Written by SJ Renfroe
It is still my first week being at CRHP, and already I have learned so much about community-oriented health which is sustainable and based on pursuing human dignity and equality. In order to better understand CRHP’s programs in action, I went with a group of students to Pimperkhed, one of CRHP’s largest Project Villages about 45 minutes from campus.
Once we got to the village, we stepped out into the warm Indian morning and walked into a small preschool building. We peeled off our shoes at the entrance, stepped inside, and joined a group of young children and older women sitting in a semi-circle.
Voices floated around the room as the women greeted each other and the children eyed us newcomers shyly. As everyone quieted down, one boy with an especially sweet smile was urged to stand up. He sang for us, and then the murmur of conversation resumed.
Soon, one of the Village Health Workers, a woman named Akila, began to demonstrate her work on the women gathered around us. She took blood pressure, measured waists (for diabetes risk), and boiled a urine sample (a tool used to monitor individuals who have diabetes). She demonstrated how she taught the adolescent girls in the village about these health issues, and a few of the girls recited to us in Marathi some of the lessons they had learned about diarrhoea and menstruation.
As we left, our guides explaining that we would be driving to a nursery. When we arrived, we saw rows upon rows of small lemon trees, and Akila posed with one seedling under the green tarp of the greenhouse.
We followed Surekha, a Mobile Health Team member and translator, into the fields behind the greenhouse, past cows dozing and goats butting heads. Surekha pointed to the lemon trees planted along the left side and picked a green bean from a bush next to her. She showed us the bean, explaining that the women grew these vegetables and sold them in the Saturday market in Jamkhed. She pointed to grass upon which the cows would feed, gave us small eggplants to hold, and showed us the corn which was just starting to emerge from the ground. We marveled at the various plants, understanding that most rural Indian women did not have such a farm. These women had purchased the land using a loan they received through CRHP, and they farmed through a co-op framework. When we returned to the main house, Surekha pointed to the goats. “She bought just one goat,” she explained, pointing to a nursing mother, “and then this goat had babies. She will sell two of the babies and keep one.” In this way, the women of Pimperkhed slowly grow their co-op and increase their stability, as well as pursue gender equality. It is their method and route toward achieving empowerment.
Next, we went to the house of a large family. We sat in a circle and an older woman brought us tea to sip as the family asked us, and Surekha translated, whether or not we were married. We laughed and chatted about our significant others and showed the family pictures, as everyone passed around photos and talked about marriage customs and how people raise their children in the villages. We saw a young woman bathing an infant, and Surekha explained that the mother had learned how to bathe her child correctly and maintain proper hygiene through CRHP’s Adolescent Girls Program. Surekha pointed to a man sweeping the cow shed and said that he too was a member of one of the community groups led by CRHP workers.
Lastly, we visited an animal farm that was part of the women’s co-op. There were cows, goats, and chickens, with minuscule chicks hiding under their mother hen’s feathers. A man reached down and plucked one chick, then two, then three, and placed them in our hands. Each of us cooed and giggled as the tiny creatures peeped and dancing around our palms in such innocent confusion.
Our ride back to CRHP was pleasantly bumpy, with the smell of incense and gravel wafting into the car with the warm, humid wind.