“In a huge conference hall in Washington DC, over a thousand participants listen with rapt attention to Muktabai Pol, a village health worker from Jamkhed, India. The listeners include officials from WHO and UNICEF, minsters of health, health professionals and representatives of universities from many parts of the world. Muktabai shares her experience of providing primary health care in a remote Indian village. She concludes her speech by pointing to the glittering lights in the hall. ‘This is a beautiful hall and the shining chandeliers are a treat to watch,’ she says. ‘One has to travel thousands of miles to come to see their beauty. The doctors are like these chandeliers, beautiful and exquisite, but expensive and inaccessible.’ She then pulls out two wick lamps from her purse. She lights one. ‘This lamp is inexpensive and simple, but unlike the chandeliers, it can transfer its light to another lamp.’ She lights the other wick lamp with the first. Holding up both lamps in her outstretched hands she says, ‘I am like this lamp, lighting the lamp of better health. Workers like me can light another and another and thus encircle the whole earth. This is HEALTH FOR ALL.’ The audience rises to its feet in a standing ovation.” (Arole, Mabel & Arole, Rajanikant. Jamkhed: A Comprehensive Rural Health Project.Pune: 1994.)
Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) is a non-profit organization located in rural Jamkhed, Maharashtra, India that was founded by Drs. Mabelle and Raj Arole in 1970. Here, a community-action based primary health care system was created to empower and educate illiterate women and men to lead their communities to improve both health quality and social equality. A location known to have some of India’s poorest population and worst health statistics, is now known for its drastic health and equity improvements, thanks to the brave women and men who challenged the systems they lived in and changed the fates of their communities through CRHP. In particular are the village health workers, like Muktabai in the excerpt above, who are women that come from marginalized backgrounds where they are raised to have little self worth or value but rise to become village health workers, powerful community leaders who drastically change village life and health for the better.
CRHP’s success stories have spread worldwide, and now the organization partners with a variety of colleges and medical schools to educate students and health professionals of their Jamkhed Model to improve healthcare structures beyond the communities they work in. During my semester in India in the fall of 2018, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week at CRHP. As a part of School for International Training’s program Public Health, Gender, and Community Action, we were able to travel beyond our learning base in Delhi to become more educated on sustainable and rural healthcare. After hearing from the inspiring people at CRHP, I knew that I wanted to return again in the future to learn more.
This summer, through Dickinson College, I have the opportunity to intern with CRHP for eight weeks and help contribute to their diabetes project. I am a biochemistry and molecular biology student at Dickinson College with the hope of becoming a medical doctor to work with women’s health in a global health context, and this internship is a great way for me to gain experience working in a non-profit aimed to improve healthcare in a rural context. Dickinson is funding my internship with their Dickinson College Internship Grant. In receiving this grant, I am required to partake in a project to share my experience and what I learn from it to a larger community. I am beyond grateful to have this amazing opportunity through Dickinson and am excited to begin my Dickinson Internship Blog.
I arrived in Jamkhed Saturday after a nine hour car drive from the city of Mumbai that I flew into. There are 9 interns that consist of a mix of undergraduate and graduate students primarily studying to enter the medical field and work in global health from a variety of colleges including Dartmouth, Elon, Dickinson, and UC Davis. We will begin our courses on Monday after all of the interns have arrived. I am very excited to begin training and will be posting blog updates periodically throughout the duration of my internship detailing what I learn as well as the stories of the incredible people that inspired me to return here, especially those of the village health workers or the lamps that can light the world.
Visit CRHP’s website to learn more: www.jamkhed.org