When Rotary Club of Nagpur Vision, RID 3030, got a suggestion that the club work with a local NGO to do a service project involving mainly some surgeries in a few villages of Melghat, a hilly forest area in the Satpura mountain ranges, about 300km from Nagpur, club president Dr Shivani Sule, an ophthalmologist, grabbed the opportunity.
The tribals in this area are very laid back and in this region of Maharashtra, there is a lot of malnutrition, and maternal and infant mortality numbers are also rather high. A club member, an eye surgeon himself, Dr Rajesh Singhvi, was associated with a doctor couple — Dr Kavita and Dr Ashish Satav who have formed an NGO, the MAHAN Trust, and were working for tribals in this belt. He suggested to the club president that the club should do a joint programme with this trust to do some surgeries on the tribal patients who had little access to healthcare, recalls Dr Sule. “This idea was brought to me when I became president in July 2022, and we started planning for a mega health camp where operations could be done in this region, which can be reached after a six-hour drive.”
There was a long queue of anxious patients and relatives, but they all had hope and faith in their hearts. The entire team justified their trust by tirelessly, and successfully conducting the surgeries non-stop.
– Dr Shivani Sule, president, RC Nagpur Vision
The planning began in right earnest. The club members learnt that the two doctors had virtually adopted four villages in Melghat and had set up some kind of a medical facility a few years ago in one of the villages and this had grown into a health facility with two operation theatres and five tables. “But only minor procedures were being done here, like minor repairs, suturing, and treatment for burns, which are quite common here. The trust also works on deaddiction as many of the tribals here are addicted to tobacco and mahua.”
Periodically Dr Rajesh Singhvi and his college mates were helping to do some operations here, but he suggested that Rotary do a major surgical camp for the villagers. Dr Sule says that her club has 196 members and many of them were so enthused with this project that they wanted to come for the camp, but as the accommodation was limited, not all of them could be taken. On Jan 27, Rotarians from this club, including many doctors and others they had roped in from the Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, landed up for the camp. The project cost was roughly ₹2 lakh, of which ₹1 lakh that was needed for the medical and surgical material, was donated by a single member and rest of the money was pitched in by other club members.
On Jan 27, the team reached the spot of the medical camp where a makeshift theatre was set up. “As there was no place to stay at that spot we booked accommodation in two guest houses about 45 minutes away, and our medical director, Dr Rupeshri Bhoyar, a gynaecologist, persuaded some of her gynaec friends to join the team.
We definitely want to continue our association with these tribal villages and will strive to make each of our projects bigger every time.
Soon an operation theatre was set up by the medical team, and 18 doctors, including four from the club joined the camp.
A team of 18 doctors performed 52 surgeries out of which 32 were major surgeries; “doing six vaginal hysterectomies in a day and that too in a camp setting was a major feat! Dr Ashish and Kavita Satav from MAHAN, along with their team at the hospital, helped with the logistics and infrastructure support and identified the patients from surrounding villages for various surgeries. “During the camp, the premises saw a long queue of anxious patients and relatives, but they all had hope and faith in their hearts, and I am happy to share that the entire team justified their trust by tirelessly, and successfully conducting the surgeries non-stop,” added Sule.
But she and her club members are most happy about the “icing on the cake which was non-medical activities for the children at the villages. Various sports activities, distribution of sarees sponsored by our member Sneha Parikh, the prizes to the winning teams and goodie bags to all the children, made the project complete.”
The children enthralled the audience with their talent at games like kabaddi, kho kho and volleyball. This part was coordinated by the director of community services, Sandeep Duragkar. Sule thanked her club secretary Ritika Singhvi for the hard work she put in and the generosity and efforts of members Aarouni Verma, Farnberg Bharucha, Swati Belkhade, Madhumati Dhawad, Chirag Singhvi and Jaishree Chhabrani for the success of the Melghat camp.
So what next, I ask Sule. “Oh, we definitely want to continue our association with these tribal villages and will strive to make each of our projects bigger every time,” says the excited woman. More surgical camps are definitely on their list and in March or April this year, the club plans to conduct a camp focused on eye surgery, where some 80-odd cataract operations will be done.
For the children of course more goodies are in store. For instance, the Rotarians noticed that not all the kids who played the games had t-shirts or footwear and they kept borrowing these from one another as their turn at the game came. So the next time, these items will be gifted to the children. The energy drinks sent by the Indian Academy of Paediatricians were lapped up by the tribal children, so more of these are in the pipeline too.
One lesson learnt is giving the children what they want and are familiar with. For instance, points out Sule, “We went with an entire cricket kit, a volleyball, football, basketball etc, but we now realise that they are more keen on kabaddi and volleyball. So next time we will concentrate on these sports.”