Volunteers have constantly been a valuable support for the team at Hunar Ghar, the children and the Bakhel community. Anika, a General Practitioner working in London, UK recently completed a 9 week stint at Hunar Ghar to support the health team. She shares her experience of getting to know the children & community , working closely with the health team and subsequently setting up processes to deliver higher standards of healthcare in Bakhel..
Hello! My name is Anika, I am a General Practitioner working in London, UK. I have been volunteering at Hunar Ghar since the end of October. I have been working with the health team to work on their main community projects, the Safe Motherhood (SMP) and Safe childhood (SCH) programmes.
The safe motherhood and childhood programmes have been developed according to WHO and Indian National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) guidelines. The aim is to provide national level support in this remote indigenous community supporting a safe pregnancy and delivery and enabling the best start in life for the child.
Hunar Ghar is one of the very few schools around this district which also has a health team based at the school, they provide care locally both to the children of the school and also the local community. Support is given from the beginning of pregnancy to the mother and to the child until they reach the age of 5. It is hoped that at age 3 the child will enrol at HG where they will also receive 2 nutritional meals a day, health care, vaccinations and also a yearly eye and dental check.
Hunar Ghar aims to focus on every aspect of a local child’s life, however large pitfalls still remain- it is all well and good to provide education, but if the child is malnourished, under developed, or continuously ill, how is it possible for them to surpass this in order to learn and grow. The health team have been doing an incredible job often fighting a resistance battle from the very people they are trying to help. Their hard work in this area was a great success and the introduction of the team has reduced maternal and childhood mortality in the area, increased vaccine uptake and also increased the number of deliveries occurring at the local health centre as opposed to home births and the multiple complications that arise from this.
My experience at Hunar Ghar and working with the Bakhel community has been something that I could never have imagined. I am truly in awe of the way the community live and work. The people of Bakhel are honest, hard working, and humble. They take each day as it comes, their main priority is their work, earning a living and supporting their family. A priority shared by both the men and women. The villagers would not be able to tell you their age, or what year it is, and they tell time using the position of the sun. One day we were out in the fields and someone was pounding a drum. You could hear it from miles away. The beating of the drum was to inform the neighbours and the village that a family member had died and to pass on this message to others. I was amazed at the simplicity of how the people of Bakhel live. I am genuinely surprised that people are still living in this way, whilst other parts of India are described as trail blazers in spearheading technology in the fields of IT and business.
My main role whilst here was to support the delivery of the SMP and SCH programmes in the community. Initially I started by assessing the current level of training need and then supported and guided the team to bring the delivery of these programmes up to WHO and NRHM level. I went on home visits together with the community worker and assessed gaps in knowledge or any areas where further explanation and guidance for the mother’s was needed. Then held 1-1 sessions with the community worker advising and teaching in these areas and supported them during home visits thereafter with the aim for them to perform these visits to a high standard independently.
Yet from a health perspective there are many aspects of the village life here that are difficult to face. One thing I have found really challenging to deal with is their health beliefs and the idea that work comes before health. I have met people who will not have an operation because that would mean 2 weeks of not working on their crop. Or people saying to me that they feel that the local health care centre doesn’t provide adequate treatment as they only give tablets and not injections, thinking that the injections are somehow ‘ better’ medicines.
Despite the ongoing challenges facing the Bakhel people, witnessing the children at the school develop and grow has been remarkable. They may never have seen a movie let alone a TV nor have even travelled on a train, but they are practical, hands on and quick learners.
I have also had the pleasure of giving a lesson on vaccinations, as well as a personal hygiene lessons. Some of the home work and material produced by the children after my class has been amazing, making posters and even poems on what they have learnt. Below are some examples of some of the children’s work.