Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/A contagious joy transmitting health to children
A contagious joy transmitting health to children
Project implemented by the Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service
Uttar Pradesh, India, March 2014
Sometimes, communities are sharply divided between "modernists" that advocate for social change and "traditionalists", that favour a return to fundamental religious values and oppose all social reforms that are not in harmony with orthodox doctrines.
Such an old ideological divide is today being bridged by organizations active in social dialogue and building awareness that "change" and "continuity" are two sides of development. In their vision, science and spirituality are not seen as reciprocally contrasting but as different perspectives that integrate each other.
The Indian State of Uttar Pradesh is ranked as one of the least developed regions of Asia: Here, 1 in every 2 women is illiterate; women's life expectancy is just 59 years. And in rural areas, 1 out of 10 children die before reaching the age of one.
We visited the Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service, where besides spiritual and welfare activities that are typical of the Ramaskrishna Missions, a child health care programme is being successfully managed and has become a model for the whole region.
The Ramakrishna Mission is an Indian organisation, founded in 1897 by Vivekananda, a former rationalist, who then became a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, an important Hindu mystic from Bengal. The Mission headquarters are located near Kolkata in eastern India, but associated centres exist across the world.
One of the fundamental principles of the Organization is that selfless service to others is a means for self realization; and that awareness is the primary health determinant for the individual and for the community.
The health care and education programme of the Mission in Varanasi extends beyond the city to serve a population of more than 60,000 persons living in more than 30 villages across the districts of Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Azamgadh. Its activities include promoting good health, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition education amongst women and children in schools and villages.
There are Community Health Workers that live in the villages, advise the population where, when and how they can get medical and social assistance and report about emergencies in their villages. Mobile health clinics regularly visit these villages, conducting basic medical diagnosis, giving medical advice and distributing free medicines.
They build awareness among women on their rights and duties and how they can advocate for it, as individuals, as groups and as a community. They also train teachers for improving learning processes in schools and for making schools more child-friendly.