In December 2009 I was privileged to be selected to be part of the Hands on India team as a supervisor Chiropractor volunteering Chiropractic care and assisting in training of student Chiropractors.
The Hands on India team included 21 fourth year Chiropractic students from Murdoch University, Perth and nine Chiropractors as Supervisors. We were guests of a Catholic Mission in Siliguri which is in the top Eastern corner of India, less than a hundred kilometers from the borders of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan at the base of the Himalayas. It is an extremely poor area with many refugees from Bangladesh and hill tribes. Tea picking is the main employment as it is only 78 km (and 4 hours drive) from Darjeeling. Breaking rocks on the riverbed is also a major employer.
During our two weeks stay we set up four clinics in remote rural areas and spent long days seeing approximately six thousand patients. This was complicated by needing translators and seeing people who had the most complex and severe health problems I have seen in my 20 years in practice. They included many stroke victims, kids with cerebral palsy, cancers undiagnosed, fractures, wound dressing, ankylosing spondylitis, scabies, TB, AIDS not to mention back and neck pain from a lifetime bending over picking tea and carrying it in sacks on their head, or crouching breaking rocks with a hammer and carrying them to sell.
These people were largely so poor they may never have seen a doctor and believe they are cursed so pain is something they have to live with. For the Bangladeshi refugees there is no free medical care and many of the children have not been to school. They discard their old tea picking ladies when they can no longer work so they continue to work until they drop.
The money donated went so far. So little bought so much. To give you an idea:
- $4 for an x-ray. I bought an x-ray for 12 year old boy with a terrible limp to decide whether we could treat him or he needed surgery (which we were prepared to pay for) good news was by the end of 2 weeks and the power of chiropractic he was full of smiles back walking properly again.
- $12 per day for translators so we could communicate with everyone, and speed up treatment time.
- 25c to buy worming treatment for parasites which most of the kids we saw needed
- $2 for antibiotics that were potentially lifesaving in someone with pneumonia causing heart failure.
- We bought 210 jumpers at $5 each for schools where the kids had no jumpers and to make them feel they had a school uniform.
- Bigger money is being used on purchasing land for the children of the rock breaking community so they can attend school, and sit in a classroom with a solid roof and walls and toilet. The current school classroom is a lean to but with 30 sitting on the dirt floor under sheets on iron with flimsy woven wood walls, the other 20 sit outside in the dirt. Goodness knows what it is like in winter and in the monsoon. Many more of these schools are needed.
- Orphanages and homes for the deserted Tea Ladies, for the Leprosy, AIDS and TB clinics. Those that we saw were the most basic of conditions and heart breaking but filled with love of the nuns.
- So much more is needed.
This may sound depressing but it was truly amazing and each day was uplifting to work with these dignified, beautiful people who waited so patiently. The results amazed us as we saw people with such long term disabling conditions improve and return for more treatment, bringing with them family and friends also wanting to find out what chiropractic care could offer them.
Thank you for your donations and support; we never know how much it can change one person in the world’s life.
I look forward to future involvement in this exciting project.
Further details and on the Hands on India program and ways to donate can be found on the website handsonindia09.wordpress.com.