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Scottish Friends of Bhopal Workshop at Edinburgh University’s International Development Week

Jan 28 2014 by

Scottish Friends of Bhopal, in association with Edinburgh University’s International Development Week, participated in a workshop series highlighting the history of Bhopal and ongoing efforts for justice. Lorraine Close, a nurse who volunteered at the Sambhavna Clinic for six months, shared her experiences and encouraged dialogue within the small groups.

Students learned that the impact of the 1984 disaster is ongoing as Ingrid Neil, the BMA Scottish Project Worker, underscored its relevance in the local context. Interactive discussions offered students the opportunity to ask questions, challenge perceptions, and learn about tangible ways to get involved—including joining at saathi, or friend, group on campus.

The goal is to promote collaboration: to ensure the network of support for the Bhopali people is strong and active. The Scottish Friends of Bhopal are currently working with Medsin, a student network and charity that tackles global and local health inequalities through education, advocacy, and community action. The two groups are working together to organize a free screening of Bhopali on February 27th at the Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh.

 

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008 484x363 Scottish Friends of Bhopal Workshop at Edinburgh Universitys International Development Week bhopal medical appeal

011 484x363 Scottish Friends of Bhopal Workshop at Edinburgh Universitys International Development Week bhopal medical appeal

 
 
 
 

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Thorsten our Swedish ‘gardener’…

Jan 23 2014 by

2012 12 05 12.55.55 484x645 Thorsten our Swedish gardener... bhopal medical appealSambhavna again.
End of Nov. I returned to Sambhavna. It’s been 8 months since I left. What has happened?
My coming here was heart fully greeted. Immediately I felt at home. Still there is a lot of work in the “Garden”. Actually it is a farm growing medical herbs.  “Planting a Garden is to believe in tomorrow”

Much of what I had built last time, was still standing. We re-use a lot of material and sometimes the heavy rain from the Monsoon just takes it away. For my work I needed some tools I couldn’t find here. Therefore I bought them and brought them here. From Sweden no problem. I could explain the purpose. From Mumbai to Bhopal I had to go by bus. I wasn’t even allowed entrance to the airport due to the dangerous weapon in my suitcase.

For little more than two months I have worked in the “Garden”. The workforce here do an outstanding job and I try to assist them. Now I have learned to do it the best way, Indian way. My skills are very accurate in Sweden but here things are different. Little by little I have been adapted, and I learn from them every day.

If I have my health and the money I sure come back. Dec. 1, 2, and 3 with rally, torch march and a lot of things to make everyone remember Union Carbide gas disaster.

Whatever happens I will always stay close to Sambhavna and its tremendous work.
Thorsten G.
Sweden

This I will describe in English and Latin. Name, use and how to extract, which part etc. all to be put in a booklet.

bild e1390496659572 Thorsten our Swedish gardener... bhopal medical appeal

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Diary of a Complementary Therapist

Jan 17 2014 by

What’s On in Bhopal 1
Sambhavna, November 17 2013, 07:30 – I have just arrived at the Sambhavna clinic in Bhopal, for my second visit. It is a warm morning by the standards of an Englishman but getting that autumnal chilliness for the local people. It was almost exactly two years ago to the day that I left and had noticed it slowly getting cooler.
Monday is back to work day here after the one day of rest each week. Yes, they still work a 6-day week. It will be an hour before the clinic opens to patients so it is fairly quiet as I say hello once again to Raj, the security guard, who was also the first to welcome me just over two years ago.
Observation Room, January 16 2014, 08:40 – it is almost two months since I arrived here since when it has got colder and we have even had a couple of downpours of rain. But “cold” is, of course, relative and your lawns and tomatoes would still be growing outside. As I wait for my 304th patient session since beginning treatments, what has happened here?

 

Obs Room 2w Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal

Pishorilal1w Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal
Just to clarify the last sentence, I am a complementary therapist in UK and am working here with the agreement and support of the doctors and Sathyu. In fact the doctors seem to be sending me all the difficult cases! Stroke, scoliosis, kyphosis, frozen shoulder etc but that gives me a challenge (sorry, opportunity) which I enjoy.

I should also say that there are two physical therapists here, working with the Ayurveda system of Panchakarma and doing great work for many years. They are the real heroes, working day after day, week after week, year after year, while I just flit in for a few months and, like a grandfather giving the grandchildren back to their parents, shall flit back home to the comforts of central heating and hot showers on demand.

There is a difference in the way we work and what we do though which makes my work valuable here. Panchakarma, as practised here, is mainly about getting an oil, impregnated with 23 herbs, into the tissues of a patient’s body by massage and steam. My work is about restoring balance to a body by releasing overtight tissue and then encouraging freer movement and realignment of the skeleton through whole body healing. So we can complement each other with our work.

