My sister in law Asha retired from government service as a physician and now does voluntary social work for an organisation called the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation. She attends to poor patients coming in to their center at New Bombay and apart from diagnosis dispenses free medicines too. For some serious cases the organisation arranges for surgery or hospitalisation for destitute patients by raising funds from among their members.
As part of their activities, they have been extending various services to a tribal village up on the Western Ghats after having adopted it. Let me share with you in her words what she has to say about it.
“Off the old Mumbai Pune Road NH4, near Karjat, about 60 kms from Vashi, lies this village Chinchmal, hardly heard of by even people from Mumbai. The village is on a hillock and consists of 360 households / families. Roads are good up to about six Kms before the village and from there just a mud road is usable.
Before our group adopted the village, women had to walk 4 kms to fetch potable water. Obviously, health and hygiene were casualties.
A piped water project was undertakenby our group, in which volunteer engineers and experts from SSSO, supported by labour by the villagers and funded by The Standard Chartered Bank as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility outreach. Today every hut has a water outlet right at each doorstep in two adjacent villages. You can imagine the time saved for the women and how they can put it to better use.
Besides making water available, 145 toilets and a primary school with separate toilets for boys and girls was also built.
A beautiful temple for Shirdi Sai Baba was built with a striking wooden roof. The prayer hall can easily seat about 500 people. The hall is surrounded by a veranda which is used for Narayanseva – feeding of the poor.
Volunteers from our group still go there, conduct medical camps, give sumptuous meals to all villagers, teach hygiene and morals, through stories, and instill a sense of self worth in the children not yet conditioned by years of isolation. Many youngsters have been given loans to learn how to drive automobiles, to attend electricians courses or to start small ventures of their own.
Contrary to cynical observations by critics, the villagers have returned the money borrowed not only in time but at times even earlier than agreed to periods.
Annual mass marriages are now a regular feature when the villagers arrange feasts to feed up to 400 people from their village and surroundings. When I went there recently for one such occasion I found all the village women nicely groomed in their sunday best, sitting for bhajans with their clean and well behaved children while the were busy making arrangements for the programme. Children did not look as malnourished as I see in the other villages that our work has now started. The village is clean and environment clear and pristine.
But the Most Important point—NO ALCOHOL is consumed by any one in the village now.
Any doubts as to why I am proud to belong to such an organization known for it’s selfless service?”
No Asha, I have no doubts. In fact I am very proud to be in your circle!
Some pictures to give you an idea of the work done by her group of dedicated volunteers.
The backdrop to the village, The Western Ghats.
At the entrance to the village.
Village children at the Center.
Outside a residence before the transformation took place.
The Primary School built by the SSSO.