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The Tulsi Trust
The Tulsi Trust is a registered charity working with Bengali resettled refugees and the indigenous Adivaashi aboriginals of the interior area of Madhya Pradesh, India. The project is located deep in the heart of the jungle several hours away from the nearest city, Raipur.
It was to this area of southern Madhya Pradesh that 40,000 Bengali refugees fleeing from east Pakistan were resettled in the mid 1960s to 1970s. These once prosperous people were forced to leave their homes under traumatic conditions and arrived in India with nothing. After surviving the overcrowded refugee camps in Raipur, each family was eventually given a small plot of land in the jungle. In 1971 George Harrison, Ravi Shankar and friends staged a benefit concert to help raise funds for these people. Despite their efforts, 40 years later they still live in poverty and are struggling to rebuild their lives. Conditions in the area are harsh. There is limited education and little primary health care. Hospitals are several hours drive away over rough roads on overcrowded buses. Children and adults become crippled for lack of medical attention after simple accidents. There is no maternity care. People die from malaria which is endemic as is dysentery. TB, cholera and typhoid are also common. Chronic anaemia and iodine deficiencies are widespread due to dietary inadequacies.
We have provided the Tulsi Trust with an ambulance and fund its maintenance, running costs and driver. The Tulsi Trust provides the only free ambulance service in the area which operates twenty fours hours a day, seven days a week. The ambulance service is always busy, travelling to villages to collect ill people and bringing them to the clinic or taking them to the nearest hospital which is one hundred miles away, where the appropriate treatments can be administered.
FMS also supports the Mother and Child programme and the clinic doctor, who works six days per week between the hours of 9am and 1pm. Thanks to the additional funding Dr. Devasih has been able to increase the number of regular visits to the surrounding Bengali villages from once a week to several times a week, as well as the amount of outreach work in Adivasi and the most remote villages from twice a month to once a week. This has achieved a decrease in the number of undernourished mothers and babies, early detection of disease in hundreds of patients who are unable to visit the clinic and would have otherwise become severely ill or die, and a decrease in the number of referrals to large hospitals in big cities.
FMS’ funding has also allowed the charity to send Dr.Debasish for further training with CRHP Jamkhed, thanks to which he has become much more aware of how disease spreads amongst tribal settlements and the more remote villages. He has also learnt better ways of communicating with people who do not understand the benefits of medicine and usually refuse it.
Latest Update – 2016
As part of ensuring the health of the local children, Dr Bebashis continues to make visits to the school and perform regular health checks on the children whose number has increased from 300 to 400 this year, so at least we know those 400 are definitely well. The importance of basic hygiene and sanitary practise is explained and encouraged, so children and teachers make an effort to keep the school very clean and in good condition to ensure it remains free of disease. In order to prevent the spread of disease and keep the school a safe place, the teachers are also being advised on symptoms to watch out for in case a child is sick, and we are looking at sending one of the female teachers for training to Jamkhed.
The medical camps are a huge success. As expected we are attracting a bit of attention from more local doctors, so this year there was no need to cancel medical camps during the 2 months of political unrest when it was too dangerous for the Raipur and Bhilai doctors to travel to our project, because we have established links with a couple of local doctors and nurses that agreed to help us on an ad-hoc basis, so the fortnightly camps were not disrupted during pre-election and election time.
We are also reaching further afield and setting camps in more Adivasi villages who have never even seen a doctor. Back in February a camp was organised in an Adivasi village with the help of the local Tribal Chiefs, who ensured as many people attended. When our ambulance and doctors arrived all the Adivasis run away in fear because they thought the ambulance had come to take them away! So the Tribal Chiefs and our Project Workers had to go around all the houses to explain to people that doctors had come to help them here and not to take them away. It is very hard as many of them would prefer to visit their local ‘medicine man’, however with the help of the Village Elders we are slowly gaining their trust which is good news, as the level of malnutrition and preventable diseases is very high amongst the tribes.
On a more general note, we are now looking at holding more specialised medical camps that will focus on identifying and treating patients with specific type of disease, and that can be followed up with advice sessions on how to prevent and manage those conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and dental hygiene.
The clinic is doing very well. Dr Debashis is always busy as the level of trust from local people steadily increases and they choose to come to the clinic rather than going to their temple or their local medicine man. We are currently recruiting for a local nurse to help him with more routine tasks, and we are purchasing new beds and drips which we didn’t need before, but that we can’t do without now that more people are coming to us.
The cataract operations project has morphed into an ocular health program as we have found that only half of the people we are sending to Raipur actually need to be operated on. The other half does require treatment though, which is being administered at the same clinic, and which should avoid the need for an operation in the future. The lives of those who have had a cataract operation has been turned around completely; people who had not seen in years can now see their families again; men who had lost their jobs many years ago and had become so impoverished that they could not support their families are now working again and returning to a normal way of life. It is so humbling to see these people crying because they suddenly have their lives back.
As I type there are 10 people, including 6 local women, being trained at Jamkhed; they have been there since Tuesday 22nd July and will be returning to the project at the end of this week, eager to implement change and development. This is great news but now the real hard work starts, gaining trust and acceptance from the people in the villages. A mobile team from Jamkhed will be coming to our project in 6-8 months time to provide support and further training, which is when I will be going back to India.
Trustee Sally Dalton is visiting the project in October, so I will have more first hand news for you then.
As you can see thinks are moving forward and change is slowly happening. I hope this gives you an idea about how the project is progressing, but please feel free to get back to me with any questions you might have and I will be happy to help.
On behalf of the Trustees and of the thousands of people in India we work for, I would like to express our immense gratitude for your financial support and your continued trust in our project.
The Tulsi Trust