In the two years since my previous visit, much has remained the same and there are changes too. Many old friends to meet again, many new ones to get to know, including a new washing machine! In the volunteer rooms there has been much activity in two months. On my arrival there were just two volunteers, both from India – something new to me, Devendra and Harshit. I was soon to learn that some mothers here teach their sons how to cook, since that evening Jayshree, who cooks each evening for the volunteers, announced she would not be back for four days. We enjoyed trying each others cooking and discussing spices but the ‘British’ dish they really liked was cauliflower cheese.
Thorsten, from Sweden, joined us the following week, another returning volunteer, he had come to help again in the garden. There is always a need there. Pradeep, another Indian, also arrived.
Shortly after we were overrun by 14 young American women with one lonely young man plus two teacher/facilitators. They were in India on a study tour in collaboration with a school in Bangalore and were visiting many projects around the country. They swept in for an exhausting four days and it was a good thing the female dormitory was empty at the time. Yes, we were all male volunteers.
Since then there has been a steady increase in volunteer arrivals, including a host (it seems) of researchers. Accommodation is fairly limited here so it is important that arrivals and departures are managed, which doesn’t always happen – so, if you are thinking of coming here ask if there is room, check what that means, and be prepared to be flexible on your dates.
Also take some lessons in communal living and putting the needs of others first – it would seem it does not come naturally to most people! If we cannot clean up the kitchen behind ourselves, how can we challenge Dow to clean up the factory site? Sometimes there is a disconnect.
Social life depends really on who is here. Sometimes it is very quiet and at others we are out on all kinds of trips. We had a group outing to Sanchi, a nearby Buddhist site and another to the caves at Bimbetka. I have been with various others to the Museum of Mankind and a recent 3-night festival of Khatack dance. Some of this I write about on my blog and for some you will have to wait for the book.
Khatack3 12w Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal

Sanchi51w Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal
Incidentally, one volunteer discovered the book of my last visit and said she found it interesting and also helpful in her preparing to come here. (It’s called 3 Months in Bhopal and is available as a kindle from Amazon – all profit to the Bhopal Medical Appeal.)
So what about the actual work here for volunteers? After all this is the focus of your visit. This is another reason why you must arrange your visit dates as the staff here really cannot cope with too many simultaneous volunteers. It matters not whether you have special skills or not, there will almost certainly be something you can do. My case is a bit different as I am doing treatments and, before my first visit, I went through a process of e-discussion with Sathyu about what it is that I do and then with the doctors. They need to know I am an ‘OK’ guy and my work is effective.
The garden always seems to need help, and you don’t have to be a gardener either, though on my last visit, Linda was here and she is a gardener in UK. I tell Sathyu the walls could do with a lick of paint but the question we need to ask is whether it would be better to employ a local person so would a donation be better? My take is that the best work for volunteers is that for which there is no ready local skill and where there is a well-defined task. Support in the library can often be beneficial, especially if you have computer skills. There is about to be a digitisation project started which will take several years to complete and I am sure there will come along tasks associated with that which will be ideal for volunteers.
Helen, here at the moment has a well-defined job of re-painting some of the signs giving information about plants – these are for patient information and helping picking them. Such one-off tasks are also very helpful to the staff. Helen, and her husband Paul, are apparently the first volunteers here from New Zealand.
Thorsten 3w Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal

Helenw Diary of a Complementary Therapist bhopal medical appeal
Check back here at the beginning of February for another update or keep in touch more frequently (if erratic) with my blog at http://abhopaldiary.blogspot.co.uk/ and ‘like’ my facebook page, Bhopal Today. Spreading the word about the long-term results of this disaster is the most important thing you can do – where it will go you do not know.
 
 
 

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A Remarkable Young Woman

Jan 9 2014 by

Last year the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre was lucky enough to be visited by a remarkable young woman. Here is the story of Surabhi’s experience in her own words:

“A few months ago, I came across the documentary ‘Bhopali’ by Van Maximilian Carlson that educated me about the current effects of the 1984 disaster. Before moving to Singapore, I lived in Bhopal for a good part of my life. I visit it every year. I call it my hometown; and yet, I was never aware of the fact that so many still suffered from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. It came to me almost as a shock. The documentary also introduced Chingari Trust as an organization working to help the affected kids. Being highly inspired by their work, I decided to visit it during my summer break with my dad on our week-long trip to Bhopal.

