it has been wonderful, but before I get into the details I'd like to talk more about our time at ASSA.

Like we've said before, our time at ASSA was great and we really felt at home. The staff and the residents were so welcoming and taught us a lot about our professions and ourselves.

The occupational therapists, Ashok and myself (Paige) spent a lot of time with the physio therapists watching and learning while they stretched children (residents and outpatients) and the patients in the spinal cord unit. However, our skills were most valuable in the new sensory room that was created in the Sangamam school. They did a great job creating an environment to help stimulate the children and we were able to contribute some new toys and knowledge from Canada. The physio therapists were so excited about the sensory toys we brought from home and Ashok and I created a presentation to teach them a little more about sensory integration, when it is useful, our experience using a sensory room at home, and some of our recommendations for their sensory room.

The medical students, David and Michelle spent a lot of time in the spinal cord unit with the doctor and patients. They participated in rounds every morning and learned a lot about neurology and the nature of spinal cord injuries from both the doctor and the patients. They also created an informative presentation for the physio therapists about new research in spinal cord injuries. It was well received and a learning experience for all of us.

As Aleshia mentioned previously, she worked with the nurse doing wound care in the spinal cord injury unit and also benefited from the knowledge shared by the doctor and the patients. Her hand hygiene presentation, which was delivered to the physio therapists, the patients in the spinal cord unit, and the rest of the IHI team, was informative and effective. She was proactive in creating posters that described the proper way to wash your hands and posted them throughout the campus.

On our day off one of the physiotherapists, Subu and her family accompanied us to Kanyakamari, the southern tip of India. Here we watched the sunrise, visited a few temples, and walked through the Gandhi museum. On our way home we stopped at a gorgeous waterfall and spent an incredible couple of hours relaxing and exploring. We ended the evening at Subu's home to have a meal with her family. It was a great experience. The team was humbled and honoured to have been invited and overwhelmed by the hospitality.

Other highlights of ASSA:
- spending time in the community with a physiotherapist visiting a sister school of ASSA and the homes of patients
- playing Carrom with the residents of the spinal cord unit
- meeting fellow volunteers from India
- watching residents of ASSA put on a dance show

We ended our stay at ASSA by presenting our dance from Evening in India to the kids, teachers, physiotherapists, residents of the spinal cord unit, and the secretary and his family. We had to work hard to remember the steps, but it went well and I think everyone appreciated our effort. It was very sad to say goodbye to everyone who had welcomed us with open arms and taught us so much. However, we had to continue on this wonderful journey.

The team is happy, healthy and excited for the upcoming adventures. We are finishing off our week at FFC now- an update with more details will be coming soon!

 Our first train ride-Passenger class. As you can see it is quite crowded, but surprisingly we still all have smiles on our faces after 2 days of straight travel. ASSA here we come. 

Making new friends at ASSA
 Piling into our first auto rickshaw

 The team with the physio therapists at ASSA

 Our trip to Kanyakamari with Subu and her family

 Playing carrom with the guys in the spinal cord unit

 After a game of 7 rocks with the girls

Dave playing the mandolin as the resident kids wait for their physio

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our 2 weeks at ASSA has almost come to a close. It has been a wonderful introduction to India. We have been treated very well and we will be sad to leave this community. No matter who enters they are accepted for who they are.
Aleshia: From a nursing prospective, this little piece of heaven looks at health from many different avenues. The health care providers here look at the whole person, not just the limitation. The health care team collaborates together to help the patients/residents achieve their individual goals. The patients/ residents here are very involved in their own learning about their health. They are constantly searching for new best practices that they can apply to their conditions. I have focused my energies on hand hygiene awareness throughout the campus. I have done presentations to physiotherapists, nurses, personal care providers and patients on the importance of proper hand hygiene and good techniques. I have also shared some knowledge/ skills to allied health professionals on wound care. I have learned a great deal about holistic health during my time here. I look forward to sharing what I have learned with my colleagues back home. I can't wait to experience what lies ahead.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Our Arrival!

Hello readers!

After nearly 65 hours of plan train and automobile travel we arrived safely in Ayikudi to volunteer at our first NGO - Amar Seva Sangam. It has already been an incredible learning experience for all of us and we have been truly humbled by the hospitality and friendliness we have received from all of the people we have met so far. We are looking forward to spending the next 11 days at ASSA.

Stay tuned for more updates!

IHI 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

...And they're off!

Well everyone, it's finally here! The team is leaving from Toronto airport tomorrow afternoon. Thanks again to everyone at UWO and in the community who has helped us with planning, fundraising, advice, etc. We'll update over the course of the summer as we're able.

Speaking for myself (Dave), I'm feeling extremely excited and, to be honest, just a little bit nervous. Excited because it's always great to see long-laid plans come to fruition, and because I can't wait to see and experience and learn everything that I can squeeze out of this incredible opportunity. Nervous because this is certainly the most adventurous travel I've ever done. I've done some interesting travelling (i.e. hitchhiking around the Maritimes last summer), but I've never been anywhere with such potential for culture shock. Or where I had to be really careful about drinking water. Or where it's 45 degrees. In the shade. But all these little things are really dwarfed by the excitement.

So here we go! Dive in headfirst, carpe diem, and all that.  We'll update as we can from India. First stop: Amar Seva Sangam in Ayikudi!

P.S. Yeah, that's right, Ayikdui first. I had the dates switched in my blog post from a few weeks ago.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Your donations at work!

We got word from Families for Children the other day about their new vocational training building that's going up. A lot of the funds donated by last year's team went into this project, so it's great to see progress being made. Here's a few photos of the construction in progress:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photos are Up and DVDs are Available!

