Field experiences in Child Health- the Joy of Giving

Amidst Sahyadris, In the foothills of Torna Fort, Doctors come to village, to learn, and to teach.

Here is the story of one of the most memorable events in my college life. I was an intern in B. J. Medical College, Pune and a part of an informal social group in the college called ‘Prachiti’. We were excited about the coming Joy of Giving week, but no concrete plans had come up.

Mr Ashwin, from a private company CSR came to me, referred by a mutual friend, to arrange doctors for a school health check-up camp as part of Joy Of Giving Week. I was glad, and we started upfront. It was Friday, and the camp was to start from Sunday. The dean said he couldn’t provide any doctors, I asked for permission from PSM department (which controls the internship duties), and they said, verbally, that interns could participate, if the respective departments could adjust. As the message spread, people came together, and the best part about my college was that people were ever-ready for such initiatives, and I had a great batch, with many such friends. Getting medicines was another problem, and we went to IMA (Indian Medical Association), Pune. They said, take whatever you want, but their store had nothing except iron tonics, and few antibiotics. We took whatever they had.

I will summarise things daywise.

Day 1- Friday- Mr Ashwin met me in the college canteen. We went to the dean, HOD PSM, and others; without much help. but now at least I could quote PSM HOD, who, told- Permission Granted. Later, we went to IMA and got whatever was available. As an intern, you learn the most important lesson- Jugaad (as we have to arrange gloves, syringes, sample collection bulbs etc in the government hospital where these are either hidden by nurses or hoarded by other co-interns)

Day 2- The activity was to begin the next day, but we still did not know who was going. My friends came to rescue, and many of them were ready. Also, I took my juniors.

What all this was about?

  1. Conducting school health check-up of 600 students.
  2. Spreading health and hygiene awareness.
  3. Treating simple conditions and referring serious cases.
  4. Conducting street plays, health awareness campaigns for school children, in a manner that can catch their attention and deliver the message.

I did not say much to my friends, as I myself was unaware of how we would take this ahead and

The Torna Fort greets us, as we reach near Velha. This is also the base camp for trekking and reaching the fort. The surroundings were lush green, and on the first day of our camp, it rained heavily. Maybe, God blessed us.

what we were to do, but somehow, we got ready, a team of 12 people, on day 1. There was an unexpected surprise, one of our pediatric resident was brother of Deepti, a volunteer from the company that approached us; and when he came to meet her in the morning, he agreed to come along with us. What luck! Besides guiding us, this also provided some legitimacy to our cause, as we could now say, yes, resident doctors also came with us.

During college years, we are taught theoretical things, and here, I had taken responsibility for conducting a School Health Camp for 12 villages, in a remote tribal area, not knowing how we would be proceeding. But- It turned out to be a success, and a learning experience for all the participants.

We purchased some medicines, and went ahead. Early morning, Mr. Ashwin came with his team, and we left for Velha, 90 kms from Pune- a 3 hours journey on rural roads of western ghats, surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Velha is a taluka/tehsil, but looks more like a village. It is the most backward tehsil of Pune district, as the terrain is hilly and that makes life difficult. The girls here drop out of school after Primary classes as the Middle and Secondary schools are far and terrain is undulated, hence difficult for commutation. The boys either drop out or move to schools called ‘Ashram Shaala’, which are residential government schools for tribals.

The village school in one of the villages. School Children, waiting outside.

It was the end of Monsoons and the whole area was green, lush and beautiful, the pictures will tell about that.

Our Dispensary, where the drugs were given. So the child first went for height and weight, then to the lab, proceeding to the doctor and finally to the drug counter. Wonderful experience. And great fun dealing with the little ones

Now, I am making it a pictorial story.

The end of Day 1, and we pose together. Would possibly never see these children again, but it took just a minute to befriend them.
In the background is the van which carried our medicines, and was to serve as a mobile dispensary, but was seldom used. The first day, we knew nothing, but started off as we reached there, setting up out camp.
We went to the first school, and somehow, everything felt into place. I took the task of guiding my juniors and friends, and delegating the work. The children sat patiently when one by one, they first went to get their height and weight checked, which was matched with the Malnutrition charts to rule out any growth retardation. Then, their blood group was checked and finally, a doctor examined them. But, the remaining children were kept busy in various activities.
Clean Hands, Healthy Child:
We as doctors were told how important hand washing was. Germs of diseases from common cold, to Influenza, Hepatitis A and E, diarrhoeal diseases, Meningitis  spread through unclean hands. Conveying this to our tiny tots was a challenge- and we got innovative.
A small poem with demonstration told them of the six steps of complete hand washing. 
It went like this: 
‘sabun lekar sabse pehle paani ko namaste,’- keeping the soap between both hands under running water, and rubbing them,
fir paani ki raani machli mili-‘ where one palm is placed on back of other hand, repeating on both hands, cleaning the back of hands,
machli ka pet faada’ where the webs of fingers are cleaned by fingers of other hand,
angoothe se bani chaabi’ the thumb is cleaned by putting it in the closed fist of another hand,
andar se nikli ghadi aur choodi’ –where both the wrists are cleaned, by the act of wearing a watch or bangle,
air humare haath ho gaye chaka chak’-  and this gave us clean hands on rinsing.
The children repeated the whole exercise, and many of them demonstrated it with water and soap. They were asked when to wash hands? And through another poem, told to wash hands after defecation and before every meal. They enjoyed the process, and compared with each other whose hands had become more chaka chak. (spotlessly clean).
All of us look on as the children proudly show their clean hands. The teachers were given soaps to ensure that this activity continued. The children were making all the actions of the poem as we were leaving for another school. 

