Papers, Puppets, and Feet

Today was somewhat of a quiet day at CRHP as we all came to the startling realization that in the midst of experiencing India and CRHP, we had forgotten that our paper is due tonight! With all of the amazing opportunities we have had for exchange of culture and an exclusive look at global health and development, it is has been easy to overlook the importance of more than experiencing—reflecting. So, many of us (well, the procrastinators) began our day in the library or another quiet location on campus chewing over all that we have experienced thus far. Particularly we contemplated those isolated incidents which have really forced us to look internally and question those values and behaviors which we normally don’t give a second thought to. These are incidents that have weighed heavy on our minds every night as we’re trying to fall asleep—those that may have made us feel uncomfortable, unsure, or surprised at what we had experienced but nevertheless have challenged us to think in a new way or see something in a new light.

Although many of us were entrenched in thought, the day wasn’t all work and no play. This morning we gathered, for the second time, with the village health workers. To our surprise our time would be spent being entertained by puppet shows, songs in Marathi, and short skits. The Art Group, made up of several village health workers, perform these dramas at CRHP and in villages as a form of health education. An alternative to lectures, this form of entertainment is appealing to people in the villages. After watching and listening to the songs and skits, people are better informed of preventative health practices and are able to recognize signs and symptoms of illnesses and diseases. We watched a selection of skits about such issues as child marriage, mothers-in-law caring for daughters-in-law during pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and its prevention, and family planning.

Later in the afternoon we gathered to watch a demonstration about the construction of artificial limbs. The Jaipur Foot, developed in Jaipur, India, is an impressive technology that CRHP has brought to the people of this region. The limb is constructed out of several materials. The foot is rubber and is flexible enough to bend the way an actual foot does when walking. Cosmetically, it looks like a human foot! The leg and calf are made out of a soft metal. Although the metal is malleable during the fitting, it can be later hammered to become a hard, durable metal suitable for daily use. We met one of the night watchmen at CRHP who has a Jaipur Foot and he has only had to have it replaced 3 during the course of 25 years! The limb allows people most of the functionality of a real leg so they are able to return to work or other physical activity. If you would like to read more about the Jaipur Foot check out http://www.jaipurfoot.org/default.asp.

We are all very excited to go to the Ellora Caves tomorrow with our celebrity guest Dr. Lambert who is arriving tonight! Everyone is very much looking forward to venturing off of the CRHP campus for a few days and a nice, long shower!

Advertisements

Second Volunteer Day – Working at the Farm

We have been at CRHP one week as of 7 AM today! It was our second volunteer day – different students worked at the preschool, Helping Hands (the women entrepreneur group), building a house, and at the farm. I was very excited to work at the farm because of the good experience that we had there when we first visited. Our group was a mix of our class and some Periclean Scholars who worked at the farm yesterday. The farm is 30-45 minutes away but I really enjoy the ride because it gives us a wonderful opportunity to sight see and focus on enjoying our environment. It is certainly rural here! The drive is mostly calm, except when large trucks and tractors drive past us, only inches away!

At the farm we cut corn, fed the cows, planted greens, weeded, and helped make (and taste test!) gooseberry candy. It is very peaceful there and everyone was friendly to us. The most meaningful part of the experience was after the work when we sat outside on a large blanket with the women and spent a few hours relaxing. As simple as that may sound, it was a lot of fun and certainly the defining part of the day. In addition to eating lunch, we saw wedding photos, listened to music, and the women drew beautiful henna tattoos on our arms, hands, legs, and feet. It was in those moments that I really experienced a connection to this experience and Indian culture. We received such incredible hospitality from the women. They were kind and friendly. It was a wonderful example of forging connections with new friends who come from a different worldview and life experience – not to mention that we managed to communicate and share with each other despite a language barrier. At the end of day we were sad to get in the van and leave. It was a very refreshing day because we had the opportunity to focus and enjoy each moment.

When we returned to campus, we had our second language lesson with Mina, the preschool teacher. We began with a lesson on wearing a sari – Anna was our model! I think we will need a few more lessons before any of us can actually put a sari on correctly! For our language lesson we studied prepositions, interrogation words, verbs, and body parts. Mina is very patient with us! We are lucky to be hosted by so many kind and welcoming people.

Burners and Braids

Due to some technical difficulties, this post was delayed- sorry for the inconvenience! Let’s pretend it’s Monday, January 9, 2012.

