Oct 2, 2017

#GROWCommunity17: Bright Future

Author: Malu Satheesh

The moment we stepped out of the Bhubaneswar airport into the hot, humid air of Odisha, India, we were greeted by SOVA staff. With huge smiles on their faces, they handed each of us interns a fresh, red rose, and with that gesture, a great deal of my nerves instantly eased. Coming to this unfamiliar place, full of new people that spoke a different language, I was concerned about how we would interact with SOVA and how this internship would manifest. But, that single red rose instilled in me hope that everything would be okay.

For the next three weeks, we lived at the SOVA office. At meal times, we would joke around with the cook and converse with different members of SOVA’s staff. My favorite interactions were the evening tea-time meetings that we had with some staff members, and these consistent discussions allowed us to learn more about the inside details of the NGO and provide our feedback about their programs. Every day, we filled out a feedback form, and we would address our responses during the meeting. This really gave us an opportunity to engage in a conversation with SOVA and build our relationship. Over the course of the three weeks, we discussed details about the General Duty Assistant program that our chapter funds, the other programs that SOVA coordinates, and the connection that the organization has with the local communities. By the end, us interns and the staff became extremely friendly with each other, with both parties willing to be honest and comfortable enough to crack jokes. This healthy, friendly relationship between our chapter and SOVA will greatly benefit communication in upcoming years and enhance our partnership.

In addition to connecting with the staff members, us interns were able to sit in on the GDA classes. We observed the theory class, where the instructor lectured on topics such as medicines and first aid. We saw how the trainees listened intently, took meticulous notes, and answered questions. The instructor told us that he called on students to gauge how well they were processing and studying the material, and based on his observations, he would provide extra assistance to those who needed help. After the theory class, the girls participated in a practical session. According to the interviews that we conducted of the trainees, the students seemed to enjoy this session more because the practical instructor made sure that the students were learning how to perform the techniques correctly and comfortably. The trainees were able to use different kinds of medical equipment, which were funded by GlobeMed, and perform tests on each other. Additionally, we got to observe guest speakers, such as one physician who gave an interactive lecture on first aid techniques. We also accompanied the trainees on visits to local hospitals, where they got exposure to the hospital environment, patients, and medical staff. This was a great opportunity for them to connect the knowledge they learned about in class to the field, and they were more aware of job opportunities that could be pursued after completion of the program. Whenever I observed the trainees, I noticed that most of them were very hardworking; they really wanted to master the material, they volunteered to practice techniques, and they were willing to ask and answer questions. Seeing this dedication affirmed that the contributions that GlobeMed provides are being put to good use, providing these students with an opportunity to further their learning, apply for jobs, and help their communities.

We also got to participate in several holiday functions, including Raksha Bandhan, Indian Independence Day, and Ganesha Puja. We were able to celebrate with the trainees, and this provided us a fantastic opportunity to casually interact with them. In fact, we had dance parties a few times, and we taught the trainees how to do the Macarena. Though there was a language barrier, the trainees made an effort to connect with us, writing down their questions and asking to take pictures with us. By the end of the trip, both sides were shedding tears.

While learning about the GDA program was certainly one of our main focuses as GROW interns, we also learned a lot about the other programs that SOVA runs. We visited three schools that are involved in SOVA’s Mid-Day Meal program. We were able to converse with the students, teachers, and cooks to understand how different groups felt about the program and the effects that it has had. We learned that the students enjoyed the fortified rice, as it is sweeter than normal rice. Since this is a new project, not much evaluation has been conducted, but soon they will be able to determine if the project is improving children’s health and reducing malnutrition. We also visited the Primary Health Center that is run by SOVA. This is a clinic that SOVA coordinates in partnership with the government, and it provides services such as medicines, consultations with Allopathic and Ayush doctors, first aid, deliveries, etc. We saw how busy the PHC was, indicating that people are taking advantage of this resource. We also got to observe how the Mobile Health Unit works. The MHU is a van, stocked with doctors and medicines, that drives out to remote communities to provide basic medical services to people who have difficulties reaching hospitals. Similarly, SOVA runs vaccination clinics and health outreach programs to provide vaccines and other services to people who do not have easy access to hospitals. At all of these programs, there were a lot of local people present. We were very impressed by how organized SOVA was in running all of these programs; they kept records of the attendees and had strict schedules outlining when these programs would be conducted in each community. We also got to observe a Adult Reproductive and Sexual Health program at a middle school, where SOVA staff educated young girls about puberty and eating habits. The staff were very excellent at connecting with the students, making sure to keep the program engaging.

After seeing all the work that SOVA does throughout the community, I was extremely proud to be their partner. Watching the girls come to class everyday and hearing about their aspirations really inspired me, and I hope to bring some of that passion and dedication back to our chapter for the upcoming year. I think the relationship between our chapter and SOVA has improved significantly thanks to the GROW trip, and I am excited to see how our partnership and the GDA program will evolve.

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