|Maya Devi Hospital, in rural India|
High Impact in Rural India
By Anil Jain
Five years ago, the Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial offered to help fund the construction of a hospital for women and children in India, agreed to put $10,000 into the project, and asked RC Calgary to do the same. This was an audacious proposal in many senses: even in India, could such sums build a hospital?
A Calgary-based charity named CHILD Foundation took up the challenge, and the results have been remarkable by almost any standard. Thousands of women and children now have access to modern medicine for the first time in their lives.
The hospital project was inspired by the story of a simple woman, Maya Devi, who lived in this small (by Indian standards) village of 25,000. Maya Devi understood the health challenges for women in the area, especially during pregnancy and delivery.
Cultural traditions dictated that women not be examined by male doctors. As a result, in medical emergencies women had to make the long trek to New Delhi or other cities with the hope of finding a female practitioner.
Maya Devi gave birth to 10 children, two of whom did not survive to their first birthday. She became a strong advocate for women’s health and education and held a lifelong dream of doing something for the women of the village. Upon her death, her assets went to a local NGO, MOTHER Foundation, for a women’s hospital in the village. These assets included a site for the hospital; a site on which to build a residence for medical staff; and another small site to build a pharmacy, an office or ambulance parking.
Project: In collaboration with Calgary-based CHILD Foundation, the Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial championed the project. Supported by the Rotary Club of Calgary and by individual and corporate donations, the basic hospital began to provide medical care in October 2011 – less than two years after the project was first proposed.
The hospital’s primary purpose is to provide healthcare to women and children from the community. It is staffed with four doctors and four nurses. In addition to the paid staff, Canadian doctors have volunteered at the hospital. These medical professionals provide basic medical care to local clients, plus health, hygiene, and nutrition education. Since opening its doors, the hospital has logged 40,000 service visits by patients. Directly or indirectly, the hospital benefits communities totalling approximately 50,000. It has saved many lives, and improved quality of life throughout the community.
Opportunity: The medical teams identified a number of key priorities to enable the hospital to better serve the needs of its community. These included installation of a pathology laboratory for blood and urine work; installation of solar power to provide reliable electricity; and the acquisition of basic diagnostic equipment – for example, for ultrasound. The Rotary organization raised funds for these priorities in 2013 and this equipment is now being installed.
With the recent commissioning of 5 KW solar power plant, the hospital is the only building in a wide geographical area with reliable, continuous electricity.
Rotary has accomplished a great deal already, but much remains to be done. Water-borne diseases are the most common source of illness in the village. Without toilets and other sanitation projects, open defecation has a huge negative impact on the health of the community.
To address these issues, RC Calgary Centennial is again taking the lead.
With project leadership from two Calgary-area clubs and, hopefully, participation from clubs in the US and India, Rotary has initiated a sanitation and clean water project for the village. The project will make clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities available to villagers. The project’s WaterHealth water purification system – a system developed by a commercial enterprise operating in the social sector, provides an off-the-shelf modern technology for purifying water in a rural setting. This system will use electricity provided by solar panels available from Maya Devi Charitable Hospital.
For areas distant from this basic, high-quality water system, the project will provide bio-sand filters to distant communities. This system is an adaptation of the traditional slow sand filter, which has been used for community drinking water treatment for 20 years. Expertise based on using this system is available around the world from the Calgary-based Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST).
Anil Jain is president of the Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial, and the volunteer executive director of CHILD Foundation. The foundation’s annual overhead represents 2% of total income.