President’s visit to Vellore Council Meetings January 2016

Dr. Bella George, the President of the Australian Vellore Board recently attended the Council Meetings at CMC. She presents her report here.

It was my privilege to represent the Australian Vellore Board at the CMC Council meeting held at CMC, Vellore, in Jan 2016. Besides being updated about recent happenings at CMC, this meeting is an opportunity for the international FOV to meet, and this year there were representatives from USA, UK, Germany and myself from Australia. Sweden and Canada were unrepresented.
Many things at CMC have moved forward over the last 12/12–plans for the hospital at Kannigapurum have been submitted for approval, the in-patient facility at the Chittoor campus has been opened, 2 new staff buses have been put on the road to reduce traffic congestion and parking problems on the Hospital campus and the age of retirement for all medical staff has been increased to 65 yrs. There is also a project at Jawadhi Hills which the Community Health Dept (CHAD) took on for 5 yrs, but which looks like it will go on for longer and it is this story of the Jawadhi Hills that I would like to share with you.

Jawadhi Hills Project

The Jawadhi Hills are one of 3 ranges in the Eastern Ghats of southern India. There are several villages in these ranges, and because of the difficult terrain only some are accessible by road, while others more remote only on foot!! The communities living here have been given tribal status by the Govt. and because of their isolation, have had very little in the way of medical or social help.

The Don Bosco Fathers have been involved with the tribes in this area since the 1970’s, mostly in social development. The Community Health Dept. of CMC (CHAD) got involved in the 1980’s when there was a strong move from the Central Govt. of India to control Leprosy and tuberculosis and for the next 20 years that was CHAD’s prime work in the area. However in this process it was realised that health indices in the region were extremely poor, educational opportunities for the children and job opportunities for adults were limited and that something needed to be done to improve the health of the communities there. In the early 2000’s with a grant from Denmark the Dan-mission project was set up and all the development in the area was funded by this grant.
1. Health–A hospital was built and staff from CHAD started doing daily clinics there. Mobile clinics to outlying villages were started, some accessible by road, but others on foot only with supplies having to be carried up manually.
2. Education–a few schools exist in the area, but not nearly enough. So in order to help the local children to achieve the standards required, night schools were started in collaboration with the Don Bosco fathers. Summer camps were also started and have an attendance of about 1000 children. During these camps, children are taught life skills, cultural dances, some academics (English and Maths), and given their annual medical checks.
The scholarship programmes were also started, where children from grades 10-12 who showed some inclination in medical sciences are taken to CHAD in Vellore and given extra coaching in English and computer literacy to enable them to do the entrance exams for various tertiary courses
3. Development of income generating projects–Run by the Don Bosco fathers, the purpose is to provide employment in the area and stop migration. When adults leave the area, research has shown that there is an increased level of alcohol and substance abuse with its associated problems. Children’s education gets disrupted and some never return to formal studies. So various projects were started, some like mushroom cultivation have been a success, but others have not.

In 2013, the grant from the Danish Govt ceased. Since then, all the medical work is supported by funds from CMC, but for the educational activities no ongoing source of funding exists. So at present, current needs appear to be
1. In the area of health–staff accommodation at the Hospital.
The Hospital is located in one of the larger towns in Jawadhi and out patient clinics run from 8am to 4 pm. It takes 2 hrs each way for staff to travel from Vellore to Jawadhi, so staff spends 4 hrs each day in travelling. There is a great need for staff accommodation on site, to save on travel time and enable them to run evening clinics which are more likely to be attended by the locals. This is an expensive project but one which I believe is worthy of support, having made the trip to the area myself.
2. Education– support for the summer camps and scholarship programmes there is a dearth of schools and teachers in the area. We visited one government-run school which had children up to Grade 8 with just 3 teachers. The medical staff from CHAD and the Don Bosco fathers are committed to improving the education levels of these children and feel the summer camps are a good way of achieving this. It costs $20.00 per child to run these camps and with 1000 children attending; they are always looking for financial support for this.

Australian FOV last year paid for the Jawadhi Hills Hosp to get an USS and when I visited CHAD the scanner had just been unpacked. I was shown it with so much pleasure and gratitude that I felt we had supported a really worthwhile project.

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