April 11, 2015

J – for Jamkhed

Jamkhed is one of the poorest areas in Maharashtra State’s Ahmednagar District. I recall my visit to this place as a spinster; working for an NGO that promoted Community Health with Holistic health concept.  I was sent for an exposure programme to understand how health can be brought in the community through a process of empowerment.

I stayed in this place for 4 days, went around a few villages and was very impressed by the work done. What appealed to me the most was I was welcomed at the reception by a lady from the village; and there were women who were managing and in charge of housekeeping, kitchen, laundry and also helping the students who come there for interns programme, taking them around the village and providing information. The villages in Jamkhed are neat and clean, there were self help groups for women; and lot of women and men were involved in income generating programmes. I visited a few houses which were very well kept, the children looked healthy and surrounding was also clean.

This place has an interesting background.  It began with two wonderful persons called Dr Rajikanth Arole and Dr Mable Arole, students at Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamilnadu fell in love and got married.  In their marriage they took an extra vow saying that they will serve the poorest of the poor.

In 1970 they were invited by the leaders of Jamkhed, one of the poorest areas to provide health care in their community. Thus the Comprehensive Rural Health Programme got started in a very modest way. It is also said that when Dr Rajnikanth & Dr Mable arrived in Vadala, east of Mumbai there was already one doctor by name Dr Hale Cook, an American Missionary of the US in charge of the hospital.

Dr Cook had spent many years in India and was known for his skill and dedication.  The villagers around Vadala almost worshipped him.  Dr Rajnikanth’s home town was not far from Vadala and he frequently went to vadala during his medical school vacations to work in the hospital, he hoped that after his graduation he would be able to work permanently.

After working for a year in a large hospital at Kolar in South India to gain experience both the doctors Rajnikanth and Mable went to Vadala. Dr Cook welcomed the couple and to their surprise handed over a bunch of keys from his pocket stating that they are now in charge of the hospital. 

Thus giving responsibility to this couple to take care of the well established hospital. While the couple got busy with hospital work, Dr Cook immersed himself with other activities.  He started organizing various programmes for women on nutrition, mother and child health, immunization and family planning. Dr Cook encouraged the farmers to construct wells for irrigation, advised them to grow lentils and vegetables in addition to cereals.

Dr Cooks work was not recognized and he did not get cooperation from the hospital staff. The couple got curious that such a accomplished surgeon and physician had left the glamour of clinical practice and was spending time in rather un attractive activities. The couple started interacting with Dr Cook and started discovering the inadequacies of the health care system, thus started looking beyond the disease and its cure to the human face behind it, to the family and the community, the environment, to see what goes in the villages.

Thus started a story of development of a sustainable community based primary health care programme in one of the poorest parts of India. It is also an experience as to how the poor, illiterate men and women have radically changed the health of the villages they inhabit by the process of discovering new skills and knowledge, and the sharing of the values.  They have shown that Health for All can indeed become a reality.

I was very inspired by the visit to this place; and could not forget this experience for many years in my life…Have you visited this place? do you have any experience of empowering process in a rural village.?  I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Genivive this is such an empowering inspiring story thank you very much. Bless those people. And for the villagers using their wisdom in building their communities. There are such stories here in South Africa where many many communities are poor and it takes special people to help make them self functioning...

    1. I am glad you liked this post, Jamkhed has a long story to tell, there is also a book on this place, that speaks about its history and also shares inspiring stories of empowerment and the shift from being disease oriented treatment to person oriented response by the medical professionals. A lot of work has been done on preventive health and it is very interesting to see...thanks for your comments, I do appreciate..

  2. Never been anywhere like this! Love the colors of the fabrics and everything is so lush and green! Being poor never means one can't be clean and neat.
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps' Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge

    1. I am lucky to find this place as part of my work in the early stages of my career and still love the experience....you are right being poor one can be clean and neat; but there is perception that poor and illiterate people have no sense of hygiene and are looked down.. some people will not even take a cup of tea from a hut as they will so cautious about their health... but Jamkhed has a different story to tell.... Thanks for your comments, appreciate you for stopping by.. I would love to read your posts..

  3. This post was very interesting! Thank you for sharing it!

    1. I am happy you liked this post, I appreciate you for your kind words..


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