Shining Hope founders, Serge, Marie and Astrid Saint Arnoult recently travelled to the Schechen Medical Center, Bodhgaya, India to look at what has been achieved since Shining Hope started supporting Karuna-Shechen in September 2012. Serge Marie and Astrid were all impressed with how the projects are managed and delighted to see the amazing work accomplished through the funding from Shining hope.
It is hard to put into words how poor the rural population of Bihar India is. You only need to look at the high incidence of malnourishment in Bihar (around 80% of children below five years of age and 68.2% of women in reproductive age group (15-49 years) in the state are malnourished) and the extreme poverty in which these people live. During the visit the St Arnoult family could see how Karuna-Shechen is committed to bringing improvements in direct intervention to the poorest inhabitants of Bodhgaya. Thanks to Shining Hope’s generous donation, 6 new villages have now joined the program bringing the total number of adopted villages to 18. The main areas of intervention are; education, environment health and social.
‘A soon as I came out of the car, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the staff’s welcome and their generosity. Throughout the next few days we accompanied the mobile clinics team in various villages. It was like being in another world. We met communities living in such remote locations that you would never expect to see anyone there. I had chance to witness some doctor consultations, and informal classes with women and children. You could really feel the gratitude towards the Shechen’s staff. They have created a deep and trustful bond among the villagers. It was a true joy to witness the development that Karuna-Shechen is responsible for. Through medicine, informal education, and solar electricity, those remote villages are completely transformed in a wonderful way. They have kept their day-to-day way of life, but their living conditions have significantly improved. Shining Hope Foundation is very happy to collaborate with Karuna-Shechen in this wonderful venture.’ Marie Saint Arnoult
It takes one and half hours to drive the relatively short distance of 40 km to reach the mobile clinic, located between two villages. The journey by car is difficult, once of the main highway, (which is in fact just a concreted road) crammed with large trucks the dirty dusty road begins. Littered with enormous pot holes, expertly negotiated and maneuvered around by the experienced drivers, we are bumped and bounced along, stopping frequently to allow herds of animals to pass. The road is shared with people on foot, bikes, motorbikes, rickshaws, tractors, the occasional bus and the numerous cows, goats, chickens and small children left free to roam the dusty narrow streets. Horn honking is essential, even the chickens seem to understand this is the sign to get out of the way.
Most people are barefoot, children are often naked or half dressed. As we approach the disused building where we will set up the clinic we spot the sea of colour in the distance, women in brightly patterned saris squatting in front of the clinic waiting for our arrival in a magnificent hue of oranges, reds, yellows and blues. Many women are heavily decorated with tattoos and nose rings.
Barefoot and ill, women, men and children walk from neighboring villages to reach the clinic- some as far as 7km and often in the blistering heat. At this time of the year the heat is bearable but in summer and during the monsoon they still have to walk. The most common ailments are bone and joint problems, coughs and colds, skin diseases and ENT related illnesses.
One little baby had a fungal infection. Another elderly lady had walked to get medicine for her cold and fever- she told us her story and how she felt weak and tired- she was hot, had a headache and little energy left to walk home but at least now she had medicine and would be better soon.
Vanessa is Communications Associate at the Shining Hope Foundation. She has recently joined the team and will manage the charity’s relationships with its current partners abroad. She has travelled extensively in Asia and lived in Hong Kong and later in Vietnam where she worked on various humanitarian projects.