This title may strike you as familiar: just one year ago I used the same phrase to introduce the post published on this blog in May... No news has been posted since my visit to Kullu in March 2011: not that nothing has happened in our small disability project, on the contrary! Events have been succeeding each other, and now that the situation seems to be clearing up, my mind is finally free again to update you on the project.
Let me first give news of our team. Mayur, our new physiotherapist, joined at the beginning of April, two months ago: although he is quite young, his professional skills with children are excellent but it will probably take some time for him to adjust to the philosophy of the project.
Mayur discussing with Rig's mother during their first meeting in Manali
Ajay, our speech therapist, is now the main pillar of our small structure and our main administrative support, while he is also making his practice popular with families – the need for a speech therapist is indeed very important and Ajay is the only one in the district for now.
Ajay and Rishab during a speech therapy session
A few weeks ago, we proposed Ramneek, one of our patients, to join the team as administrative agent and social worker: Ramneek, 20 years old, has been benefiting from physical rehabilitation in the Handimachal Unit for more than one year in order to reduce the impact of his hemiplegia and he is now working with us 3 days a week, instead of desperately waiting for a promised but hypothetical government job...
Sara, our OT volunteer who joined the Unit at the beginning of March, had to fly back to her country a few days ago, as she had been suffering with a serious intestine infection for over a month and which could not be diagnosed and treated in Kullu (but I received a message from her today: the parasite has finally been identified by her doctor in Denmark and she is now taking proper medication). We were very sad to see her leave Kullu and not be able to provide OT services to children for two full months, just as she was herself, until our next volunteer from the US, April Knight, arrives at the beginning of August.
Sara and Harshit in the chair specially designed for her
(and made by our local carpenter in Kullu, thanks to Catriona's donation)
At this stage of the project, I knew that hiring a local and permanent OT for the Handimachal Unit was essential and my earlier plan had been to hire an Indian OT from January 2011 onwards. Unfortunately, when we organised interviews in March, after advertising the job in various media, none of the numerous candidates made the trip to Kullu. As a consequence, as soon as Sara confirmed that she had to leave India, I contacted all previous candidates again, sent mails to various friends in India, and interviews were organised by telephone from France.
Our choice went to a candidate from Northern India, currently working in a large NGO in Southern India, who wants to be closer to his family. Although he has duly confirmed his interest to join and his agreement on the salary, I will not dare to disclose his name until I receive confirmation of his arrival date in Kullu (most probably at the beginning of July)!. April Knight will be working with him and I hope they will be able, together, to set up a strong basis for occupational therapy, by explaining and proving to the local community how occupational therapy services can make a huge difference to their lives.
If you are not familiar with occupational therapy, you may refer to the dedicated webpage of the British Association of Occupational Therapists which provides simple and efficient explanations in this respect:
“How OT can help” (http://www.cot.org.uk/about-ot/how-ot-can-help)
As far as activity itself is concerned, the level of attendance which was so poor during winter seems to be strengthening in the last 2-3 weeks and we even scored a record last Saturday (4 June) with 9 children visiting the Unit for treatment. When reading the comments posted by one of a potential OT volunteers who is now working in a similar but bigger project in Guyana, I notice that the question of irregular attendance is also crucial over there – so I keep sticking to my motto “do not despair”!
The organisation and efficiency of weekly house visits seems to be more and more optimised. In Manali (visited twice a week), a meeting point has been set-up in one of the classrooms in the Government Primary School for children who do not suffer heavy locomotor impairment – the school principal is fully supporting our initiative. Our two previous awareness camps were held on 21 April, in front of the Handimachal Unit and in co-operation with SSA representatives (a very successful day), and on 22 May in Barshaini village of Parbati valley (not so successful...).
With both Ramneek and a permanent OT now in the team, our budget has to be increased and is now reaching 13,000 Euros for the financial year of 2011-2012, but this is the price to pay for a global and high-quality care of disabled children. We also had to rent a new flat for volunteers, as the first one was becoming more and more unhygienic – and of course all this is resulting in higher expenses too.
Now enough with words!
You may visualise all the above through pictures taken during recent house visits and awareness camps organised in the Kullu valley – from end of August, I will be able to witness all this myself again!
Dominique, 9 June 2011
See more pictures on:
Photo album: Awareness camps April-May 2011
Photo album: Home visits April-May 2011