“We began with a hope, a vision, that has continued to sustain us. But most importantly, we have learned over and over that empowerment is not a one-way process. It is not that we, that one set of people ‘provide’ empowerment for others who receive it. Rather, like water from a well dug in a fortunate spot, the power flows in many directions and sustains those who may set the process in motion as well as those disempowered for such a long time. It is a dynamic process which once set in motion transforms us, persons and communities. So from the beginning, we ourselves have been given power by the very process and people involved in realizing the vision. We have firmly come to believe that through a process of recognizing and sharing the resources and potential of everyone, communities claim their right to health. Only people empowered and empowering others for the common good can find and keep the respect, cooperation and peace so much needed in this world.” (Arole, Mabel & Arole, Rajanikant. Jamkhed: A Comprehensive Rural Health Project. Pune: 1994.)
I will be completing my internship in the next few days and returning to the United States. The incredible people here inspire me every day, and I am very sad to be leaving them. I have loved working with the mobile health team, village health workers, and other interns on the diabetes project, research inventory, and grant applications. It is my hope to return again one day as a long-term intern. The surgical camp and diagnostics camp will be starting up the day that I am leaving, and it is my hope that if I return, I can take part in helping with the process in the future. Every year, CRHP runs various surgical camps where prestigious international surgeons come to conduct complex surgeries on patients. The diagnostics camps involve gathering patient data for grants and the surgical team to choose which patients are of highest priority.
This summer has been incredible, and I have learned so much. I now have a deeper understanding of the community action based model that CRHP uses. It could be highly beneficial if implemented in the United States. Low income communities in both rural and urban areas with limited healthcare access in the US could especially benefit from the village health worker system that is used by CRHP. The director of CRHP talked of Project Horseshoe Farm, which is a nonprofit organization in Alabama that works to provide service and healthcare to rural populations and designed its model to replicate CRHP’s model in a different context. I hope to spend part of my winter break interning here to witness how the CRHP model can be applied effectively in the US. In doing this, I can better understand my role in working towards the goal that Drs. Raj and Mabelle Arole had in founding CRHP, empowering people in healthcare and improving health equity. Wherever I practice medicine in the future as a medical doctor, I hope to be able to apply the model that CRHP created to improve health quality and equity through patient empowerment.
One of the goals of CRHP is to cause health empowerment to flow not only among its staff and villages that it works with directly, but also indirectly through visiting interns and students. When these interns and students return to their home communities, they continue to spread that empowerment. The purpose of the model that CRHP created and the reason that the organization welcomes so many visitors every year is to continue to spread health empowerment beyond rural Maharashtra and work towards its big-picture goal of equity and health for all.