Here is a link for photos of the evening! (Evening in India 2012 Photographs)

If you'd like to order a DVD of the evening for $10, please email us at by May 4th.

Again, a huge thank you to Dr. Dev Sainani for the filming and creating a DVD, and to Dr. Sydney Siu for photographs of the evening!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Evening in India wrap-up

It's over! An Evening in India was a big success this year. We have lots and lots of people to thank - all the performers, all the people who helped with organizing the program, food, silent auction, hall, etc., and, of course, everyone who attended. We're still finalizing some of the accounting, but it looks like the total amount raised is about $6000 - we're so pleased! This money will make a big difference to the NGOs we're working with this coming summer.

The plans for the trip are coming along - we've all got our visas and vaccinations taken care of, and slowly but surely everything is falling into place.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A little more about the 2012 team

Well, it seems high time to say a little more about this year's team. Here's a brief bio on everyone:


My name is Paige Doherty and I am very honoured to be a part of this amazing initiative. I completed my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education at Wilfred Laurier University and am currently in my first year in the occupational therapy program at the University of Western Ontario. A combination of my volunteer experiences working with seniors and with people with intellectual disabilities as well as my education has led me to pursue a career in occupational therapy. I was fortunate to be able to travel last year and through that experience I have learned many things about myself and about others. Travelling gave me an appreciation and respect for different cultures and has piqued my interest in global health. All of these experiences have shaped who I am and make me a unique part of the 2012 IHI team. As an occupational therapy student I have begun to truly appreciate the value of holistic care and I am very excited to put what I have learned to use in India. I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope to provide the people I meet in India with as much kindness and knowledge as I will inevitably receive from this experience.

Hi, I’m Michelle, one of the first year medical students on the 2012 team. I’m very excited to be going to India this summer! I first became fascinated about India as a gallery guide at the Art Gallery of Ontario when they had an exhibition about the Maharaga, the Indian Royalty. It was amazing to learn about the culture and customs as well as some differences between the classes. My interests in international health and public health have thus far mostly been from a research standpoint. Having an
engineering and research background, I have always been interested in learning about global and public health advances. Now, I would like to have a hands-on-approach. I would love to travel and see where these advances would be of most use. I hope to feel that I have made a difference in patients’ experiences, as well return to Canada with a wealth of knowledge that I can use to help advocate for improved health care systems worldwide. And a bonus would be being able to do a bit of ‘real’ hot yoga in my spare time.

My name is Ashok Ramchandani, I am a first year Occupational Therapy Student at UWO. I was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I did my undergraduate degree at Lakehead University majoring in psychology with a minor in gerontology.  My background is Indian, both my parents were born and raised in Bombay, India. When the opportunity to join IHI came to my attention I thought it would be an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about my cultural background. I have never been to India before but all of my familial roots are there. I have always wanted to travel to India and learn more about my background and visit the place where my parents grew up, however, the opportunity never presented itself until now. When I learned about IHI and what the team does while in India it convinced me further. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with the NGO's in India and have a positive impact on the lives of many people there. So far being a member of the 2012 IHI team has been great! We are well underway in fundraising and planning our Evening in India event which I am very excited for.

My name is Aleshia Denny and I am in my final year of nursing at UWO in the compressed program. I have an honors degree in Health Sciences with a specialization in rural and remote communities also from UWO.  This program gave me solid foundation in Community Development and Rural Health, as well challenged me to explore topics on aging, health promotion, ethics, occupational health and safety, palliative care, quality of life and alternative therapies. I’m from Gowanstown, Ontario.  I am a true country girl at heart and I love to travel and experience different rural areas around the world. I have been very fortunate to have travelled to Rwanda, Cuernavaca & Nicaragua with my previous Health Sciences degree. Thus far, most of my nursing experiences have included mother/baby, geriatrics, mental health, community and the emergency department.  I am enjoying every opportunity this experience has offered so far. I look forward to broadening my nursing skills and knowledge beyond the classroom and am ready for all the excitement and new experiences this India mission’s trip will present. Together, our interprofessional team will collaborate to attain the goals we have set for this year. IHI Team 2012…This is going to be an experience of a life time! 

Hi everyone! My name is David Wonnacott, and I'm in my first year of medical school at UWO. I grew up here in London and took off to Kingston for my undergraduate degree at Queen's. I changed majors many times but graduated eventually; my degree says mathematics and economics on it. I've come back to London for medical school, and I'm loving it so far. I really wanted to learn more about how health care is delivered in other parts of the world and how health care is shaped by the culture, demographics, economics and politics around it. Developmental economics was one of my favourite courses in my undergraduate career, and I was really interested in how economic development and health care are intertwined - and almost all of the studies we talked about on the subject came out of India! The India Health Initiative seems like a great opportunity to help improve health care delivery in some underserviced areas and to learn as a medical student and as a global citizen. I hope to see you all out at the Evening in India fundraiser on the 30th, it'll be a great time and we're all excited about it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Evening in India 2012

The 2011-2012 IHI team is excited to announce this year's Evening in India fundraiser! This year, the show will be at London Central Secondary School, from 7:00 to 9:30 on Friday, March 30th. The theme is Festivals of India, and acts will represent festivals from religious traditions and regions all over India. Besides these wonderful performances, there will be a silent auction and refreshments for sale. Tickets will be $20, or $15 for students and seniors, or get a GOLD ticket for $40 that comes with a tax receipt. It'll be a great show and community event. 

We're very grateful for all the help and support we're getting from the community - this fundraiser and organization wouldn't work without it!