Louise, non-medical volunteer, 2005

It was after a decision towards the end of 2005 to relocate to India at any cost, whether or not my company would offer me a position in their offices in Hyderabad, that I literally ‘fell’ across IRHS. I was looking for a good flight deal and out of the corner of my eye was a tiny little Google Ad that drew my attention. I was compelled to find out more…so I did. And, after landing in India for a post move trial I met with Dr. Bidinger (Pat)…the rest as they say is history!

Not only did I get the privilege to work with the dedicated folks at IRHS, then ensconced in Banjara Hills, but Pat found me a place to stay and lent me a fridge and some furniture even though I wasn’t able to give 100% of my time to the organisation because my company finally caved and gave me a job. I didn’t really do much, though you wouldn’t think so because the love and gratitude for an act as simple as tidying the office was enormous.

I was also around to meet the star of the biggest IRHS story of that time (the smiling boy in the yellow t-shirt at the bottom of the home page, whose name I’m sad to say escapes me though ‘Srinu’ springs to mind). It was his incredible poem that melted my heart on that very first meeting with Pat, followed by complete disbelief at his treatment at the hands of some ruthless individuals who had forced him to drink bleach which all but killed him. Such a privilege (I keep saying that but it really is) to help get his brother out of bonded labour, and them to meet him and his brother and grandmother when that became a reality. The generosity of the then head of HSBC and his family in creating a space for them in their home, the love and dedication of Pat and her team… AWESOME!!!

And, when you stand in front of a young, newly married couple, the wife of whom has been given just weeks to live because of a heart problem which requires an expensive operation, and you give them the news that you’ve managed to raise the money to hopefully save her…and you see such love and relief and gratitude in their young eyes…there are no words!

So many wonderful memories of those days, and I even got to write my first proposal as the budding idea for the old folks home evolved!

Pat, you deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for all that you do; not just for the poor but for the volunteers. You offered me a lifeline and a wonderful experience when I needed it the most and I will be forever grateful.

Je t’aime

Louise

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Ebba, non-medical Swedish volunteer

My time with IRHS was a life-changing experience. I spent two months working with Dr Pat Bidinger and her team of staff. I lived Monday – Friday in the village, Dokur and spent the weekends in Hyderabad. However, I was situated in Hyderabad during my last week to get a further insight in the counselors’ work.P1000536

I couldn’t have been better off. The clinic staff in Dokur are among the friendliest, most helpful and generous people I have ever met. They are tolerant and welcoming. The Senior Paramedic Shivaiah, and his lovely family, took great care of Dr Len Biran, who I volunteered together with, and I. In addition to being a great host in the village, Shivaiah took us on a trip to a Muslim-Hindu festival called Kurmurti. We celebrated the function with his family and relatives and I really got to experience a culture of love and inspiring believes. I am overall impressed with all of the clinic staff members and admire them and their work.

P1000530My task, as a non-medical volunteer, was to encourage the clinic staff to speak more English and to develop their language skills. Furthermore, to help them absorb the knowledge of medical volunteers by overcoming language barriers. The mutual exchange was great. Hence, I became close friends with the staff members and shared many unforgettable moments. They put flowers in my hair daily, painted my arms with mehendi and took me shopping in a village nearby. They also welcomed me into their homes, taught me some medical skills and Telugu words.P1000538

I can’t express my appreciation for Dr Pat and IRHS enough. The way the organization serves the less fortunate, guides and supports them to a better life makes a real difference. The combination of the Dokur Clinic, the Kotakadra Clinic, home visits (to check the health of families and babies), the counsellors in Hyderabad, Traveler’s Aid for the Sick and the Hyderabad Office staff is extraordinary. The projects IRHS does with very limited resources is impressive. Their work is also locally appreciated which was seen when a media broadcaster filmed the Dokur clinic and broadcast it on local television. Two articles about IRHS’ work were also published during my short stay.

I can’t come up with bad experiences, except from a stolen shoe, from my two months in India. I felt safe, appreciated and was more than well taken care of. It was an enlightening experience I never will forget.

I am very grateful for my stay with the IRHS and hope to come back soon.

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Kathryn, USA

I volunteered with IRHS for a month. Three weeks of this time was spent in Dokur and the surrounding villages. The purpose of my stay was to re-establish a village school health education programme I had started ten years ago. At that time I wrote 13 lesson plans, most of which were translated into Telugu.

During my time in India I helped to identify a community Health Educator to run the health education programme. I also visited primary schools in five different villages as well as one secondary school.  In every school the teachers and the principals we’re excited to have us deliver health education lessons on topics such as; nutrition, hygiene, parasites and accidents.

