Love is Here

Hi there,

I have lots to update you on! I’ll take it one thought at a time. The title of the post is irrelevant, I just keep seeing this graffiti art that says, “love is here” and keep missing my opportunity to take a picture of it.

I told you all I was going to start volunteering at an orphanage, so I’ll report on some of my experiences so far. When I arrive at the flat, the girls are eager to dance and get on with the agenda for the day. I start with a warm-up, exercise – a combination of stretches and yoga, and then we go into a fusion of bollywood, belly dancing, and classical dancing. The girls are receptive and even the little ones pick up on the tough beginning exercises. We have a great time, and I make sure at the end, to have one of the older girls come up and teach too. I am trying to show them that they too can lead the class, they just have to stand up with confidence and give it a shot.

Front door of the orphanage

Beginning exercises
The girls dancing

Hanging out with Pooja

Made Ushma take the lead
After the dancing session, we go straight into a little classroom they have, with chairs/desks, and a chalkboard. The first icebreaker I set was an emotional exercise. I drew a scale, with a happy face on one end and a sad face on the other. I had the girls come up and place a mark on the scale to see where they are emotionally. Half of the girls were on the happy end, while the other were on the sad end. I had a hard time communicating “what makes you happy,” because they just kept repeating words, like happy to me….so I figured I would let it go until the following week. The following week, I created the scale again, and most of them were on the happy end. I then in Hindi, asked, “what makes you happy,” and the girls responses varied. A lot said, seeing the boys (they live in another flat), one girl said a rainy day, another said thinking about her past, and another said remembering her mother. At that moment, I felt I could better connect with them and could get a sense of where they stood.

With the classroom lessons, it is hard to get all the girls focused, especially the little ones, but I do my best to draw in as many as I can. The funny part is, when the time comes for the end of our session, all the girls flood in wanting homework. It is so hilarious to see them begging for homework! I did not go prepared with homework the first day, so I came up with something for them to do. It is interesting because most of us try and run away from homework, but I am glad they are for it. Maybe because it gives them something to work on when they are bored, or they really enjoy the task.

Once we finished the icebreaker, I set up a lesson on five senses, and had them touch various items and I repeated what they were in English so they could see what the words were, instead of just feeding them random English words. After that exercise, we did a lesson on hygiene and hand washing. I explained the concept of germs and when it is important to wash your hands. We moved around the flat together, so I could show them various situations when it is needed to wash, and we ended with a hand washing demonstration. I also showed them how to properly cover their coughs, and to make sure to wash when they are sick too. The demonstration took them step by step on how to rinse their hands first, properly scrub, and then we counted to twenty together to keep track of the importance of time it takes to wash. I brought the girls a lemon bar soap to keep, and they loved the exercise, wanting to wash and show that they understood. I plan to give a lesson on dental care and brushing next week.

Mumtaj washing her hands
This past week, I threw in a question on what they wanted to be when they grow up, and the responses were – a couple said doctors, one said dancer, another said teacher, caregiver, a couple said mothers, and one said model. That day, I happened to be going to Indian fashion week, and something just clicked in my head. The girl, who is the brightest out of the bunch, and really works hard at learning and helps me translate, wanted to be a model… my instinct was to ask her if she wanted to come with me. I didn’t even know if I had an extra ticket, or how it would work, but I asked. She was shy, and acted like she didn’t want to go, but she really wanted to. I asked Amit (the founder) if it was okay, and he told me it was fine, as long as one of the caregivers went too. So, I called up to see if I could get extra tickets and made it happen. It was a wonderful time, and although I wasn’t advocating for her to be a model, it is definitely possible to be a model and also be educated. We all know our dream career can change a hundred times, but I just thought the timing was too good to let it go. All in all, I’m loving my time at the orphanage.
On the red carpet with Eram and Elizabeth (caregiver)
At India Fashion Week
With my favorite designer of the night, Nachiket
Last week, PHFI along with the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, and other organizations put together the 1st Global Forum on Bacterial Infections. It was a three day conference, with professors, doctors, and health care professionals, coming from across the world (Kenya, Chile, Sweden, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and more) to be there. I attended some of the sessions and was there for the inaugural day. I saw the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, make his speech, and gained some new insights on antibacterial resistance and current mechanisms in place to combat the problem. The Indian minister spoke about how with newer antibiotics, the problem still exists, and there are constantly new strains emerging. He recommended to exclusively regulate antibiotics, and to procure availability of antibiotics within the market. He also urged the need for institutions/universities to invent new antibiotics with comprehensive surveillance. He emphasized how India is unique because not only are you dealing with a large population, but the size and spread of India makes it difficult to combat antibiotic resistance. Problems like the lack of doctor availability, and lack of medical facilities/personnel in places where it is needed is missing. He ended with stating that although antibiotic resistance is a global problem, solutions should be local, since there are different health systems in place across the country. He also proceeded to advocate for Indian tourism, by pushing for us to shop while we are in India because it is so inexpensive.

India Minister of Health – Dr. Ghulam Nabi Azad

Another, really interesting session I attended was based around pharmacists and informal drug dispensers. A very well educated and speaker who is an Indian pharmacists clearly explained how 80-90% of consumers receive their drugs through informal drug dispensers, and about 60-90% of people live in rural areas.

He went on to explain that the number of pharmacists in India = 1 million, while the number of informal drug dispensers are 1.5 million. He also shared how the number of registered pharmacies are 700,000 – 800,000, while the number of unregistered outlets are 1 million. Informal drug dispensers are a leading cause of antibiotic resistance, because people don’t comply with the appropriate duration, there’s self-medication, and there’s weak health care delivery. Counterfeit drugs are also high, with cases of veterinary products mixed in and “natural medicine” which contain steroids in them. He suggested we get rid of informal drug dispensers, get professionals in the public and private sector, and train them. This has been tried, but it’s hard to fill the void with a formal health sector. It’s difficult to recruit professionals; revenue is low in rural areas, and it’s harsh conditions for people to live in. So he ultimately believes if we give incentives to the informal drug dispensers (training one head person), and give them more money if they do less harm, refer people to the right primary care centers, and distribute appropriate health goods, this will be a successful and scalable strategy. I found this session the most interesting, because it was the most practical and proactive discussion. Overall, the conference was definitely a great experience, and I was fortunate enough to attend.
Pharmaceutical session
So, currently, I am working on my own research and have narrowed it down to the topic of vaccines. I am also working on a side study on Ayurvedic treatments and have connected with a center who will be assisting the study. I’ll fill you all in more as the week goes by.

Right now, I’m just sitting in the living room, thinking about all I have to do, and hoping the power doesn’t go out again. The power has gone out more times than I can count today. Okay, I’ll write back very soon.


One Comment

  1. PM says:

    No wonder you looked exhausted in the evening….you had a full day! Sorry to stalk but I was a little curious about what you were doing and a little Google-ing got me here. I still don't quite get what you're doing but I'll ask you when I run into you next. -preetam


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