Rosh sat reading Hosh's email, which his son had sent him from India. Hosh had flown out recently to serve as a medical volunteer with The Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC). Rosh knew that IIMC was a non-government organization based in Calcutta.
It had been the brainchild of Dr. Sujit Kumar Barhmochary, who after finishing his medical studies in Calcutta and specializing in pediatrics in Belgium on a Belgian Red Cross scholarship, had returned to Calcutta and become Mother Teresa’s medical director.
After working for Mother Teresa for a couple of years, Dr. Sujit left her in 1989 to start an outdoor clinic from a simple bamboo hut in a place called Tegharia, in Parganas - the 24th district of the Indian state of West Bengal, about 30 kilometers south of Calcutta.
IIMC began, essentially medically treating about 20 kids per day in the poor Sonarpur neighborhood, where access existed neither to medical care nor to formal education. Dr. Sujit started as his project’s only physician, but within 25 years, he had over 18 doctors and 700 full time employees working with him. Foreign medical students like Hosh came to assist his team as short-term medical volunteers.
IIMC’s medical program now serves over 120,000 patients from near and far through five outdoor clinics and provides out-patient and in-patient care, as well as vaccinations, X-ray, ultrasound, dental treatment, ophthalmic treatment and pathological examinations, despite limited financial resources.
Remarkably, IIMC has also gradually developed into a place of refuge for the local poor, providing not only medical care, but also education as well as economic and social support. Tegharia now has an education center, the women's cooperative unit as well as Mother’s Bank and Micro finance units.
Rosh knew that India needed these initiatives, especially for its poor and female children. Even today women have few rights in the Indian society. Systematically oppressed for centuries, Indian women still suffer from sexual and social discrimination and exploitation, and violation of their human rights.
Indian literacy rate was 74% in 2011, well below the world average literacy rate of 84%. According to Wikipedia, it had been 12% at the end of British rule in 1947. So despite the progress, much work still remained to be done in poorer sections of society.
Poverty in India was widespread too, with India estimated to have a third of the world's poor according to a 2013 UN report. In 2010, the World Bank had reported that around a third of Indian population fell below the international poverty line of 1.25 USD per day (PPP) while over two thirds of Indians lived on less than 2 USD per day.
In 1994, IIMC had sponsored the education of 10 children from poor families so they could learn how to read and write and be later able to support their own families.
By 2009, the number of sponsorships had increased to 2,500 with monthly contribution of 20 Euros tuition fees per child now coming from sponsoring parents from across the globe. With this help, over 20 schools have been built by IIMC in the surrounding villages for more than 4,000 students.
In 1999, inspired by the success of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, where women could deposit money and take loans of up to 10,000 Rupees, or about 200 USD, IIMC started Mahila Udyog.
Since then, its microcredit program has provided microloans to over 25,000 women to help them start or expand their businesses like sewing rooms, weaving mills, laundries, etc.
Remarkably, just like for the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, the loans pay back rate was 98%. This had helped grow and circulate the growing capital, and over 40 million Indian Rupees, or around a million US dollars, were now available for loan from IIMC.
IIMC had also now opened up a weaving mill, a sewing room, dyeworks and a laundry. School bags and uniforms as well as everyday clothing were produced in these facilities.
Quite early on, Dr. Sujit had realized that lack of knowledge caused many medical problems. People repeatedly returned with for same ailments, even though most of these could have been avoided by a little education and health counseling. IIMC now worked with many local Women’s Peace Councils to provide legal and psychological consultations and lessons about health issues and hygiene.
It provided health counseling and education for 50,000 women, besides promoting girls’ education. Professional training and development courses like sewing, weaving, knitting, production of school bags and school uniforms and running a small shop were also provided to build their self-confidence.
Rosh had not met Dr. Sujit either when he visited Mother Teresa in 1989, nor five years later in 1994, when he had gone to see Mother with Isha and young Hosh, who was then barely a couple of years old.
‘He was making institutions to help the poor when I was making babies,’ Rosh thought with a touch of guilt. He had not served with Mother Teresa despite her invitation, but his son had finally arrived in Kolkata to fulfil her wish.
“See Mother,” he spoke aloud to himself, “My blood still answers to your call. What will you have me do for you now?”
Note: Use of image titled "Mother's bank" (c) IIMC Kolkata, use permitted here by Dr. Sujit Kumar Barhmochary.
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