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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