On my 5-day visit to Chingari, I took interviews, photos and videos of the centre. During this I got to meet many inspiring individuals. On my last day, I held an art workshop for the kids and decided to sponsor a week’s mid-day meal. I had had a life changing experience. I aspired to work for Chingari as a part of my school project back in Singapore. I acknowledged Chingari of my plan to raise money at school by selling self-made products. They responded to my offer very positively, motivating me further.

Upon returning to Singapore, I combined all the recordings and photos taken at Chingari into a short educational video that I showed to some staff members at my school (ISS International School, Singapore). Being very impressed and touched by it, they encouraged me to carry out a school wide campaign that would help raise funds. I themed the campaign black and white and called it ‘Help Chingari. Help save a life.’ I hand-made 150 key chains and got 100 originally designed t-shirts printed. A lot of publicising was done before the sales. Posters were put up around the school and I gave presentations that also showcased the video, to all the grade levels. The sales went better than expected. I managed to sell 200 key chains and 140 t-shirts. On 6th December, our school held a day where everyone paid a dollar to wear black and white or the t-shirts I had sold.

At the end, I had unexpectedly raised $3,200. To use this amount in the best possible way, I decided to buy Chingari a van. They use vans to transport kids to and from the centre each day. I thought it would be a great way to contribute. After checking with Chingari if this would be a good use of the funds, we bought them a Maruti Omni Van. The van can now accommodate about 40 kids each day. I am very gratified to have had an opportunity to use my skills to help such a noble organization.”

Chingari is a very special place and as such seems to attract some amazing people. We are incredibly grateful for the way that Surabhi took Chingari, and all of the children to her heart, and the way she translated this into a practical project with a tremendous outcome of real benefit to all of the kids at Chingari and their families. Our congratulations, and heart-felt thanks, go to Surabhi for her inspiration and her hard work.

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Surabhi’s publicity poster showing the excellent t-shirt designs

 

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Surabhi handing over the keys to the van

 

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Surabhi’s key fob designs

 

 

 

 

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Fantastic Christmas fundraiser inspired by an incredible supporter

Jan 7 2014 by

Every year the Dumfries Choral Society holds a special Christmas fundraiser and long-term BMA supporter Agnes Riley, as patron of the society, suggested they chose us as their 2013 appeal.

The audience at the society’s annual Christmas Concert, at St John’s Church on 15th December, were treated to an evening of joyful festive music and some community singing, under the conductorship of the Society’s new Musical Director Ian Hare. With a lovely candlelit setting and warm atmosphere, the choir sang out 3 well-known choruses from Handel’s Messiah, and performed Christus Natus Est by Cecilia McDowell, a modern Christmas medley containing some well-known Carols, in the first half.

A lighter second half including The Twelve Days of Christmas had some effective audience participation with minimal rehearsing! The evening was accompanied most impressively by Margaret Harvie on the piano, and John Morris, organist, who exemplified the range and quality of the fine St John’s organ.  In the second half John Morris performed a thrilling and demanding organ solo ‘Carillon de Westminster’, written by French composer Louis Vierne, a fantasia on the Westminster chimes which have rung from the Palace’s clocktower (Big Ben its most famous bell) since 1858.

The Dumfries Choral Society also sang Carols for shoppers, who gave generously to the charity, and at the Christmas Concert a collection was made, and a cheque presented to Agnes, on behalf of BMA.  Between the two events, on 7 and 15 December, the total sum raised was £1,000. The BMA is extremely grateful to all of the donors and especially to Agnes for such a great effort.

Earlier in 2013, a very spritely Agnes walked 30 miles coast to coast across the Lake District in aid of the Bhopal Medical Appeal. More power to your elbow Agnes!  Agnes in her Lake District Walk, click here.

 

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Dumfries Choral Society singing for Bhopal

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 Agnes Riley (centre) helping with the collection.

Dumfries Choral Society charity presentation to Agnes Riley for BMA 250x160 Fantastic Christmas fundraiser inspired by an incredible supporter bhopal medical appealThe Dumfries Choral Society presenting Agnes with the cheque

 
 
 

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Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon

Dec 20 2013 by

by Melanie Hadida for ‘Pass it To The Left’ Blog.

Since 2007, I have spent several months of my life living and working at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal, India. The Sambhavna clinic is the product of a vision born out of awe-inspiring community based activism in the wake of the world’s worst chemical disaster.

On December 3rd 1984, at 10 minutes past midnight, a Union Carbide pesticide plant, operating under extensive cost-cutting measures with sub-par safety facilities, leaked over 27 tons of methyl-isocyanate — a deadly gas — into the air. The gas released was carried by winds into the heavily populated slum neighbourhoods surrounding one side of the factory, affecting some of Bhopal’s most impoverished people.

