Hello everyone. Sorry I haven’t given you any updates in a while. Internet was unreliable, and at the last days things get busy. On Thursday night I arrived back home to Philly, tired and a little sad. Although the trip is over there are many stories and anecdotes which I haven’t shared with you yet. So I’ll be sure to back track and post about those in the coming days.
Although I was in many ways ready to come home, I am never particularly pleased about leaving India. Being there, especially if you’re trying to do some productive work, is very challenging and frustrating. People don’t come through as promised, others try to discourage you or stall you for no reason other then they think you’re stupid to try and make improvements. People offer help and then don’t listen to you. Every errand takes 3 trips just because people in official positions like to be able to jerk foreign people around, wield their tiny amount of power. It’s draining. Add to that strong heat, all varieties of excess pollution, and no air conditioning, and anyone would get exhausted pretty fast.
These realities can be very discouraging, and sometimes make me very angry and disgusted with people in India. But when we leave someone’s office from another failed attempt to meet them I’m quickly reminded of why we’re working so hard in the first place. I see shanty-huts built with no permission doing swift business making and selling chai. I see kids who should be in school shinning shoes while their moms work at construction sites for very little pay. I’d seen these things before, but in this trip I was able to go further and see the rural areas where such people migrate from to work in cities. I saw their lifestyles and the allure of “big money” if they travel to cities as laborers. Now I understand better why shanty communities are built the way they are. Why there are livestock running around the streets of one of the biggest and most socio-economically progressive cities in India. Rural people move to cities to make money and bring their lifestyle with them. They keep their animals with them so they can atleast get some milk or meat from them. (Tribal peoples are often not vegetarian.) They don”t know what else to do, and have no where to go, so they make tents like their traditional dwellings on the sides of streets out of any materials they can find. Any money they save the send it back to their villages.
That’s perseverance. And it’s exemplified by the most ignored population that happens to make up the majority of the country: rural or urban, low income, traditional people. Of course a lack of basic needs makes one street smart in any environment, but the variations of cleverness to survive in harsh conditions that I’ve seen in India, I’ve never seen in the United States. To be fair, I haven’t gone looking for specific examples when I’m at home. But strangely, in America we don’t share the same culture of willingness to do whatever it takes to be self sufficient, although it is supposed to be part of our national character.
Maybe that’s why it comes more naturally and intuitively to me to think of solutions to social problems in India then it does in the United States, even though I grew up here. And even through by the end of each working trip we are exhausted and bit discouraged, I still feel sad when I board the plane to leave, and quickly start thinking of when I can come back, and what I’d like to do to make more progress. Because those who make our work difficult are the same ones who keep the majority of India’s population impoverished and illiterate. And we are working for latter.
So here is a short summary for you on the accomplishments we were able to make this summer:
Between two different rural health clinics we were able to:
- Screen 1300 patients for diabetes, hypertension, and other complaints.
- Screen 300 patients by ultrasound for thyroid, abdominal, or pelvic complaints.
- Teach and perform breast exams for almost 1000 women.
We were also able to facilitate a collaboration between the Rotary Club of Porterville-Noon in California and the Rotary Club of Himatnagar in Gujarat for the benefit of Shamlaji Community Hospital.
We were able to fulfill most of our goals, which we had communicated to the health minister of Gujarat last year. And we came into contact with new organizations and contacts which I think will be valuable and productive relationships in the future. I’ll comment on those in another post.