Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 visit: Brief recap on why I come out to India.

Once more I find myself sneaking into RUHSA late at night and being shown to my dear little room which had been vigorously cleaned for my arrival, resulting in a not-so-faint odour of Jeyes fluid. None the less, I slithered into bed, warmed by the balmy air and a light coverlet, not missing the nip and pull of freezing mountain temperatures, and slept like a log until the familiar early morning crow conversations woke me up refreshed and raring to get going.

My arrival last night coincided with director of Friends of Vellore, Richard Smith's drive to Vellore, so he very kindly picked me up from the airport, giving us a great opportunity to plan our strategy for project fundings for 2012. Friends of Vellore is the umbrella organisation responsible for fundraising for projects in the main hospital; VRCT - Vellore Rural Community Trust - has always been an affiliated, linked trust fund separate to FOV, but last year we merged and I have been made chairman of the VRCT subcommittee which remains responsible for supporting rural healthcare projects and focuses on the work done at RUHSA. RUHSA is the Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs, a rurally situated health and welfare department with a small hospital and training centre, 30km from the centre of town. It is responsible for a population of around 200,000, in a district comprising roughly 30 panchayats (village municipal units) and has a wide network of local activities and has done for 30 years. The beauty of being involved with RUHSA is their vast network of well-developed relationships, local knowledge and experience in grassroots working. The main hospital is a huge monolith with impressive technological expertise comparable to a western tertiary centre. The work they do there is incredible, but it is very high tech and therefore, like all tertiary centres, focusses on those who are already sick and not on keeping people healthy or dealing with the early, primary care stages of illness. Primary care in India is still in its organisational infancy, but is gaining intellectual credibility due to the work of dedicated family practitioners, such as Dr Raman Kumar, who has set up and is running the increasingly high profile Associated Family Practitioners of India (AFPI) which has now been awarded WONCA status, but in the meantime, places such as RUHSA provide much a much needed bridge between health and devastating illness. RUHSA not only deals with minor and early ill health, but also runs community development projects such as the SHG (self-help group) co-ordination, waste management schemes, 2-wheeler mechanics apprentice programs, cow-rearing projects and of course our elderly welfare and goat schemes.

This time, for the first time therefore, I arrive with clout and the capacity to made decisions about how our charitable moneys are spent, rather than merely being a reporter to the committee on what is going on. It is a very exciting opportunity to really encourage RUHSA to become even more ambitious and wide-reaching.

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