DIR in India

The Janta Colony Project, Chandigarh

In a crowded slum where 8996 people live in 2,047 tiny homes, located just outside Chandigarh, capital of the Punjab, DIR has a project being implemented by the residents.  This "bustee" is called Janta Colony.









News from Chandigarh, April 2007

Authors: Aparna Kohli & Dr. Kanwaljit Singh

(Read previous updates: June 2006, October 2006, January 2007]

Cultural evening:

One of the major highlights last month was to be a Health Promotion-cum-Cultural Evening on 28th February. It was to be a gala outdoor event, held in the grounds of nearby Suraj Complex. We had started preparing for the event weeks in advance, with numerous rehearsals (ably directed by our Dr. Asha) throughout the month of February. Unfortunately, inclement weather, which turned the venue into a pond, forced us to postpone it by one day. The program was finally performed in the auditorium of DAV College Chandigarh. The program started with a prayer by Senior Health Promoter, Rajbir Singh, followed by a performance of a Rajasthani Folk Dance by our female Health Promoters. The highlights of the evening were a hilarious skit on our pigs’ menace prepared by our Field Staff, a dance performance on a Punjabi Folk Song by children of Janta Colony, and the “Janta Colony Fashion Show” in which the young boys and girls from the Bustee walked the ramp to the applause of the audience. Our (Dutch Volunteer) Leonie de Wit gave a melodious rendition in English and Dutch of “The Circle of Life”, a song from the animated movie- “The Lion King”. Two of our Health Promoters, Sunny and Rani, each gave a short monologue, describing their thoughts upon joining DIR-India, upon the training they received and upon their work promoting health.  Chairman of the Board of DIR, Dr. Paul Dean, also addressed the audience as did Trustee, Dr. Amrit Bolaria, and our CEO Dr. Frederick Shaw. 

Annual General Meeting:

It was the first time since the inception of DIR that the Annual General Meeting of the Board of Directors was held in India. (For the entertainment of the Directors, as well as to provide an opportunity to the Health Promoters to showcase their talent, we scheduled the Cultural Evening so that it coincided with the AGM.)  During the three-day event, held from 28th Feb through 2nd March, the Directors spent much time in Janta Colony activities getting a first-hand understanding of how we work. The Directors who attended the AGM were Dr. Paul Dean, Dr. Seetha Coleman, Ms. Yvonne Ginsberg, Dr. Joseph Schaller, Dr. Scott Weismann and Dr. Frederick Shaw. Only Dr. Richard Boeke (London) and Dr. Judith Radcliffe (San Francisco) were unable to attend.

Dr. Scott Weissman lecture in PGIMER:

Dr. Scott Weissman, Board Member of DIR, is a researcher in Infectious Diseases at University of Washington at Seattle. He is currently doing research on the Evolutionary Patterns of the Escherichia coli bacterium. He shared some of his knowledge and experience when he gave a lecture on the subject to the physicians at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh on March 1. The lecture was well received by the audience, as evidenced by the response and enthusiasm showed by the audience in the post-lecture question and answer session.

Lake Lunch:

It was a hectic month for our Health Promoters, who worked hard and sometimes overtime through February in order to complete all their normal work and practice for their performances for the upcoming Cultural Evening. So, it was a well deserved break they got when we planned an outing for the entire DIR Staff at the Sukhna Lake Chandigarh on 2nd March. Coincidentally, it was also the Birthday of our CEO, Dr. Frederick Shaw. The outing started with all the DIR-I staff and Directors celebrating the Birthday with a Sandwich Party at the Lake Premises. After this, courtesy of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Directorate, we enjoyed boat rides at the lake. It was an eminently entertaining experience for all of us.

Puppet Show on Women Rights:

Our Health Promoters prepared and gave a performance of a Puppet Show on Women Rights at the Chandigarh City Mayor’s residence on March 6th in connection with celebration of International Women’s Day. Our HPs had just one day to plan the script and practice for the show. We felt honoured since we were the only NGO participating.  The puppets preformed well, and the play was applauded by the audience and the media representatives.

Puppet Shows on Health Related Issues:

During the visit of our Directors in India, the Field Staff presented puppet shows to the visitors on various health related issues such as Oral Re-hydration Therapy, Vitamin A Deficiency and Malaria. The scripts for these they had prepared earlier in the month. The performers felt flattered when the DIR Directors said they were impressed by their performance. Besides bringing educative messages for the people in our Basti, these puppet shows, we hope, will be good entertainment for the people, and small children in particular. We plan to use more of these puppet shows to spread health related messages to the local people.

Punjab Government Requests DIR India To Help:

We feel lucky these days to get Punjab Government’s support for our projects. At the invitation of our Trustee, Dr. Amrit Bolaria, Mrs. Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of current Chief Minister of Punjab visited our Janta Colony Office on 12th March. There she interacted with the DIR-I staff, and got a closer look into the working of our project. So impressed was she by our project that she convinced her husband that we should have programs widely in Punjab State, and that the Government should foot the bill. The very next day, our CEO met the Chief Minister Punjab, Mr. Prakash Singh Badal, and visited Badal Village for an overnight stay at the Minister’s home. He inspected the village and started to study the feasibility of extension there. The initial impressions of our CEO have been mixed. He found that though having good physical health facilities, it was a very poor village, in an economically depressed area. Also, the facilities that currently are present in the village are not being optimally utilized. Drug addiction is said to be rampant amongst the local people. Our CEO thinks that although it will be difficult to extend our project to such a remote village so early in the history of DIR-I, the opportunity is one which we should seize.

Staff Additions:

This month we got new valuable additions to our Staff, with three new members joining us. First, we had Mr. I.B.S. Pannu, who has worked with (the NGO) CARE for over 20 years before coming to work with us. Here he is helping DIR-I in diverse areas such as working at ground level in improving the sanitary conditions in Janta Colony by getting government to clean the drains in the Bustee; Acting as DIR-I’s liaison for interaction with various government officials and agencies besides giving his valuable expertise derived from his long running experience in the field of Public Health. We are sure that his experience will be of much use to us. Second, we now have a new physician- Dr. Harsh Sharma who is trained in India's traditional Homeopathic System of Medicine.  We hope to use his expertise in the medical field for our new upcoming projects. Then, we have employed Mr. Rajinder for the post of Senior Health Promoter. These additional Staff are essential for the planned expansion of our programmes.

Daily Duties:

Our routine programmes continue apace and our immunization statistics of pregnant women continues to improve.  Soon we will be able to say that no woman, in our slum,  gives birth without being fully immunized against Tetanus.  As we pointed out earlier, we have immunized all young children against the childhood diseases, so that the only  the recently-arrived now come for shots instead of the hundreds that we had become used to.

The training of our Health Promoters is almost complete and soon their schedule will be taken over entirely, except for one half day a week, by field work.  This half day will be used for additional training and administrative details, checking reports, etc.  The field staff we presently have is being augmented by new employees so that when we expand, the most senior Health Promoters will move to the new areas as trainers.

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