Written By Mitchell Wang, visiting student
“Hey! Welcome to CRHP! This is your room and if you need anything, just tell me, and I will get it for you.” A CRHP worker with a warm voice, optimistic tone and a big happy smiling face, welcomed me to this “brand new place”. As a high school student, I had never been to such a rural area or stayed in housing lower than a 5 star hotel.
The group of students, whether from college, grad school, or high school, had built a welcoming and friendly community in this place a thousand miles away from their homes. At CRHP, everyone tries to build this new home, with each other and the locals. Adapting to a new place is hard, especially when the culture is different from the one that has been influencing you since you were born. At first, walking around the CRHP campus, I tried to avoid eye contact with the locals because I felt strange and out of place. However, children were constantly yelling “Hi!” and “How are you?” and waving their hands as quickly as possible. The old, respected people also greeted me in accented English, “Good morning!” Quickly, the awkwardness and uncomfortableness vanished. Instead, my eagerness to blend into this mysterious and unique community in India grew exponentially.
I learned simple but effective technologies that make peoples’ lives in Jamkhed better, for example, soak pits and herbal medicine. As a shelter for insects including mosquitoes, dirty and used water troubles the local communities. Effectively reusing and restoring the water underground can largely eliminate insect related diseases like malaria. Soak pits, designed by the Mobile Health Team, contain six different layers of easily found material that can purify the water and make the ground water much safer for future use. Simple medicine like “limbu pani” made of salt, sugar, and lemon can easily prevent people, especially infants, from suffering dehydration after serious diarrhea
The passion of making Jamkhed a better place also surprised me. The Village Health Workers always try to spread the health knowledge learned from CRHP to the local community despite the hindrance of gender and caste discrimination. Serving as a bridge between the VHWs and the hospital, the Mobile Health Team members visit the villages frequently despite the bumpy roads and hot weather. The workers in the hospital are so dedicated that they make everything as organized as possible. For instance, they rank the seriousness of a patient and put him or her in a selected room that has the appropriate equipment and caring. Even the foreign workers and interns at CRHP try to contribute to the community by building advanced facilities like the Science Center, which provides lab classes for local students, and the aquaponics eco-system which aims to provide enough food for a family. In a word, everyone devotes their lives to doing the best they can and to making their communities better.
The people in CRHP are not afraid of speaking out about problems but instead try to combat them with determination. One of the members of the Mobile Health Team told me that she is more than willing to see women become empowered in the future as it is a huge problem in the communities. She tries to bring new notions and ideas to the people around her first and then to everyone. As a woman herself, her courage is exponential and admirable.
Learning about appropriate technology from the Mobile Health Team and a Village Health Worker
Another important thing I have learned is that one has to conduct thorough research before making any assumptions and policies. Before going to Jamkhed, I thought simply bringing doctors to the villages would be effective in solving the lack of health resources. However, after being in this environment for a week, I learned that doing so could cause many problems like distrust between villagers and outside people due to their unfamiliarity and different castes. Thus, from a public health stand point, fully investigating the problem before making any policies is very crucial.
For me, one of the biggest take-aways of going to Jamkhed and blending into this community is that I learned to be optimistic and grateful for the things that I have. Seeing houses made of simple bricks, hearing the buzz of mosquitos and flies continuously and smelling the waste of cows, goats and dogs, I realize how fortunate I am and more importantly, how happy the people in CRHP and the villages are. Their eagerness to tell me their fascinating stories, like having finally completed building a toilet, puts me to shame since I always complain about the unsteady wifi in India.
In a word, CRHP has been successful in handling problems like health, gender and caste discrimination in Jamkhed. I am looking forward to seeing other NGOs extend this method in other areas in the world or later even establishing one myself in China based on the Jamkhed Model.
The Mobile Health Team and myself