UPDATE APRIL 2007
Dear friends, namaskar.
One of the main improvements this month has been our water supply. Up until last month we were trying since long to get govt. funding for the boring of a tube well for our water supply, as this is an official funding scheme for rural areas. Finally after a long beaurocratic application procedure it was approved, but the authorities gave us only at this late time the project budget, which turned out to be enormously high due to additional facilities which we don’t need. Because of this our compulsory financial participation of 10% would cost us more than our investing in a simple tube well on our own. When this became clear we hired a contractor to get the boring done and then installed a pump. Now at last we have our own reliable source of water on our own property.
Middle of April we held our first “eye-camp”, meaning the distribution of free eye-glasses to villagers. This was after an optometrist had come twice from Bokaro city to our clinic end of March and as a voluntary service tested the eyes of more than 70 villagers. According to his detailed prescription list glasses were selected from our stock of donated glasses, which had been collected and brought to us by volunteer Ronald Browning of England. The prescribed glasses which were not available in our stock were donated by a local NGO “Helping Hands” of Bokaro, which also arranged for an opthalmologist to oversee the glasses distribution. On the same day we also distributed donated clothes from Singapore as well as nearby Bokaro to over 100 villagers.
In March we saw 969 patients, averaging at 36 patients per day. This is the highest number since many months and at least in part due to the harvesting season being over, so that more villagers find the time to come to the clinic. We cleaned 27 drinking water wells in 3 villages during the weekly village programs.
March was our last month of these water hygiene programs, which we’ve been conducting on a weekly basis since the last rainy season - well cleaning and disinfecting with chlorine powder, spraying of stagnant surrounding water with diluted phenyl against parasites, educating the villagers about the need for all this and showing them how to do it on their own. For the next few months we have started again the weekly village programs focusing on nutritional education. Last year this was done in the form of a lecture to the villagers, along with demonstrating to them the plants which they can use to enrich their diet with more vitamins and minerals. Now we’ve successfully started our new project of educating the villagers about nutrition through a drama, performed in the local dialect of Khortha so that all can easily understand it even if they’re illiterate. After many weeks of searching out the most suitable group of local actors to hire, we trained them intensively and rehearsed for several days to further improve the script and their acting. The story is about villagers who fall ill of various diseases due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as blindness (Vit. A deficiency), muscular disorders (Vit. B deficiency), cough and cold (Vit. C deficiency) and anaemia (iron deficiency). They gradually learn through a health worker about the causes of their problems and about how they can easily help cure and prevent these diseases by taking more vegetables in their diet, esp. green leafy vegetables and raw vegetable salads (most fruits are too expensive for them and therefore not realistic for their diet). Since a highly entertaining drama will last longer in anyone’s memory, the acting and script include plenty of comedy.
Finally we had the drama group perform at a neighbouring village and we filmed it. The film was transferred to a DVD, and from now on we will be showing the film at villages on a weekly basis with a DVD player, projector, sound system and lead-acid batteries as a mobile power supply (as many villages here have no electricity).
The first two screenings have been successful despite various technical problems such as quickly draining batteries due to the projecting and sound amplification. Around 200 villagers came each time and enjoyed the program. The second screening was in the same village as the first screening, because some could not come the first time or understand it well enough, so that they requested us to show them the film again.
What’s more important, we’ve already gotten very positive feedback after asking more than 20 of the villagers whether they could understand the points made and whether they will put it into practice in their daily diet. Almost all of them said that they’re now taking more vegetables in their meals. We will continue to get detailed individual feedback after the upcoming screenings, from a representative group of people from the audience. The first results are very encouraging and show that this project is helping in a concrete way to improve the health situation of the villagers of this region. 80-90% of them suffer from chronic malnutrition, which is the root cause of most of the diseases they come to us with, including widespread cerebral palsy, which affects children at an early age with spastic paralysis and mental retardation.
Thanks to all for your interest and help.