Saturday, March 12, 2016

Youth Alliance: Journey between then and Now :)

There are some days that leave a mark on our lives and become a defining milestone. Four years back it was this day when the hard work of many people brought together a group of 17 youngsters as part of Lead The Change program. Youth Alliance was in its primitive stage, full of passion and commitment it set off its first program.Today when I look back at first LTC, I feel it was that program that made Youth Alliance what it is today. 

Some brilliant compassionate hearts joined the program, they nurtured it with their love and faith. Many of them stayed back for around two years to build the organisation. Manisha, Seema, Angna, Subhash, Ajay, Shashank became the pillars of the organisation for years to come. They started walking the journey with Vibhuti, Udit, Shivang, Akanksha, the pioneers who hosted the first LTC into the unknown, we could only see a step further sometimes even the step was blurry but faith kept us moving until many more joined the caravan.

I still remember sitting with my diary and scribbling the proposed structure of LTC, with literally zero experience in designing a leadership program. I reached out to Swapnil Bhaiya, one of the co-founders of Jagriti Yatra and I remember finalising 90% of LTC sitting with him. He used to make coffee for me and scold me like a younger brother. The next stop was Vivek bhaiya from Gandhi Fellowship, who had his own unique style of loving by challenging the person. I still remember, "This will not work, you are making a program that will take them to Ivy League." He constantly challenged me to think deeper and was always around when I felt depressed.

It was  Valentine's Day when I went to Anshu Bhaiya, to share the model and take his inputs. He patiently listened to all my super excited talks, after the long conversation around the program that we had at the dining table in Goonj, he went in and handed a cheque to me. I did not ask for funds in the entire discussion, not even mentioned the struggle of finances but he saw through me and said,"I know you don't have money and you will need it." He wrote in my diary, "Lage Raho!" I think the only justice I could do to him all these years, is not stop.

There are so many other people who made this possible. It will be hard for me to write about everyone, all I can feel today is deep gratitude for all each one them. From Jayesh Bhai to Ravi Bhaiya who later became part of the journey, from TFI flatmate to school friend, from kids of my TFI class to slum right across my childhood school, from my family back in Kanpur to my partner for life, from my college to universities across the world, from the forces visible to forces invisible, from my country which has always made me feel proud to the world I have started knowing now, all I can say is a big Thank You for making this a reality :)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Reflections from Eye Camp!

Like every year, we went to the villages with a small group of enthusiastic young people eager and excited to know more about villages. Gramya Manthan, the rural immersion program that happened in June 2015. During the program, a camp for Eye check up was organized  for the people of surrounding villages. More than 200 people turned up for check up, most of them were old men and women. During the camp, we came across 21 people who were suffering from cataract disease, which is a curable blindness. All they needed was a small surgery to get their sight back. In the scorching heat of June local care was limited and not infeasible to have surgeries. On consultation, mild winters of February 2016 were finalized for operation and thus began the planning with the beginning of new year.

On 11th February, I and my team-mate Ajay Sharma reached Paliya. We had already shared about surgery with a few people from the village over a call. Now, the next step was to visit homes and talk to people. After the first round of conversations in the village, mixed responses were received. We were a bit worried whether people would come for surgery or not yet in our heads we were determined to make the surgeries happen even if there were 5 people ready as we had planned for 20 surgeries. Surprisingly, People had different notions about an operation here in the village. Many have had distressing experiences with doctors in the past while some of the responses were hilarious enough as one old lady said that they might take our eye out and I might get blind and some said the doctors take out kidneys etc. showing their respective worries.

During a basic check up before the operation like BP, Sugar etc a lot of people gathered marking a good response and positive spirit to go ahead with the plan.To our surprise, an old lady around 70-year old had Blood Sugar level at 268 which is quite dangerous and she was unaware about the same. Such incidents showed us the reality of what more needs to be done in rural India. These are the basic healthcare facilities and our people have been unaware and denied of this for decades.

It was such an amazing experience to be there and share(sometimes convince) that how life could change post this operation. There was a lot to learn from their responses as it showed a lot of apprehensions, their past experiences and how they have not been given basic access. Another heart-filling humorous incident happened when an old lady came to us next day that the doctor has filled her hand with air yesterday and it has been paining, to our surprise the doctor checked her BP and she was convinced that her hand is filled with air now. :) On one side I was in laughter but on the other side it made me wonder that she has never ever experienced this before.

Finally, the day had come. We were ready to make the move to Kanpur city and many of the people who agreed yesterday  had dropped out. There were several reasons and one of them that really worried me was apathy of younger generation towards old people within families. For a moment, we grappled on how to make sure that we have at least 5 people. We reached out to all who had given their confirmation earlier and heard their concern.It was humbling to see the challenges and importance of a day for them, as how difficult it was for many to take a couple of day's leave.

We finally had 8 people with whom we left for the villages and it was such a fulfilling feeling to see their trust and belief in us. The operation was scheduled for next day, cataract surgery is not a long process. It's a 20 min. surgery but the nervousness was quite visible, sharing stories of our distant relatives who had undergone this surgery and how simple it was served to pacify their queasy hearts.

It was such an endearing experience the next day to witness as they held each others hand with love and encouragement to vanishing all the fear before calling in for the operation. The time came and 5 of them were called to get ready for operation. It was a difficult time for me as well, 8 people had come all the way with sheer trust and hope and if something goes wrong what would I say to their families. The utmost belief they showed in me that none of their families accompanied and they said to me, "Bhaiya, you just be with them constantly." Meanwhile, I meditated to calm myself and then cleaned the room where we all were staying. In the next three hours all were back, pin-drop silence in the room, a couple of them were trembling. All I could do was hold their hand and be with them. It is hard for me to express that moment in words, as some feelings can only be felt in our hearts. They were made sleep then.

As they woke up, the amusing conversations started. By now, other Youth Alliance volunteers had also arrived. Tejal, our alumni from first GM was also there, making sure that she is there with them and taking care of their basic needs like to use toilet. By the evening the room was filled with laughter and lively spirits. I had to request our oldies to talk less. Happiness was evident and infectious. We also had three volunteers from Mexico, Honduras, and Panama. They were amazed to see a hospital room filled with so much love.
Next day the bandages were removed to check for the vision and gratefully everything went well for all. The joy was of hopes being fulfilled. Now, all were excited to go back home and see their families. We reached back to villages post noon, explained about the future medication and care that was needed to be taken. I felt relaxed and at peace.

I am sure these eight stories will be a powerful example and people will not delay in health matters. This was not just a health care initiative but a huge step to break many stereotypes in disguise, it had already brought a Brahmin and SC on the same bed, yes they did not touch each other but atleast they were next to each other on bed. 

At last, I would like to thank everyone, who came forward to support us, especially Dr. Awadh Dubey(Eye Surgeon) who offered us his services and has been a huge support for Gramya Manthan since the beginning. All this was possible because there is love in everyone's heart for everyone, it is just that we need a medium and chance to express.