Taking my first trip to the field since my time in CHSJ, I was absolutely jubilant. The desire for adventure and observation brought me to Delhi in the first place, and it now had me itching to go elsewhere in India. Just as Delhi has not disappointed, neither did Morena.
At first I was simply overcome with the excitement and novelty of the journey. I took my first Indian train ride, packed 11 people into an auto rickshaw, and saw an angry cow leave the animal hospital and run into a moving car. I told a friend I wanted to document every moment. But over my two days there, my blind enthusiasm was slowly replaced by a deeper curiosity of the issues we were there to work on.
CHSJ was there to train Madhya Pradesh animators to monitor the health resources and services that the government is supposed to provide, but often does not. Through the National Rural Health Mission, communities are supposed to have a system in place to evaluate government services, but many people in the villages are unaware of this, leading to a subpar health services. The whole system looks good on paper, but without proper communication, many problems arise. So Satish and Mahendra of CHSJ led this workshop, and despite the language barrier, I could sense the excitement and energy in the room. This is an issue that matters to the community and I hope the work of CHSJ and other NGOs is adequate to ensure proper enforcement of the NRHM. Time will only tell.
On the second day of the workshop I had the privilege of visiting a Primary Health Centre, which is supposed to provide treatment for the nearest 5-7 villages, or about 30,000 people. I was very excited to go and talk to patients, see how the facilities match up to projected ideals, and, alas, the centre was shut down because the workers were elsewhere for a national polio campaign. Eradicating polio is certainly a worthy cause, but it should not come at the cost of emergency services in rural Madhya Pradesh. We did get a chance to talk to a doctor, who mentioned how short staffed the centre was, even before its resources had to be directed to the polio campaign. From international disease campaigns, to local knowledge of the functions of the PHC, the place has a large range of obstacles to overcome in order to provide the best services for the people. I noticed a lot of progress in just my two days observing, leaving me optimistic that our work over a long period will help the people achieve their rights to health care.
I had to leave halfway through CHSJ’s four day stay in Morena, and it got me eager to return to a rural area in India. I appreciated the change of pace from Delhi, the peacefulness and the bright colors, and wish I had more time to get to know the lives of the animators and the village values, and the stories that cause each of them to take leadership positions on behalf of the health of the village. In my time at CHSJ, I have learned that making the world a better place involves a lot of routine office work, and seeing the individual stories behind that work makes it all worth it.
By Phillip Perl, in Morena, Madhya Pradesh, from 24-26th February 2013