Our first Bhopal Medical Appeal, which appeared in The Guardian and The Observer on the 10th anniversary of the disaster, in December 1994, produced a massively generous response. The task of administering this fund was taken on by the Pesticides Action Network UK (PAN-UK), which also adopted the Appeal as a project, in order that our work could benefit from its charity status, and which has generously given time and loyalty.
Our first project was to open the clinic in Bhopal. To this end, the Sambhavna Trust was formed in India to run the clinic. Working together, we were able to buy a building, recruit doctors and staff. The preliminary work, including finding the building and negotiating its sale, and training staff took just over a year to complete and Sambhavna opened its doors in 1996.
To date our Sambhavna Clinic has treated more than 35,000 people. We employ over 60 staff, roughly a third of whom are themselves gas survivors. We carry out valuable studies, inform, educate and train people in gas-affected communities to monitor their health. Working to a principle of ‘first do no harm’ we have pioneered new treatments combining modern medicine with traditional ayurvedic herbal medicine and yoga. Our work has won a string of humanitarian awards.
Later we bought land to build a larger clinic, with a garden for the medicinal plants used in our treatments. Now we need to raise more money for the expanded work. We have never accepted funding from companies or corporate trusts. Companies and governments are directly responsible for the suffering of the Bhopal survivors. Always, they want something in return for their money. We will not deal with them. All the funds we have ever collected have come from our own pockets.
In the Bhopal Medical Appeal ‘we’ don’t ask ‘you’ to help ‘us’ help ‘them’. The Appeal and the Sambhavna Clinic are shared efforts between those of us who are survivors, those of us who run the Clinic and the Appeal and those of us who support the effort with our money and by volunteering our skills or just our enthusiasm. This is our vision, that all of us are equal in an unbroken chain between supporters at one end and gas survivors at the other. Our sincere thanks to those who have been part of it. The people in Bhopal have a lot to give back to the rest of us. Let’s carry on the good work we’ve begun together.