Being abroad requires much use of the back burner. All of your preconceived notions, expectations and assumptions? Acknowledge their existence, of course, but shove those guys on to the back of the stove because they’re only going to stop you from seeing what’s right in front of your face. Our experiences abroad abroad have taught us a few lessons: observe quietly, respectfully. Never judge. Realize that to you, these people may not have much but to them, they might have everything. Smile. Learn names. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to make a new friend.

Today we participated in our first village visit. It’s intimidating to walk into a village with the only instructions being to “observe” because it’s uncertain how the people will react to your presence. Some of the villagers looked at us quizzically; I thought they were probably wondering why several white foreigners suddenly appeared out of the blue. I then asked myself the same question: what is my motivation for being in this village? I realized that I did not simply come to “observe” but rather to explore, to seek understanding and to learn as well.

It was with these thoughts that I approached the group of kids standing near us. After some charades and guess-work, we learned each others names. I noticed that the girl closest to me had not yet finished braiding her hair, so I motioned and asked her if she would mind me finishing it for her. So I did, and after that she smiled and laughed and motioned for us to follow her. She then took Amelia, Caroline and I into her home and introduced us to her grandmother. She facilitated a boy to climb the tree next to their home and pick fruit for us to share. Later we all piled back into the van and we dropped off the girls at school, waving and smiling to our new friends.

After arriving back at CRHP we had an impromptu class meeting due to a cancelation, which morphed into a dynamic conversation about the impact of our trip. Many sophisticated perceptions were raised and considered, and we will hopefully continue this dialogue. Then we met with Shila (apologies if spelled incorrectly!) to debrief about the village visit. It was really beneficial to reflect on the experience and make sense of what we had seen, as well as ask questions both about CRHP and the Indian culture. Later we had a class with Dr. Shobha about child disease and the ways in which it can be treated and prevented simply, rather than with western medicine.

I think it’s easy to slip into the “us” and “them” mindset, to take a picture of a person and then forget that the portrait is a living, breathing, thinking human. Yet if we use photography, and any other means, to form connections with the people we encounter, we move to a “we” mindset. This mindset demonstrates the inter-connectedness of the world in which we all live, and how, when we put our American lenses on the back burner with the other extra fluff, we can truly see how similar we all are.

Namaste, Kas Kay?

As other students have previously written about CRHP there’s a preschool here. Today, a few of us had the unique experience of going to visit the slum where the kids are picked up from. We went with the main teacher of the preschool, Mina. It was pretty amazing to see the relationship that Mina  had with the people of community. As we walked around to make sure that all the children were coming for the day, Mina checked in with the families to see that everyone was okay. One woman in particular was pregnant, she had told us about how previously the woman had multiple miscarriages and Mina had taken her to the hospital to correct the problem. Going to the preschool two days earlier was a wonderful experience but to actually see where these kids came from made it worthwhile.  Especially walking up to the bus and it shaking with excitement and energy they all had to go to school was something that made me see how important this program is.

We also started our volunteering today. Half of our group went and helped at the preschool while my group went to the helping hands store to make crafts. Helping Hands is a program by CRHP in which women make crafts to sell in the villiages and to visitor to provide money for CRHP. While there, we helped to make coasters made from recycled broken bangles. These were very time consuming and made me appreciate the hard work and concentration that it takes to make all of these crafts. Also working side by side with the women we got to talk to them with the little English they knew and the international language of laughter By lunch time  the glue fumes were getting to our heads so it was good that we were done for the day.

After lunch we decided to go into town to pick up our clothes that we had made at the tailor and then go back to the store for further feed my shopping addiction, even in India I can’t escape it.  We also ventured to the Tea stand at the corner , the only word we’ve learn before this evening “Cha hah” in order to order the delicious chai tea. Not to mention my very first rick shaw ride, which was not as terrifying as it look and a very convenient way to get back to CRHP.

Later in the evening we had a Maharati language course this evening with Mina, the preschool teacher. We had fun struggling to pronounce all the different words and it will be nice to atleast attempt to communicate instead of spiting out English words that people outside CRHP clearly do not understand. As with every day I’m learning more and more about CRHP and seeing the amazing change that they create in the community, and getting more accustomed to our life here.

P.S. Mom–I’m never coming home.

Initial Reactions to Jamkhed

 

 

 
We haven’t even been here for 48 hours and I’ve already had so many wonderful experiences.