Our new Health Educator is a local man who lives in a near by village with his wife and family. He has prior teaching experience, is a local shop owner and a writer for the local newspaper and television channel.  He is motivated to help people in his community. The Community Educator will also run classes at the clinic on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are particularly busy at the clinic and patients can find themselves waiting to see a paramedic. While patients are waiting they will now be taken upstairs to the new Health Education room to receive information from our Community Educator on health and life style, some topics will include; nutrition, hygiene, exercise and getting medical help quickly and not waiting.

I am very satisfied with my time with IRHS and feel confident that the health of the community will improve as the children receive better education regarding healthy living.

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Camille, medical student from Montréal

I came to India as a third year medical student for 8 weeks in May-June 2015. I am now in my fourth year. I have lots of warm memories about India and IRHS.

camille (2)The staff in the village were very welcoming and always made me feel I could count on them for anything. Shivaiah, the senior paramedic, always offered his help and made me feel welcome in his home. He has a charming family! Venkateshwari, another paramedic, shared her immense medical experience with me. Other members of staff were also very nice and brought flowers for my hair and helped me learn some of the local language. After clinic hours, in celebration of a wedding, my hands were decorated with designs in henna. The city staff was also very helpful and took me to visit some of the hospitals the first week I arrived. I particularly appreciated the Saturday mornings when Dr Surekha, a Board Member, would teach the city-based Patient Counsellors.

I was very impressed by the system set up in the 2 rural clinics. From nothing, IRHS has built an organisation that works well and has helped thousands of patients through the Camilleyears. I thought house visits to vulnerable families were a great asset. It assists preventative care and staff can make referrals to the clinic when needed. I was disappointed to note that some of the villagers would rather seek medical care in private hospitals at high costs than go to the clinic first. This appeared to be a major challenge in reaching more villagers, although last year staff saw more than 8000 in the clinics themselves. IRHS definitely gets attention from the media and while I was there, a local TV channel filmed the clinic work. I would expect that to add to the credibility of the clinic with the villagers. I do not know if the information reaches them that way though. On the other hand, I noticed that, thanks to word of mouth, many people facing the inefficiency of traditional medicine and local doctors came to seek treatment for epilepsy. I frankly cannot envision a simple solution to such a complex problem, but I admit I found that quite fascinating. I know that my complete comprehension of the issue is lacking and I wish I would have gotten more time to familiarize myself with those issues.

I can never thank everyone enough for allowing me to have this experience as a medical student.

Camille Hortas-Laberge, medical student, Montreal, Canada

 

David and Alicia

Our 6 month term working as volunteers for Dr Pat Bidinger and the Institute for Rural Health Studies was a life-changing experience.   It taught us what compassion really means in the context of poverty not known in our own country. We were seconded by BESO (Business Executive Service Overseas), now part of the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and we were signed up soon after our retirement from full-time work.  Like many others, having given to charities in the UK working overseas, we welcomed the opportunity to see a charity working in a deprived part of the world for ourselves.

My wife Alicia, a trained nurse, teacher and charity worker used her expertise in training staff and counsellors at the Institute and also setting up the cervical screening project for women living in rural areas which is still continuing to this day. Many lives have been saved through early diagnosis.

My chartered accountancy qualification and a lifetime spent in a business environment enabled me to use my skills in streamlining the administration and introducing financial controls together with management techniques across the organisation.

It was rewarding to see the positive outcomes to the medical help given to the rural poor by all those working for the Institute.  Witnessing this poverty and lack of medical resources impressed on us a desperate need for ongoing financial support.  We formed a charity in the UK on our return called the Indian Rural Health Trust.  This is linked totally to the work of the Institute.  We are delighted that over £150,000 has been raised to date thanks to the efforts of hardworking committed trustees and other UK supporters of the Institute.  Long may this continue!

David Pentin

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Past Volunteers

IRHS welcomes all volunteers, if you think you have skills that could help us please get in touch.

Volunteering with IRHS is an invaluable opportunity. Volunteers get the chance to work in our clinics as well as experience south Indian culture. Please have a look at our pictures to see what life is like for IRHS volunteers in Dokur.

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The IRHS Volunteer Blog

Welcome to the Institute for Rural Health Studies volunteer blog. Volunteers, both medical and non-medical, are highly valued by IRHS and are a vital part of what makes us so dynamic. Without their skilled and innovative support the IRHS would not be where it is today. Please get in touch to discuss how you could use your skills and experience to help us and to make a difference to many lives in remote and drought-stricken southern India.

Any past volunteers who would like to post about their experiences please email pdbidinger@ruralhealthindia.org and enclose a couple of pictures!