Over half a million Bhopalis were exposed to this gas that night and 20,000 people died in the immediate aftermath as a result of their exposure, with many more dying each year from gas-related illnesses. The continuing disaster or “refers to on-going contamination and poisoning of 16 slum communities’ only water sources. The abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory still stands in Bhopal today — a looming reminder of “that night” — rusting and decomposing, while bottles of highly toxic chemicals collect cobwebs and dust, and pose a very real threat to the thousands who live nearby.

The Sambhavna Trust Clinic was created by survivors and dedicated international supporters to provide gas and water contamination affected Bhopalis with free, integrative and holistic health care. Free meaning free, integrative meaning patients aren’t just given pills and sent on their way, and holistic meaning patients’ minds, bodies and spirits are respected, healed and empowered.

Yoga 03 484x566 Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon bhopal medical appeal

The Clinic believes in creating possibilities for patients by generating compassion. The work carried out by Sambhavna has proven that it is possible to evolve simple, safe, effective, ethical and participatory ways of treatment, monitoring and research for the survivors of Bhopal.

At Sambhavna, survivors are offered free medical care through allopathy, ayurveda (an indigenous system of medicine based on herbs), yoga, as well as through Western medicines. The 65 staff members of the Clinic (among whom 23 are survivors themselves) include doctors, yoga and Panchakarma therapists, gardeners, and community health workers and researchers who carry out health surveys, health education and community initiatives promoting better overall health in the gas and water affected neighbourhoods of Bhopal.

Provision of appropriate medical care is one of the central activities of Sambhavna. Great care is taken to ensure that any drugs that are prescribed do not add to the damage already caused. Patients who register at the clinic are given the liberty of choosing which system of treatment they wish to pursue: Allopathic or Ayurvedic medicine. Many patients are treated with a combination of both practices.

For years I’ve had the privilege of witnessing this unique and incredibly effective system of healing at play. One way in which Bhopal survivors are healing — especially women — is through Yoga therapy. The practice costs nothing, is sustainable – once learned can be practiced outside of the clinic — and most importantly, Yoga calls for the patient to be an active participant in her own healing.

Yoga 01 250x388 Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon bhopal medical appeal

Among the survivors, Women in Bhopal have been particularly badly affected by the contamination, suffering a plethora of complaints. In addition to respiratory, musculo-skeletal and neurological health complications experienced as a result of the disaster, thousands of women are also affected by gynecological and endocrinal problems. And in a city where many Muslim and Hindu women still wear the veil, intimate matters are not easily discussed with strangers.

When Yoga was first introduced at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, many patients receiving free care thought the relief from their pain and health complications could come only in the form of a pill. But Yoga’s remarkable efficacy as a drug-free therapy has had tremendous impacts on the lives of Bhopali women of all ages.

The Sambhavna Trust Clinic carried out a study of how Yoga has affected the menstrual problems of gas-affected women. The sample was of women between 18 and 38 years old who were divided up into a test group and control group. In the month before the study began the women in the test group received a months training in specified Yoga asanas. After this, they took no medicines for six months for menstrual problems and only practiced Yoga, while the control group took medicine but didn’t practice any Yoga.

All the women in the test group practiced a special set of asanas. Surya Namaskara, which improves transmission of ‘vital air’ in the body. It helps balance the nervous system and the endocrine, and Bhujangasana, Shalabha Asana, Dhanurasana and Ushtrasana mainly affect the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic region.

When the study period ended, women brought their menstrual charts to the clinic hidden in the folds of their saris and burkas and shared them in complete privacy. The results were striking. Women in the control group showed no particular improvement in the regularity of their cycles or feelings of pain. However, in the test group more than half the women with abnormal cycles reported that they now had regulated and most of the women also reported significant relief from pain.

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In the early days after the Gas Disaster, a tragedy caused by corporate greed and neglect, another industry was benefiting from a spontaneous windfall — the pharmaceutical industry. Government hospitals treating survivors were indiscriminately prescribing impoverished patients with steroids, antibiotics and psychotropic drugs, which compounded the damage caused by the initial gas exposure; the health status of the survivors and their children continued to deteriorate.

Sambhavna’s exceptional system of healing familiarizes patients with an ancient practice indigenous to India; it empowers them to detoxify their bodies and allows them transforms their lives.

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Thank you to the friends of Bhopal

Dec 18 2013 by

With thanks and good wishes to those loyal donors who continue to make our work in Bhopal possible. We wish you a very happy festive season and a good new year.

From the staff and trustees of the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

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Penguins by Shivansh, a child in Bhopal.

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