 

This was our laboratory, where two friends checked blood group and Haemoglobin. We prepared a questionnaire which contained the basic health record and parameters to see, bringing uniformity, and recording the health status and treatment given. Chocolates were given before blood was taken, but the children showed courage, and voluntarily came for testing.
The Sun bid a goodbye, as we returned to Pune
Dinner at the only Restaurant in Velha, which is actually a tea shop. Ashwin ji having food as my friends look, sitting back.
The next day, Students in Varoti (another village) were lined up, neatly dressed. The villagers are sitting back, and this was the most disciplined set of children. Seriously. We did a lot of work, in less time, with lesser people. Had a talk with the villagers, treated them ,and the day passed by quickly. Now, we were experienced in this activity.
A controlled chaos descended as we started. Here, Sheetal, a volunteer is shown how much Vitamin A syrup is to be given to each child, as we put up the table.
The girls exchange skills. They teach us the moves, as well as the song.
volunteers give Vit.A syrup. The children take it gladly, and it helps them for the next 6 months. Vitamin A deficiency aggravates many infections, including measles.
Time for a skit by the children, and they were also taught new skits on Heath, which they improvised in a better, local form, teaching us to perform a better skit when we were to meet another set of children from a different village.
Children enjoy the skit, as ladies line up for check-up
The height-weight section, the lady outside watching.
Gents came next, and though all this was happening in the same room, it went very smoothly. This is me.
Ashwin ji at his best, with the tiny tots. They all know him. He has been working with this community for some time.
The children ended it with a Yoga session, an example of holistic healthcare, and we called it a day.
Goodbye time.
We were told later that children from the neighboring village had also come, for the check-up. They were dropped home.
Standing tall, it does feel good. Yippie.
This is among the most formal photos we clicked. I wonder why everyone looked so sober. But a nice pic.
The evening scenery, as we return.

Till now, it was easy to bring people, but now, as most of my friends had come, and it is not easy to get leave everyday, the question was – how to continue this for the next 4 days. Till now, we had few juniors with us, and they spread the word, through which many juniors were ready to come, but they were 2nd and 3rd year students, and how would they treat patients? Still, I managed to train them in the basic things, where expertise was not needed. Our health card was simple, and only the final task of examination and treatment was left for the doctor, the juniors doing everything else. The next day, we did a mammoth task. We were 25 of us, against the usual figure of 12. Most of them students. We had 8 interns, and divided ourselves into 2 groups, which would cover 2 villages and their surrounding areas. Students from Sinhagad Engineering College joined us and volunteers from the company reduced, as it wasn’t a weekend. And, we managed to do a great job.

This day, we were covering two schools, and one of them was from 8th to 10th. Thus, it was decided to conduct a class on sex-education for them. As we reached there, we first conducted a street play, before splitting into two. Here are the pictures.

It was an impromptu play, and it was fun. The guys sitting in the centre played the role of king and queen, who were curious about health of their subjects. One by one, medical cases were brought, and the Royal Physician, (the role that I played) told the assembled children how common cases should be tackled. This included immunisation, anaemia, dog and snake bites, malnutrition in children, worms etc.
The location of this school was scenic, between the hills, on a plateau, with a playground in front.
The girls wonder what is happening, the contrast between them and the city girls can be seen. 🙂 This was the only secondary school in that area, and a session on sex- education was conducted, for girls and boys separately. Many of them came with their thoughts, and knew a lot more than what we expected.
Here come the boys, they knew a lot about things which we were expecting to explain; and my friends later told that the sex-education part later was interactive and good.
The same play, repeated for tiny tots, with the King and queen seated in centre, as children watch.
Continuing this for the remaining week, we completed our work, and learnt the following things.
  1. Everyone, when in college, wants to do something good, but this potential is seldom utilised and channelised. There is a huge potential in our youth, which needs a direction to use their time, and find the purpose of their education as well as life.
  2. People join you, you just have to start working.
  3. The circumstances teach you everything- one cannot learn swimming without entering the water.
  4. Team-work is the key to success.
  5. Divide task, delegate work- This makes you a good leader.
  6. Have faith in your people.
  7. Give your best, with honesty and sincerity.

 

These seven days have left many memories with us- those beautiful hills of Sahyadri, those simple schools, our enthusiastic children- ready to learn and even outsmart us, the spirit of working together, the need of a healthy childhood, and realising that even small interventions like hand-washing, Vitamin A dosage, deworming tablets and health awareness can help children in staying healthy and getting sick less frequently. Diet plays a very important role in maintaining the immunity, and I remember my mother giving me a daily dose of Dabur Chyawanprash during winters, which ensured that I rarely caught cold in school. Healthy children make more productive citizens, and are able to perform better. Any initiative and investment in a child’s health is never wasted, and should be a priority. We were lucky to learn this, alongwith the Joy of Giving.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Amar Naik on November 19, 2013 at 6:07 am

    i have been associated with joy of giving, but never got a chance to express it through my blog 🙂
    nicely documented with beautiful pics. they will last forever in your memory. nice work 🙂

    http://amarnaik.com/2013/10/29/ayurdveda-for-our-future-generation-is-a-better-choice/

    Reply

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