BANGALORE: Sewa International’s Doctors for Sewa (DFS) team along with Asian Indian Physicians of Northeast Ohio (AIPNO) Medical Yatra project team embodied the spirit of ‘service above self’ when 32 U.S. physicians and volunteers travelled to India between January 18th -28th, 2015 and conducted no cost medical checkups for more than 8,000 patients in just seven days in Karnataka, India. True to the spirit of yatra (pilgrimage in Sanskrit), the yatris (or pilgrims) paid for their own travel, boarding and lodging just to have an opportunity to serve the needy.
The Medical Yatra team distributed free medicines and treated patients from 16 hard to access villages near Mysuru, and 20 slum areas near Leggare, a suburb of Bengaluru the capital of Karnataka State. Along with general care, 23 patients received free cataract surgery and 78 children and adults received free prescription eyeglasses. Sewa and AIPNO provided funds for the follow up care at DFS contracted local hospitals for those diagnosed with severe and chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes, asthma, etc. While 67 patients with acute illness were provided immediate treatment, another 200 other patients were provided free hospital care.
Ramesh Shah, Dr. Jaya Shah a pediatrician, and Dr. Gita Gidwani, a retired Obstetrics-Gynecologist, conceived the Medical Yatra project 15 years ago and have conducted yatras annually and globally.
Jayanthi and Ram Ramanan, active Sewa volunteers formerly of Cleveland, OH who retired to Bengaluru oversaw the logistics arrangements. They said “We at Sewa have been supporting the Medical Yatra project since 2011. In September 2014, Sewa organized the Yatra to Guyana. This year we undertook complete logistics arrangements for the Yatra team in collaboration with our partners in Mysuru and Bengaluru.”
Dr. ‘Balu’ R. Balasubramaniam, founder of Swami Vivekananda Youth Mission (SVYM), Mysuru, himself a physician, and a Visiting Professor at Cornell University had this to say “We selected remote beneficiary villages with the greatest medical needs. The Medical Yatra team was the first to serve at these villages. The beneficiaries are ecstatic for the help.” SVYM supplied volunteers, local physicians, and access to clinics and hospitals for follow up. Local volunteers ensured that the doctors could focus solely on patient care. In Bengaluru, NGOs Youth for Seva and Seva Kirana provided similar support.
Kiran Krishna, an entrepreneur from Raleigh, NC, is a volunteer for Sewa International and heads the DFS team. He said “Kudos to the yatris who personify the spirit of selfless service. Each day they travelled for three hours over rough roads just to reach the villages and then worked additional ten hours in challenging conditions. Inspired by this, DFS will be conducting more such yatras in the future.”
Dr. Gita Gidwani, one of the physicians to participate in the mission said of her experience, “We are just touching the surface of what rural India needs.” Another participant Vimala Gaud said “Medical Yatra has been a life changing experience for me.” The yatris also visited Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research University (S-VYASA) in Bengaluru and interacted with the medical professionals there.
Sewa International is a Hindu faith based, world wide nonprofit that promotes selfless services to communities around the world regardless of race, nationality, religion, or gender.