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Love and Light

Service Wing - Experiences at Dang Medical Camp: Part 1

17th - 22nd December 2012

Group of 49 volunteers from UK, 1 from Germany and 1 from USA set off to the Dang Medical Camp, in Gujarat, India. This time, my daughter Minal and husband Dinesh were able to attend the camp with Swami’s grace. I had heard so much about Dang through my Holistic colleagues in Preston who previously visited the place and I was about to experience it myself.

On this occasion, the group was a big team which consisted of dentists, optometrists, paediatricians, pharmacists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, medical students, nurses, bone specialists, general volunteers, a gynaecologist, ophthalmologist and ENT specialists. The local coordinators were Manav Kalyan Trust from Navasari, translators, kitchen staff (who provided 2 delicious meals a day) and the registration team. The host provided us with recently qualified Art of Living students who helped with registration and translation from Dangi to Gujarati.

We arrived at the Swami Narayan Lodge in Saputara in the late evening darkness and you could feel the chill in the mountains. It was situated on a peaceful spot on top of a hilly area. After an eight hour ride from Mumbai to Saputara, the lodge was a welcome site. The next morning, surrounded by nature, seeing the magnificent sunrise and being able to listen to the morning aarti at the temple was my highlight, during the stay at the lodge.

We travelled to the medical campsite by bus everyday which was approximately a 40 minute drive and enjoyed seeing the beautiful spiritual heritage, Dang scenery and the tribal people getting on with their daily chores.

The medical campsite was acres of empty space about two months previously, but now it was transformed into a huge medical campsite. Brothers Kiran and Ishver from the UK team, headed to Dang earlier to begin the pre-camp planning and publicity and worked alongside the host team - they did an amazing job with all the logistics and setting-up. They transformed the area into a colourful, beautiful and comfortable campsite for all.

Each specialist team were shown their rooms/facilities to set-up. The team worked to set-up a complete pharmacy with tables, chairs for patients out of what was an open area of dry land couple of days ago. GPs were allocated their areas, registration area was set-up, mobile dental van came from Mumbai and all other areas were set-up. It was truly a sight to behold!

The general volunteers were assigned duties along with the local volunteers, whose numbers steadily increased, motivated by what they saw. I was assigned to work with Dr Janki (Gynaecology) from Mumbai on the first day, by next day I was working with Dr Sivaswami and Dr Renuka (GP/Psychiatrist). All the doctors spoke Hindi/English and not Gujarati. Main duties involved translation, assisting the patients to other areas of the camp and any priority patients with severe cases to be seen to. I also had a volunteer from Art of Living, doing the translation from Dangi to Gujarati. Over the next 6 days, people from all surrounding areas of Dang came in trucks and many by foot. Just under 4,500 patients had been seen by the last day.

To ease their burden, all the patients were fed a full meal and checked for medical concerns. All patients were welcomed and treated with affection and love. Just by holding their hands, simple smile and comforting and listening took the pain away.

The team was presented with numerous physical conditions and those assessed as being serious and in need of urgent treatment were referred to hospitals for further investigation (this was arranged by the host). In addition, we had patients suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, abject poverty, hardship, abuse, mental health problems and emotional pain. For many people, the heaviest burden they wanted to release was emotional pain. This included regrets from the past, anger and unresolved conflicts, memories of abuse or neglect, and any other emotional upset. Some had physical problem with chest pains, aches, asthma and thyroid. Dr Sivaswami gave me the opportunity to teach them Pranayam, breath control to some patients and show them Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). They performed these exercises with me during the treatment and were able to take away something special which will help to overcome some of the problems they have. One elderly lady who had suffered scalp pain for 10 years, was given Indian Head Massage, whilst waiting for the doctor and found it very soothing and relaxing.

New woollen knitted blankets, clothes for children and new saris for women were distributed to the needy. Over 138 rucksacks and stationery were distributed to the school children, who studied at the school (visual impairment). The school was located on the campsite and we saw the children every day and the bond of closeness grew each day. On one particular occasion some children were standing outside and I came out and taught them how to do the laughing yoga. They all joined in and brought laughter to their sweet faces as they jumped up and down.

The days were long and busy but full of satisfaction and immensely rewarding when we consider it changed a good few lives for the better. Most important thing was the follow-ups with serious cases and all medical records were given to the host team and all operations were to be free of charge.

I also had an opportunity to work in the optometry for couple of hours. One day, a very elderly gentleman came in his 80s and walked in without a walking stick and sat down. I showed him the card and asked him if he could see the pictures and words clearly on each row. We went through them all and he said, “ I can see them all very clearly“ so the whole team started laughing and we said, “ you don’t need glasses”. He said, “ but I do”, so we gave him glasses and this brought a huge smile to his face. I asked him whether he needed to go to the GP, he replied ‘no, I am very well, I only came for the glasses’ and he walked all the way back to his village with a big smile on his face...bless him.

Jaishri D Mistry