CFHI’s program in rural areas of Northern India will expand in 2010 and our student programs will support a local doctor’s dream of increasing access to healthcare in this region. Dr. U.S. Paul has been working in the surrounding areas for many years and he knows well the needs of the people in rural villages. We are happy to help him in this new effort to serve thousands more people in the foothills of the Himalayas who have little or no access to healthcare. The effort is being conducted by a local nonprofit, the Indian Global Health and Education Forum. The village of Sirasu will be one of the areas served. The villages are accessible on foot after crossing the great river. This photo shows the crossing point at Gullar on the River Ganges, about 45 minutes drive north of Rishikesh.
As we made the drive along mountain roads tracing the edge of the gorge, with sheer drop-offs right next to you that are not for the faint of heart, Dr. Paul spoke of his excitement at being able to operate regular health camps for this remote population. The area around Sirasu is one of several village groupings that will be served Sirasu and its grouping have a population of about 1,500 people. Each village has its own identity and Dr. Paul is an expert at providing care that is respectful of the cultural differences that may exist even from village to village.
Crossing to the East side of the river Ganges in a simple rowboat, I looked over and saw Dr. Paul beaming with joy because he knows how important these services are to the people.
Once across the river, it is a 20-30 minute hike up the East side of the gorge to Sirasu. Dr. Paul meets with village leaders to discuss recent developments. An initial camp was held in November during which Dr. Paul saw more than 150 people in one day. The people ask Dr. Paul to schedule the camps as often as possible. With many other villages to cover, Dr. Paul says he will plan to make monthly visits. While they would wish for more, the people are very happy and express their gratitude.
The camps are conducted at the few local schools as these are natural gathering points and are the largest structures around.
Everything is built on relationships. The local formalities of introductions and meetings to discuss the different aspects are a time to build trust and gain the valuable support of village leaders. These meetings over cups of tea are important times to size everyone up and get a feel for each other. It is the oral culture’s way of completing an application form.
We look forward to these additions to our program and to developing these new relationships.