Thursday morning we all wandered around the CRHP campus. Some of my classmates got a private tour of the CRHP hospital from the hospital manager. Haley and I caught up with them for the end of the tour. We met a young woman who was a burn victim. I later found out that she was set on fire during a dispute with her mother-in-law. This young woman has a contraption set up so that a sheet drapes over her body but doesn’t touch her. It’s been a whole year since the incident and she still hasn’t healed. She has had to learn to sleep up-right so as not to ruin her dressings. Meeting someone who has to live with so much pain every day really puts things into perspective.
After the hospital, Haley and I wandered to the other side of campus where we saw a group of children playing on a little play ground. We saw the teacher and she told us we could play with the kids, so we joined right in with their recess activities! Haley pushed kids around on little cars and I played cricket with some of the kids. They loved having us adults there willing to run around with them and spoil them with attention. We loved that they were so happy to see us and included us in their games. The preschool teacher informed us that the children were from the village slum across the street. Friday morning we would learn exactly how close-by the slum is to the CRHP campus.

Friday morning, Haley, Krista and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. One of the volunteers at the agency, Kris (an older woman from Belgium who has been here before) got up from the breakfast table and said she it was time for her to go to the slum and pick up the pre-schoolers. We asked her if we could go along and she said of course. The three of us accompanied Kris and the preschool teacher, (Mina? a nice Indian woman) to the slum. We took a little yellow van over and it was literally a 5 minute drive down the road. When we got to the area, we all got out of the van and walked around to announce that the van was there to take all the kids to preschool. The slum was like nothing I had ever seen before. Whole families live in these tiny one-room huts. If they own animals, they keep them right out front. They have to cook and bathe outside. They use cow dung to make the fire to cook their food. We met a beautiful 12 year old girl who had just gotten married. There were other girls who looked like they were younger than me who were pregnant. Almost all of the young girls were carrying a baby on their hips. Some of the young boys looked like they were going to school; others were helping their fathers with the animals. They were all so excited to see us. Many of the people we met asked us to take their picture because they enjoyed seeing themselves on the camera screen. An old lady wanted her picture taken and we got in the photo with her. She was so excited to be in a photo; after it was taken she did a hand gesture that means “I love you”. It was so touching that this simple act of taking a photograph could make someone so happy. It’s hard to complain after seeing little children taking care of babies, living in dirt homes. The fact that they were still smiling says a lot about the human spirit.

I’m excited to continue to step out of my comfort zone and experience rural India. I’m also excited to witness the changes CRHP continues to make in the lives of the people living in the Jamkhed district.

Photos from January 8th

We’ve had some technical difficulties getting photos on the blog, but they seemed to be solved (temporarily at least!).  We had a busy day which started with a session with the adolescent girls group who demonstrated their fierce karate moves, their knowledge about nutrition, and a play about the evils of child marriage.

We also visited CRHP’s demonstration farm where we learned about their organic sustainable farming practices, the medicinal and nutritious crops they grow, and also had fun taking a ride in the bullock cart and milking a cow.

The Real Day 1

Today was our first real day here at CRHP, having mostly recovered from our long journeys and jetlag. Most of us were up at the lovely hour of 5 am, awoken by crazy bird sounds and too much sleep. After breakfast and a little down time, we had the awesome opportunity to meet with 4 of the village health workers that carry out CRHP’s model in their communities. They graciously shared their inspiring stories with us through a translator, and really opened our eyes to exactly how and why this model works.

We then met with Dr. Shoba Arole, the daughter of the CRHP founders and the current medical director, who shared more detailed information about the comprehensive integrated approach that CRHP takes. We drew some very interesting comparisons between other nations and other models of public health, and it was overall very enlightening and stimulating as we all became more and more acquainted with their organization and methods.

We had lunch, and then many of us decided to venture into Jamkhed town to see that part of the community and purchase some traditional Indian clothing. This was the first time that the language barrier really smacked us in the face, as we tried to ask questions and select fabrics with only points and nods. The fabric and clothing store where we made most of our purchases was three stories, each floor seemingly more overwhelming and laden with beautiful fabrics than the next. We finally emerged hours later and took our selections to the tailor to be measured. For what translates to merely 2 or 3 US dollars, we were able to have a whole outfit custom cut and stitched from the fabrics that we had bought.

The excitement continued with a welcome dinner on a rooftop terrace as the day faded into a lovely cool evening. We were treated to more “American” style food such as grilled veggie skewers, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and french fries. The night finished off with a bang, as fireworks lit up the night sky in our honor. What a wonderful welcome to an amazing experience here at CRHP!