Blog post by Emma Vaughan, Trustee of World Medicine
The struggles of introducing local sustainability into our work in India.
For anyone reading our blogs about World Medicine’s long term project in Chaparda, India, they will certainly get a flavour of the enormous popularity of this project. This is true for our hosts, the community we serve and the volunteers that commit their time and energy to it. There is a special energy and palpable buzz during our time there and over the years we have built up close relationships with the staff at the ashram and Jay Ambe hospital where we run our clinic.
Every year we have local staff that assist us for the duration of our work there… this may be clerical staff who book patients in and organise the waiting area, physiotherapists who come to assist in the clinic and more recently student nurses who we train to help us with specific treatments, such as cupping or moxabustion therapy. We see their input as enormously valuable to both us and to themselves. We try to model good practice in clinical care but also to demonstrate that empathy and respect should be part of the work when treating patients. Last year particularly we were able to see our local students gain confidence in their skills and witnessed their growing commitment to good patient care.
This is incredibly important to us as a charity since we are mindful about our wider aims when delivering a complex project such as our Chaparda one. In the past, previous teams had explored ways of trying to encourage a self sustaining dimension to the project. We had been hopeful that by training local staff to use a microsystem, namely Auricular acupuncture, that they could continue to run a meaningful service for the community in between our visits. This was an ambitious target especially as acupuncture as a profession is rightly regulated to a high professional standard. ( we are self regulated within our professional body which requires adherence to a robust code of ethics and practice, professional accountability and a requirement for continuing education) This made it complex when considering safety and supervision in our absence. However, the other big issue that is a real block to local sustainability is migration of local staff. We find, that with exception of a few staff, many of the hospital staff do not have long term posts. Younger female staff often leave the area after marriage and other staff leave for opportunities in the cities. It is always lovely to see familiar faces but we also have to accept that sometimes we will only work with staff for one visit.
I believe the future of our work in Chaparda is very much on a firm footing. The communities surrounding the hospital are familiar with our work now and we do see returning patients to our clinics which is also wonderful. We always remain open to ideas that will make the project more expansive and inclusive.. it’s important that we continue to build strong relationships there that support opportunities for local staff to develop their own skills and knowledge, so that wherever they end up working they take a sense of professional pride with them which we hope they achieve during their time working with us. We certainly value them!