UPDATE FEBRUARY - MAY 2008
Dear friends, namaskar.
I'm sorry that also this update is coming so late, more than a month delayed. As with the last update, also this time part of the problem was our still defective laptop computer. What first seemed to be only a software instability has turned out to be a serious damage to the main circuit board, probably due to the frequent voltage fluctuations in our area. This has complicated all our computer work as well as brought me many days of unsuccessful repair attempts. It can only be repaired properly in Singapore where it was bought, so we hope to get this done when I travel there in a few weeks.
The computer is only one of many technical breakdowns we've had to deal with over the past few months, making it a very challenging time for us and further slowing down our other work and programs. This not only because of the breakdowns themselves, but because local services here are so unreliable that it has often taken very long to get the necessary repairs and maintenance done.
For a start, our 4 large lead-acid batteries, which are part of our backup energy system along with the solar panels and inverter, became too deeply discharged and therefore couldn't be used anymore for powering the projector and sound system at our educational video screening programs in the villages. So we had to shift the batteries one by one to nearby Bokaro city for deep recharging over several days. The inverter, which converts between the DC current of the batteries and the AC current for our appliances, also became defective several times, including being burnt out by nearby lightning twice within a few weeks. The other breakdowns which needed major repairs and overhauls included our generator, van, refrigerator, digital camera, a water pipe and electrical wiring.
As the government electricity supply is still very unreliable and even when it's available often only gives very low voltage electricity, we bought a high capacity voltage stabilizer. This can boost the voltage to a normal level but is not effective in eliminating the frequent fluctuations which damaged our computer. Therefore we also bought a second inverter, which we connected to a smaller lead-acid battery which we still had in reserve. Now we can run our computer and other sensitive equipment with the stable current coming from this separate battery, rather than from the mains supply, to avoid further damage by the mains fluctuations.
April and May were as usual very hot, with temperatures often above 40 Celsius. Besides having the windows closed during the day to keep the hot air out of the clinic building, we also covered the roof with bundles of straw. This helped to insulate against the hot sun rays. It was also necessary to regularly clear many areas of the large dried leaves which fell from the trees during this time. During the intense dry heat it was difficult to supply the herb gardens with enough water every day. Therefore we couldn't yet expand them further, but were at least able to maintain most of the plots. The herb gardens are still being used regularly to show patients various medicinal and nutritional plants, which they can find in their own area and use as additional treatment for their health problems.
Beginning of February we held a further village medical camp with volunteer homeopath Kim from Australia. This camp was at the nearby village of Kendadih. Kim and our resident homeopath Dr. Prabhas treated more than 50 patients. A few days later Kim and Barbara concluded their 2-month stay at our clinic, from which our staff and patients greatly benefited through the many kinds of work and advice they gave us.
On the day of their departure the next volunteer arrived: Leen, from Belgium, who stayed with us for two weeks. Being very interested in natural farming and having previously worked at several organic farming projects in India and Europe, Leen helped a lot in our herb gardens. In addition to the normal garden work, she also helped on the computer to edit and put together our soon-to-be-completed guidebook for the herb gardens: for each plant there will be a page with a close-up photo along with information about the qualities and benefits of the plant. Besides the editing, typing and layout work, Leen also took many of the herb photos needed for the guidebook - she's also a very good photographer. Last but not least, she also assisted with the heat treatment of acupuncture patients through the infrared lamp and application of moxa (a Chinese herb mixture which is burned near acupuncture points of the patient's body).
Apart from the help given by our recent volunteers, we've also been able to improve our efficiency by expanding our regular paid staff. Mungesh, who was hired at the time of Kim and Barbara’s arrival to act as a translator for Kim’s consultations, is now a permanent staff person and presently doing the daily patient registration and filing work, alongside with other general work. As he also worked in the past with doctors and completed a course in basic medical care, he has good knowledge of First Aid and is therefore well prepared for treating the occasional patients coming with minor injuries. The second new staff person is Susma, who is being trained as an acupuncture assistant. Her sister Sapna has already been working with us since the project begin as a homeopathy assistant, managing the homeopathic dispensing. This brings our paid staff to a total of 11 (acupuncture doctor, homeopathic doctor, physiotherapist, 6 clinical assistants, 2 general assistants). Dr. Das and his assistant Arun continue to offer their services in allopathic (Western) medicine free of charge every Sunday.
In February we treated a total of 901 patients, in March 1145, in April 943 and in May 1001 patients. This means per clinic day we had in average 37, 44, 38 and 39 patients respectively. Due to our financial limitations, we’re still only able to offer physiotherapy and allopathy once a week, but the number of patients on those days has partly increased due to better coordination with more referrals between the doctors. As physiotherapy is very good as a follow-up treatment for many acupuncture patients, our physiotherapist is often busy treating several patients simultaneously, with stretching exercises, traction, heat treatment and electro-stimulation. The exercises are taught to the patients so that they can continue to do them at home also. In the case of the many children being treated for cerebral palsy, their parents are shown how to continue to help their children exercise daily.
We’ve also been able to expand our days of acupuncture treatments from 3 to 4 days a week. This is helping us to better meet the needs of the many patients with joint diseases, cerebral palsy, paralysis and other conditions which are best treated by acupuncture. Besides these common conditions, we regularly see villagers with clear signs of malnutrition. Many children look younger than they are, because their size and weight is too small for their age.
Despite the technical problems we’ve had with our lead-acid batteries and inverter, we were still able to continue the village screenings of our nutritional education video on a weekly basis, though once we had to stop the program early as the batteries were not sufficiently charged, and one week we had to cancel due to a local holiday. Several times we used the newly purchased inverter as backup, while the normal one was in repair. From February to May we screened the video 15 times and counted a total of 3,184 villagers in the audiences. This comes to an average audience of 212. In one larger village we were even able to count about 400.
Also on a weekly basis we’re continuing the evaluations of the screenings. Here we ask some villagers from the audience, several months after the screening, various questions regarding whether they understood all parts of the drama and to which extent they’ve improved their daily diet. Last year an average of 70-80% of those interviewed stated that they’d increased the amount of greens in their diet, but in recent months 100% of the interviewed villagers have given this reply.
Last but not least, we now have a short project video available. Didi Ananda Devapriya, who is very skilled in video filming and editing, visited us for this purpose and has recently completed the video and uploaded it to the internet for all to view (click here).
That’s all for now. Thanks to all for your ongoing interest and support, and please feel free to contact me anytime if you like to get any further information.