Thursday, June 30, 2011

Polavaram Dam: A Public Health Problem

So a few weeks ago I went on a trip to Chatti near where the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Cchattisgard meet. It was a super fun trip and I was able to meet and learn about the Koya people.

They are a tribal community here in India that is being threatened by the building of the Polavaram Dam. The Dam in the current project would be a high dam that would displace somewhere around 312 villages and affect over 400,000 people, the majority of them tribals. One thing to know about tribal people here in India, they have special rights because of their lifestyle, but those rights are only attached to the land. If they lose the land then they lose their rights and their way of living and culture will most likely disappear because they cannot replicate those lifestyles in other areas.

In addition to this, the large water reservoir would create more exposure to water-borne diseases since while that area has deep rivers, does not have many other water sources besides those.

Another issue, (besides the obvious displacement of thousands of people) is that all of this project, the approvals, the construction, has gone on illegally. And it will affect tribals in two other states as well. You can see where the problems come in.

Another issue is that of the placement of the dam. It is placed in the most population-dense area of Andhra Pradesh: the delta area and the city of Rajamundry. If there was to be a massive flood that the dam couldn't hold, and if the dam broke at all, then within a few hours 5 million people could die as a result of the flow. This is a major problem that despite being addressed by a few key experts, is being ignored by those who are in charge of the project and the politicians who are tied to those campaigns and other "contributions."

And then there's the other issue of the Koya people themselves. They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They are so friendly and kind and willing to work with and help progress themselves and others.

At the Kulu Pu festival

With the Kids from the Village

Cute little girl

Wonderful people and their celebrations of life

I LOVE this picture. That girl was so nice and we had so much fun playing and talking.

I can just tell that this woman exudes wisdom!

The committee who we met who help fight for tribal rights

Where the Sabari and the Godavari Rivers meet. It would be submerged under the current dam project

A Koya village head in Orissa

The boat that travels between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh

Overall, it's a really interesting and complex issue and I'm glad that I'm able to help provide services to an organization who is campaigning for tribal rights and promoting education about this project. Let's hope that things turn in favor of the tribals!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slums, Soilets and Smiles

So today was amazing. I love the two projects that I'm heading up, I really do, but every now and then a break is nice. So I decided to jump on the Tippy Tap project. To learn more about what a Tippy Tap is go here. The project is being done in the slums Sri Nunamadgatar or something along those lines. It's also where we are building our first soilet. It's a complimentary project because the soilet is helping them to have better sanitation by preventing open defecation and the tippy tap is a water-efficient way to properly teach about washing hands with soap. Also it actually kills germs with the soap.

So Drew, Melanie, Sean, Sirisha, Brandon, Lexi, Seth and I all go out to work on these projects. It was a fun ride and literally as soon as we got off the bus it started raining. Yay monsoon season.

We get out and it's what you'd expect to see in a slum.


We break off into our respective groups, and Melanie, Lexi and I all go with our local connection to the head of the colony's house. There we talk with him about expanding the project and what we can do to help. It was great because he was all on board about having us teach seminars and help the people to understand, learn and grow.

It's not just the poor, even the rich let their babies go around like this, I guess it saves on diapers

It was such a great experience to meet with the head of the colony. He was so humble and so full of ideas and grateful that we were wanting to come and help. It was great to hear how willing he was to participate and help teach as many people as possible so that they could improve their health and lifestyle practices.

Him with his family outside his home

One of the things I love about visiting a little bit outside the city is that the people seem to smile more.

Well, maybe not the older ones as much...

But everyone really is friendly and they say hello and wave.

Even the little ones!

So we go to join the Soilets to see what we can do to help.

The in-progress soilet when we get there.

So we get there and instantly a group of people come up to us, mostly young people, but also some older ones.

Remember these two, they are responsible for almost the rest of my time spent today :)

The locals like asking us to take pictures.

These boys were pretty silly but fun and helped out when they could.

We get started by moving the porous concrete slabs into place in the soilet

And when I say we I mean them because I'm not allowed to lift anything larger than a very small child for the next 8 weeks (Look at my handsome hubby using those muscles!)

After this point, I was kidnapped by those girls and the rest of the slum children it seems. It was fun going from house to house to learn about their lives and see how they coped. It was interesting to note that despite being in such poverty, many people had tvs and a dish. Wait, what? The priorities are a little off here, but at least the people are trying to change and learn good practices. That and they are just absolutely wonderful, happy, kind, caring people. I had so much fun meeting everyone today and playing with the kids.

This little imp kept getting everyone to dance :)

Here she is with Lexi...

And with Melanie and Lexi trying to do the Sheila dance. Oh boy.

So it was fun meeting people and hearing stories. Example, this woman has a masters in Education and then she decided that she wanted to do something more with her life and decided to move to the slums to teach for free. Now she teaches 10 year olds who clearly adore her.

So sweet.

And it was fun to see the families and how they interacted.

All siblings or cousins

Dad and baby

Grandmother and grandchildren

And sisters:

So after romping around for a bit, I was finally able to escape and document more of the soilet process.

Melanie with the cement/concrete whatever it is

Seth in the soilet helping with filling in an mortar

While resting for a little bit after being dragged up and down the slum by the children, I sat down on some stairs. Only to be joined by them and a picture ensued. :)

So cute

It was also neat to see the dynamic of the street where we were building the soilet.

