ICA Youth “LEAD” Program
ICA Youth “LEAD” Program
My time at SEWA Rural was truly transformative. A shy highschooler who was struggling to find herself, I entered this experience with apprehension; Would I like it in this new environment? How would I communicate with patrons? Being an outsider, would I be accepted in the community? In a moment of determination and resolution, I pushed these fears aside and signed up for the program. Two short months later I found myself walking into the gates of the Society for Education, Welfare and Action, Rural in Jhagadiya, India. I was immediately greeted and shown around and I felt that extra care was taken to ensure I felt welcome. After the first few days of orientation, I had gained a better sense of the community upliftment programs such as the Sharda Mahila Vikas Society for the economic empowerment of women, the Comprehensive Eye Care Project for the health of the rural population, and the Vivekananda Grahmin Tekniki Kendra, an apprenticeship program for adolescents. I elected to split my time between the main hospital, in outpatient and surgical wards, and field visits. Both experiences gave me unique insights into the locals’ lives and their relationship with the SEWA Rural team. Six weeks seemed too short a visit and after my sophomore year of university, I made a second trip to the nonprofit organization. What drew me in was the fact that such a high functioning and sophisticated organization could feel so much like a family. While the SEWA Rural staff worked diligently to treat the community, both medicinally and through community upliftment, they ensured that each patient was treated with humility and respect regardless of their socioeconomic status. My experience abroad was valuable and rewarding and I would highly recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity.
Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini Amte’s dedication to build Lok Biradari Prakalp for Tribal community can be admired and understood through the depth of their sacrifices when you visit Hemalkasa. Starting work in a small hut without electricity for the first 20 years, winning tribal community’s faith in their treatment, performing surgeries under trees to gain confidence amazes when you see today’s well established community. To see generations of Amte family serving this community selflessly is a humble experience and inspires you to contribute to such a cause. Forever grateful to the Amte family for setting up examples for many generations to come!
I spent almost two months at Lok Biradari Prakalp during my gap year before starting medical school. Through ICA and the Desales I was connected with LBP leadership to develop a project based on their goals and drawing on my undergraduate training in public health. Under the LBP community health initiative, I worked with LBP staff to evaluate the nutritional status of the children in the ashramshala and to offer some recommendations to improve their health. Seeing the degree of community involvement and trust in the institution the Amtes and many others have built over time is truly inspiring! But even more impactful than what I learned professionally about low-resource healthcare delivery from the staff and from LBP's model, living at LBP and experiencing the challenges and also unparalleled joys of rural community life has been one of the highlights of my life.
My Marathi fluency was a huge asset in being able to communicate seamlessly with staff and children there, and to form lasting friendships! I found the accommodations to be very safe and clean, but would just humbly advise visitors to keep an open mind and a bit of a spirit of adventure to make the most of the experience! Even having lived in urban India for close to a year prior, my time in Hemalkasa was unlike anything I had experienced before, and it was truly a privilege to have the opportunity to live there and to try to contribute something nominal to LBP's inspiring mission! I am tremendously grateful for that opportunity, and have been able to carry many professional and personal lessons from my time at LBP into my medical training and continued work in low-resource healthcare research and advocacy!
The people of LBP clinic are kind, generous, and caring. They welcomed me with open arms, as they have with hundreds of other volunteers like me. I participated in the health clinic at Hemalkasa, assisting the staff physicians who were caring for the patients there. I saw pathology at Hemalkasa that I never saw during my years of medical training in the United States.
The people who seek care there are from local tribes. They live in secluded villages with little access to modern amenities. The LBP clinic has worked hard over the decades to build trust with these communities. We were able to join some of the ambulatory clinics that LBP hosted in and around these villages. Though the ride was bumpy, it was truly a special experience to see the way people lived in these communities to better understand their healthcare needs.
The team working at LBP are not only providing excellent medical care to the people in and around Hemalkasa, but they are constantly innovating to provide public health services to as many people as they can reach. Over the past few years, LBP has created satellite clinics, remote prenatal care programs, and many other such programs.
Spending time at LBP is sure to enrich your outlook on rural health, poverty, and service. I could not recommend the experience more highly.