One of the many advantages of the profession I’ve chosen has come from meeting some very special people around the world. From time to time I’ve been able to share some of these people with those who share my interests. I’ve written about such people as Dr. Valkov, an orphanage director in Silistra, Bulgaria. I will be writing in the near future about Saila Behera, probably one of the strongest most outspoken and determined ladies I’ve ever known. This article, however, is about Dr. Abul Sharrah , a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman (in every sense of the word). Abul is giving back to the country of his birth, because he cares and he has a dream. In the process he is immeasurably changing the lives of thousands now and in the years to come.
This last year the story of Abul Sharrah, PhD, came to me from one of my daughters. I hear of many projects and as my life has surround itself with institutions and institutionalized children, his story was of interest but “not up my alley”. Originally, I met with him to say I really couldn’t be of help to him as his project did not cover either orphans or institutionalized children. In a way I was right and in a way I was wrong. He isn’t helping orphans, but he is helping families in the poorest of circumstances. The by-product of his help is that many children will not become orphans or live their lives in an institution. Meeting this special man has caused me to reflect on what I really find important. I will do whatever I can to help him and I ask you to consider joining me to help him in making a difference.
The International Village Clinic (IVC) is a dream coming to fruition for founder, Abul Sharah PhD. International Village Clinic is a non-sectarian, non-profit 501©(3) organization, dedicated to bringing health and medical services to villages in India. IVC’s primary focus is on disease prevention, basic health education and the needs of the children. The pilot project of a mobile health clinic and ambulance service is presently serving three primary sites. These sites each represent three or four villages and cover a population of approximately 25,000 citizens. International Village Clinic was instituted because the facts of life and daily survival in this area are indisputable:
The IVC program began in February 2000. At that time there were no adequate basic medical facilities in the villages now being served. Illiteracy and disease are still rampant. An effective vaccination program does not exist. With the nearest hospital 50 miles away in the city of Varanasi and the roads in poor condition, it takes villagers at least half a day to get there. Fewer than 5% of the villagers can afford to pay a city doctor’s fee. Most patients depend upon unqualified medical practitioners for treatment. The infant death rate is one of the highest in India (130 out of 1000). Maternal death rate, during or following birth, is also one of the highest (1 out of 1000). When the villagers were asked what they needed most, they unequivocally responded: “Adequate medical services to meet our health needs”. This project endeavors to assist them with what they need most.
I find it difficult to adequately describe the special man behind this program. Abul Sharah was brought up in the small and extremely poor village of Tirganwan in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Although his destiny took him far from home, the people of his youth never left his heart. Following his initial studies in India he was given the opportunity to pursue graduate studies outside of India. Dr. Sharah eventually migrated to the U.S. and became a naturalized American citizen. For the next 27 years he established a successful career in engineering and international business development, yet, India kept calling him home. Over the years he was able to return to his village and the areas surrounding it. During this time he also developed a large network of friends and associates in the region. With the support of those who share his dreams of developing this health project, the encouragement of Mother Theresa whom he had the good fortune of meeting in 1996, and the needs of the impoverished villages, the International Village Clinic was born. In July 1999 he made the decision to take early retirement in order to devote himself full time to establishing the International Village Clinic Project. He now lives back in one of the villages six months a year. The program’s success in the short time since this work began has been amazing and those of us involved are energized by it.
This is what our International Village Clinic Project has accomplished to date:
-Developed an active Board of Directors
-Established our program as a trust in India with the name Manav Khidmet Foundation (Human Service)
-Involved village elders and community leaders in the project.
-Involved local and regional government and public officials in the project
-Purchased our first two vehicles (1 ambulance, 1 mobile clinic)
-Hired full time staff of 2 medical doctors, 1 pharmacist, 1 nurse, 1 driver, 1 guard and 1
-Began the mobile clinic and ambulance operation on 12 February 2002
-Presently treating/assessing approximately 150 patients per day, working six days a week
-Three sites (each serving 3 or 4 villages) are visited two times each week
-Began health and hygiene education program
-In order to develop a database for the IVC vaccination and nutrition programs, the
women and children inhabitants of 6 villages were surveyed.
-Began construction of two buildings at the clinic center. One will house the permanent staff. The other building will have a small ward for inpatient services and additional staff living quarters. These buildings are approximately 75% complete.
Our immediate goals for 2002 are to:
-Complete IVC permanent staff building
-Complete the second building that will serve as a small ward for inpatient services
-Open the IVC baby delivery service
-Institute the child and pregnant women vaccination program
-Institute the child and women (15-40 years) nutrition program
-Raise $45,000 to meet our goal for this year
-Initiate a family planning program
-Institute sponsorship program to encourage elementary education
-Investigate development of a vocational training program
As you consider the needs of the world, I hope you reflect upon the deeds of those selfless people, such as Abul, who make such a difference for those who need it most. It takes one person, determination and the will to succeed. Work like this needs the help of many individuals joining together. Please feel free to contact me if you can join in: Teri Bell 651 687-0259 or email her at: IntlClinic@aol.com