AGAINST ALL ODDS
“In our village, we don’t have a hospital or medical centre. When someone is not well, it is very difficult to get proper care,” explains Gopiya from Indpur, Himachal Pradesh. She was among some of the five hundred plus villagers who were sponsored to travel to Amritapuri for Amma’s 62nd birthday celebrations.
“If somebody falls ill or needs medical care, everybody takes care of each other. My husband is a driver, so if somebody needs to go to the hospital for emergency, my husband will take care of them.”
This is a common issue among India’s villages. In addition to having no local hospitals, often they are in remote areas that are difficult to reach. It’s one of the reasons Amrita SeRVe has made regular medical clinics in villages a top priority. We conduct free and ongoing clinics in several states. As well, there is an emphasis upon training local women in becoming health care assistants (Amrita Swasthya Mitr). The hope is that awareness about prevention and early diagnosis can stop more serious issues from catching hold.
Medical care is not the only difficulty facing Gopiya’s low-income community in Indpur. Before Partition, most of their predecessors lived in what became Pakistan. When they reached Indpur, they had almost nothing and had to construct their homes from mud. Mostly, they were uneducated.
“There are also a lot of problems for our children,” says Gopiya as she points to a young girl in front of her. “This one here really likes going to school. When not in school, sometimes she gets time to play kabbadi or cricket. But mostly she does some outdoor work to help earn some money for the family.
Our daily needs are often not fulfilled and sometimes we feel terrible. But on the other hand, we know that money is not going to make us happy. Love is our only necessity to make us truly happy.
“Her mother says she doesn’t get enough time to spend with her children. On top of everything else, they have livestock to take care of. Of course, they can get some milk from the cows, but they still need time to spend with the children.”
“In many of our families, only the husband works and often they don’t have much work,” says Gopiya. “They work as labourers on farms. Some work as drivers. We need some work for the women so the women can also earn.”
There are big efforts in place to train local women in various forms of work. One of the most interesting is teaching them toilet construction. As is commonly known, open urination and defecation are rampant problems across India. Risks include spread of infectious diseases and risk for women and girls when they have to make the trek to isolated fields to relieve themselves.
Under Amrita’s Sustainable Rural Sanitation Model and Training Program, local women are learning how to build the toilets from the ground up rather than simply being carriers of materials for male workers. Instead of building free toilets for a few needy families, local women are learning construction skills to build toilets for their entire community.
The results are of high value. It promotes health and hygiene awareness, greatly improves the sanitation of the entire village, teaches valuable income-earning skills to women, and instills a feeling of self respect and self reliance.
“There is much suffering in our village,” says Gopiya as she pauses for a moment and closes her eyes. “Our daily needs are often not fulfilled and sometimes we feel terrible. But on the other hand, we know that money is not going to make us happy. Love is our only necessity to make us truly happy.”
And those words encapsulate one of the most precious things that can be discovered in village life. Even though the people who live there are often facing tremendously huge difficulties, they are able to find the joy in simply having been bestowed the gift of life.
“In the village, everybody knows each other,” explains Gopiya. “We have our family and our neighbours. Everyone is there caring for each other. In the city, that is not happening so much. I lived in Noida for some time, and there was no one there to take care of us. In the village everyone is taking care of each other.
“Sometimes we feel ups and downs in life, but still we are happy. And Amma is going to take care of our lives now. We feel very fortunate that Amma has adopted our village. We always think of Amma. We now have Amma’s blessing and that is all we need.”