So much life and activity going on.

So finally the moment arrives when the soilet has been filled in and the slab with the hole for the squatter toilet needs to be placed on the soilet frame.

Sean and Brandon contemplating how this will work

Drew is excited about being close to being done for the day

Seth figures out how to maneuver around the slab a bit...

The strong men lift it up...

And voila! Progress! It's starting to look like a usable latrine!

After this we needed to head back to our home but we took a few parting shots.

Myself and the imp :)

Sirisha and a local woman resting after moving the soilet

Drew with some of the boys :)

It was a blast. Looking forward to helping these people and doing what I can.

See you next week slum!

Have I mentioned how much I'm loving India? It's fantastic. :)

Leia Mais…

Friday, June 24, 2011

Apollo Hospital and Surgery

Ok, so apparently whenever you travel your body decides to freak out on you. I've heard countless stories about people who discover heart conditions or various other ailments from traveling. Example, my friend Cameron from Jerusalem last year developed a condition that was hereditary and incurable-but treatable- and it decided to manifest itself while he was there.

My problem was my gallbladder decided to spaz on me while here in India. What started out as throwing up and inability to retain food/liquids transferred into major weight loss along with these symptoms, fever, and pain.

After coming back from my trip to Chatti to see the Koya people (more on them in the next post) I continued to decline in health. It was time to finally go to the hospital.

So I went to Apollo Hospital in Secunderabad. If you ever get sick in India, go there. They are a FANTASTIC healthcare system across India. Seriously, that hospital was nicer than some I've seen in the states.

So I go through the preliminary testings, pokings, prodings, urine samples, blood samples and an ultrasound. We find that I have a 1.1 cm long gallstone (it's me) and that I'm symptomatic of it blocking my bile duct.

So I wait for the analysis, and wait for insurance and I get the news that I'll need my gallbladder removed. Woohoo! This means 6 months AT LEAST of a limited diet, ity bity amounts of fat, and goodbye to a lot of my favorite foods. Oh yeah, and I can't have spicy food for 3 months... in INDIA.

So I get ready for surgery and have my last meal with Julie, and Melanie. We ordered Domino's and got a bbq chicken pizza and a veggie pizza with coke. So. SO good.

Mmm.... pizza!

So I get to the hospital and do a lot of waiting before finally getting admitted.

The bed (the first one I was in actually, they moved me to a different room almost immediately after taking this pic so that I could be closer to the nurse's station)

I was so excited to finally be getting a solution to my sickness. I wasn't going crazy or inventing my symptoms, I had a real problem.

Yay! I'm checked in!

I always had one of my wonderful country directors with me.

Seth waiting with me the first day.

So we wait, and chill and then they stick me with an IV. That was one of the worst parts. Even a week later it's still tender where I had the IV in for multiple days.


So I went through and the surgery went perfectly. It wasn't too pleasant waking up because fasting + pain + anesthesia + pain meds = throwing up. That was not a fun experience just after surgery.

But then things started getting better as my body calmed down and I was able to relax and eventually I was moved back to my room.

Over the next two days I had various visitors and people who brightened my day. Thank you Sirisha, Brandon, Melanie, Julie, Seth, Melissa, Mindy, and Ashlee for visiting me in the hospital. It made the experience better.

So I was friendly with the nurses and even got one of them to pose for a picture.

Her name is Sirisha

I also had some lovely red an yellow roses that Seth brought along with love notes from Julie and Melanie.

I also was hungry for the first time in month! Or so it seems! I was so happy with my food too. It was SO yummy. I even got a picture of it.

So bland but yummy! The watermelon and the mashed potatoes were absolutely amazing!

I finally got released and was able to go back home, drugged, but for the most part better. Although I will forever leave a part of me in India. Gallbladder, you will not be missed.

So remember: When traveling, even if you get a clean bill of health beforehand make sure to have good health insurance because something WILL come up.


Leia Mais…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More updates on health

So... just to let everyone know what's going on. The problem with me is gallstones but they're blocking my bile duct, so that along with having an American doctor confirm the Indian doctor's findings, I'm going to have my gallbladder removed in the next few days (maybe even as early as tomorrow).

I'll do an update on the private hospitals of India from a personal perspective when I'm better.

Pray for me and wish me luck!

Leia Mais…

Health Benefits of a break

Did you know that simply taking a break can help relieve stress, help the brain to rewire and help with better concentration when you return to your work? Even something simple as taking a 30 minute lunch break every day can help productivity!

So what do you do to have a break when basically everything you do and all of the people you interact with are your work partners?

You go see a movie of course!

Last Thursday a whole bunch of us went to go see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

IMAX 3D in the US: $15-20; IMAX 3D in India: $5

We got there and the movie theater was incredible. It wasn't just a theater, it was like a mall!

Super fancy

When walking around, Ale and I noticed this poster and had to take a picture:

oh the Delhi Belly....

So we went into the theater and got great seats and sat back and enjoyed the movie.

Ale and I were super excited

It was so nice to sit back, relax, and forget for two hours that I was in India. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the movie. It was such a normal thing to do that I completely forgot where I was. I love India, but doing the work and being sick takes a toll. It was such a boost and helped me get through work the next two days.

Such a great way to improve health. :)

Leia Mais…