Projects provide neo-natal care, dignity

ByAshish Sarkar, Past President

During my recent trip to India, I visited two Global Grant (GG) project sites.  These projects are co-sponsored jointly by several clubs in District 6380 and Detroit Rotary Club. The first project is in Hardaspur, a village near Pune, in Southern India. The goal is to enhance the neo-natal care unit at a hospital there. This project was approved and funded by the Rotary Foundation on February 22, 2018.

The Sane Guruji Hospital in Hardaspur is the site for this project. The project is being co-sponsored by three Rotary Clubs in District 6380 (Rotary Clubs of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor North, and Novi), the Rotary Club of Detroit in District 6400, and four Rotary Clubs in two districts in India. Two districts in the U.S. two districts in India, and one district in Japan are providing Designated District Fund matching grants. The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor is the lead international partner for this project, and the  host country lead partner is Rotary Club of Pune, India.

The purpose of my visit was to meet with the host partner club, prepare a plan of action for project implementation and visit the hospital to meet with the staff as well as our implementation partner, PALAV, a Detroit based NGO dedicated to improving the child mortality in the countries of the developing world.

Sane Guruji Hospital provides services for free, unless the patient has means to pay a nominal fee. During my three -day visit, I found out that they have eight to ten premature births every week. While they have trained nurses in the neonatal unit, they have only one ventilator in the unit at the moment. If more than one baby requires a ventilator, the staff or a doctor must decide who gets to use the only available unit. As you can imagine, this is a very difficult decision. And, the same is true for other critical equipment.

The $94,000 GG project will allow us to provide brand new equipment to set up eight neonatal beds in this hospital. In addition, the project includes training for the staff to sustain the project. All the equipment will be locally procured, and come with full warranty and long-term maintenance contracts. The hospital estimates that this new neo-natal unit, with eight beds, will save several thousand prematurely born babies a year—and the services will be provided for free.

During my trip, a fellow Rotarian pointed out to me that within five miles of the Sane Guruji Hospital there is an ultramodern private, for profit hospital catering to the medical needs (major surgeries and procedures at half the cost) of patients from western countries. This hospital has a five-star deluxe hotel attached the facility where patients recover. This is called medical tourism. What a contrast to the bare-bones existence of Sane Guruji Hospital, where kids are dying due to lack of needed equipment.

With the project funding in place, we should be able to get the ball rolling by April 1, 2018. We have a team in place for successful implementation of this multi-club, multi-district project.

Building toilets provides dignity

The second Global Grant project site that I visited is in the Sunderban area of eastern India. The goal of this $84,000 project is to build 320 toilets and provide training . The project started in early 2017 and is expected to be completed by May 2018.

The lead international club on this project is the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor North with Kolkata Midtown Rotary Club being the lead host country club. District 6380 Clubs cosponsoring this project include the  Rotary Clubs of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor West, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, Milan, Novi, and Saline, along with significant financial support from District 6380. The implementation partner is Sri Ramakrishna Mission, a global, well respected NGO registered in India.

I visited the site with several members of the host club, Kolkata Midtown, on February 4. During the daylong visit, we met with all the parties involved in the project, including contractors, trainers, suppliers, and of course, the village residents, who are the ultimate beneficiaries. As of last month, 370 toilets have been built and 30 more are to be completed by May 2018.

Yes, that is correct—we will build 80 more toilets than our original goal of 320 toilets and stay within the $84,000 budget. The main reason for this is that our local partners have been able to receive lot more “in kind donations” from suppliers and contractors and installation labor from the owners of these toilets. We have also been able to streamline the training process for the use of the toilets.

In my opinion, this has been a very good Global Grant project for all the Rotary clubs involved. This was my third visit to the site and each time I visit, I find the locals more receptive to the project, and it is certainly making a difference in their lives. More kids are going to school, there is less sickness and absenteeism,  and a lot less open defecation. The ultimate goal of the project was to give “dignity” to the young girls in the village (hence the name of the project), allowing them to live a peaceful and dignified life without the fear of abduction or worse.

Even after building almost 500 toilets in the area, in two phases over the last three years, the demand for more toilets is enormous and so is the need for training in sanitation. We could easily build 1,000 more such toilets in the nearby villages. With an experienced team in place, the overall unit cost will only go down. We are finding out that some of the locally based corporations are willing to contribute cash if we can show them that their contributions will be leveraged with the matching grants from the Rotary Foundation.

Some of us will follow up with the clubs in our district, as well as other districts to see if we can develop another Global Grant project to build up to 1,000 toilets. It is worth starting the discussion with the district and club leadership. All in all, this has been a very successful project that all the sponsoring clubs should be very proud of.