I am back in the U.S. after a another successful trip to Pardada Pardadi. I was most grateful to leave the election turmoil behind,not be exposed to another sign or commercial, and not have access to the news over there, missing all of the post election negativity. The work we do there is much more satisfying and rewarding than the tensions and conflict that accompanied this election, along with little time to even think about it. Bringing volunteers, fun, love and medical care to the students and their villagers was a wonderful distraction!
Trip Number 8 was, once again, incredible. At the end of every trip, I feel so blessed to be able to have the experiences I have had over the past six years. There was a large crowd of PPES friends with us, including several US and Indian board members, Dr Charlie Sheehan(our medical clinic director from MD), several doctors from Wayne State Medical School and three volunteers from Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia There were also several Indian doctors, including our PPES doctors, Dr. Sharma, and others. Sam’s gracious hospitality ensures all goes well. My team left with a true sense of having made a real difference, as well as the recognition of how much work, and money, is needed to continue the work that has just begun.
The first three days medical camps were held in 2 villages, as well as a day at the school medical clinic. These villages are so remote and distant from the school, too far for the people to come to the new medical clinic that opened in March. Over 1000 patients were seen by our group in just 3 days, and 3000 prescriptions for drugs(to include tylenol, etc) were distributed from our pharmacy. The only way to truly understand what a medical camp is, is to experience it! Tents are set up in a field that serves as registration, triage, doctors and exam rooms, with no electiricity. Our students and staff do a great job providing organization, translators administering a depression survey- the first mental health project.
Our pharmacy now has over 70 medications and vitamins. Still, many patients were in need of meds not available in the region. Many suffer from chronic conditions that we could do nothing about. Day 2 was held at the school, so we had electricity for nebulizers and EKG’s for those who needed them. The air quality is very poor, as it is getting cold. Villagers burn dung and wood to stay warm, as well as burning the remains of wheat recently harvested. So many suffer from breathing and allergy issues as the result.
One of my volunteers brought HIV testing kits, a health issue never dealt with in this region before. There was concern about HIV testing, as the only thing that could be done is prevention. We did a small test study, with no positive results. A moment I shall never forget, was when a man who came on day Number 1, having been told he had AIDS. He was tested and learned he did not. Had we not brought the test kits, the man would have continue to live with the torment he was experiencing. We brought him the gift of peace.
Another man came on foot, writhing in pain, and diagnosed with end stage lung cancer. There were no IV pain meds available in the region, so the only thing that could be done was saline injections. Being with the doctor and patient, I was heartbroken, helpless and frustrated by the lack of medicines and care available in this region. With no hospitals or hospice care, the man went home to die, with no relief available for his pain. The clinic is in the infancy stage, we have much work to do, so learn from every experience. Volunteers and funding are needed to continue to build this project, so please consider either...... There were countless sick and malnourished adults, children and babies. We have made a beginning, so I look to the future with hope.
I recently spoke about Manisha, 13, at the TEDX talk I did in October. A student at PPES, with no parents, she lived alone with her blind, deaf 95 year old grandmother. I have worried about what would happen to her when her grandmother died. I learned that she did die in March, shortly after I left the school. Manisha is now living alone, with relatives looking in on her. Such is the life and heartbreaking story of many of our girls. My hope is that she stay in school and not be “married” and sold.
Onto the bright side. We brought 500 pounds of donations from the US and distributed over 2400 pair of panties, to our 1400 girls. To date, this makes over 8500 pair I’ve collected to take to these children. I’ve become known as the “panty lady”, with this fun and rewarding, and important, project. We also distributed toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, 50 pounds of pens and pencils and school supplies, craft projects, and more.
We held a carnival for all of the girls, thanks to the awesome volunteers from Children’s Hospital of Philadephia. Carnivals were held at each of the schools (there are a total of 4 schools at PPES-preschool, 2 elementary and Class 6-12). It was so much fun, a great time with the girls and teachers so happy and appreciative. We had lots of games( ring toss, bowling, duck pond, beanbag toss, sack race, 3 legged race, face painting) and lots and lots of prizes and candies. Such a great idea, bringing joy and happiness to all!
We set up and organized the medical clinic, a monumental task. There have been so many donations of supplies and medicines sent over the past 3 years. We now have a place for everything, having worked for hours with the staff and girls in the clinic organizing the pharmacy and supply closet. Lots of trash got thrown out, which always makes me happy. We have enough latex gloves for everyone in India to be given a pair! Organization is not something that has been easy for the staff, so they are good to go, thanks to my team!
We are dealing with a big problem that began for the entire country on Tuesday. The government has done away with 500 ($7.69) and 1,000 ($15) rupee notes, to rid the country of “black money”. I won’t go into that here, so Google it if you want to learn more. All banks and ATM’s were closed Tuesday, with no money available. Those notes must now be exchanged for 100 rupees($1.55), the largest denomination available now. We went to buy storage containers for the med clinic yesterday and could not use my money. Imagine that! We are now plotting as to when we can go to the bank and how long we will have to wait in line. The maximum amount of money now available, per person, per day is 4000 rupees. In December, the 500 and 1000 rupee notes will be worthless. And we think America has problems. After we leave the school we will head onto Agra and hope we can get money at the hotel.
Mary Cairns lives in Landenberg and has just concluded her eighth trip to India to help girls trapped in sex slavery.