Commitment, with a genuine family dynamic

Do you remember being at school in the summer and it being really hot out? When you begged your teacher to let you work outside and they finally gave in? The feeling of being allowed to be free, and the knowledge that although nobody was actually saying it aloud, work was definitely over for the day? Ties were undone and tights(!) taken off as you flopped on the grass, pretending to study French verbs. . .Well, that was exactly the feeling in the air when the Wednesday meeting at Sambhavna got moved to the garden, as the generator was too noisy to hear over. Pretty quickly, giggles were being muffled, piles of mud were being slyly thrown at one and other and the odd exasperated cry of “Bijuuu!” (definitely the main perpetrator) was exclaimed. Not the way I’m used to conducting work meetings but I couldn’t help but think how nice it is to be in an environment where people work together professionally and with commitment, yet still have time to kick back, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. I’ve been observing over the past few days the genuine family dynamic that exists at Sambhavna. People appear to really enjoy being around each other, and are always up for a bit of good-humoured banter.

The general camaraderie is heartwarming as I watch the people around me, some of who are fast becoming my friends, totally disregard the traditional framework of ‘work colleagues’ and create a commendable working environment that any organisation would be proud of. Lunchtime brings communal dining, badminton and general chitchat with a good deal of lighthearted teasing and laughter. Cards are laid on the table and it seems to me that offence is rarely taken, and if it is, it’s forgotten rather quickly.

Watching the interactions here has led me to consider work environments that I’m more familiar with in the UK. So often we are concerned with what people think, who might be watching and what the ‘right’ thing to do is that we forget that life, be it work or not, should be fun. I’m not sure how it came about that the workplace is an environment we generally associate with a sense of obligation or perhaps even dread; it seems to me that having fun in the workplace is often associated with a lack of productivity, but as I watched the hilarity unfold in the grass this afternoon I realised that you can have both. As the dynamic at Sambhavna proves, if people are empowered by their cause and are self-motivated to achieve results, it is entirely possible to create both a productive and enjoyable work environment.

Bits and Bobs

As the cold weather fades away spirits are high at Sambhavna . Firstly, big congratulations to Nand-Kishore, our hardworking cleaner whose wife had a baby girl on Tuesday. She is as yet unnamed, I believe this may be the case for some time but I’ll keep you posted.

Sathyu and Rachna were gone for much of the week in Mumbai where Rachna received the ‘Woman of the Year’ award. I think this means that both the woman and man of the year in India are behind the campaigns in Bhopal which I think is testament to the hard work and dedication that these inspirational individuals have been committed to for the past 26 years as they stand alongside the survivors of Bhopal.

Next week there is a World Symposium taking place in Bhopal, which is a series of workshops aimed at people from different disciplines to discuss what happened here and also explore ideas regarding restructuring the Union Carbide factory area as a ‘Cultural Heritage Site’. I believe that everyone at Sambhavna will be invited along. Unfortunately the symposium will take place in English, meaning that the majority of people who these issues affect the most will be excluded. It is however, hoped that people from Sambhavna will be there to represent the community.

More at bhopal2011

From the Bottom of the Garden

In the garden this week Ratna, Mahoman and a few helpers have been busy. They have turned over the ground in the playground, a brightly-coloured oasis for children who rarely have safe places to play, and are getting ready to plant grass seeds. They have also been planting saplings along the access road they are creating down the side of the building, and have been harvesting lots of seeds to turn into medicine.

Library News

Shanhnaz has been working hard translating Dr Roopa and Dr Jay’s 38-page research proposal from English to Hindi, archiving every single news article relating to Bhopal in both English and Hindi, translating for Josh and Lucie as they complete interviews for their up and coming documentary, and doing diabetes health education with some of the patients as they wait for their appointments with the doctors.

So much more than a waiting area…

It’s so great to see good use being made of the dead time while people wait to see practitioners. Shahnaz gathered quite a crowd as she demonstrated the complications and symptoms of diabetes on our newly-produced health promotion cloth sheets, which seemed to be particularly effective in gaining peoples’ interest, while Aziza picked ayurvedic herbs that can be used to control blood sugar from the garden, and passed them around. The patients had the opportunity to ask questions and engaged throughout the session. Next week we are going to try a more interactive approach, which will hopefully facilitate more open channels of communication and allow people to take control of their own decisions regarding their health, giving them the opportunity to discuss the things that are important to them in living with diabetes. We are not sure how it will go yet but will let you know.

Community Health Updates

The community health workers have been busy. They are each working on individual projects that they will present to the communities they work in, in order to encourage the community health volunteers to conduct research in their areas and then use the information to educate people. Research is such an important part of the work here at Sambhavna, especially in light of the many unsatisfactory or incomplete ‘research studies’ that have been carried out by official authorities in Bhopal. There is a dedicated team of researchers here who are constantly out in the bastis gathering huge volumes of information in order to provide rigorous research about the health of gas and water-affected people in Bhopal.

The community health workers have also been learning how to give different types of injections this week, using the good old-fashioned teaching aids of oranges and lots of water. I will add that much of the time was spent laughing (mostly at me, the reasons for which I am still oblivious to thanks to the language barrier) and trying to figure each other out in broken Hinglish. It was fun though, and great to watch the group dynamics of learning and practicing skills. Tomorrow we move on to taking blood, I haven’t told Nasir that I’ll be demonstrating on him first, which might just take the smile off his face!!

The Foreigners

This week saw the arrival and departures of both Vaughn and Maude, two interesting people who have been separately involved with Sambhavna for some time. Maude is an artist, photographer and a bit of an architect who designed and oversaw the construction of the pond and waterfall at Sambhavna. Vaughn lives between Goa and his hometown in Switzerland and is an engineer, as well as a bit of a philosopher. He was examining the roof at Sambhavna for any potential problems and spent many hours scratching detailed drawings on paper with a pencil. I’m amazed every day at the range of different skills that people have and how they can be here. EVERYONE can be useful, no matter what your experience or situation.

Josh and Lucie are getting ready to leave, heading to Orissa in the East where they will do some investigations into the despicable GM crops situation in India, which is forcing many farmers to commit suicide because of financial ruin, while the multinational companies, who incidentally own half the worlds seeds, continue to profit. But that’s a whole other subject. They will be missed here at Sambhavna but have an interesting few months ahead doing good work and spreading awareness about issues of social injustice. Ben is spending many hours holed up in the yoga studio translating endlessly before he leaves next week. I am pleased to announce that he now understands almost everything I say; maybe my Scottish accent is diffusing a little!

I started off wondering what on earth I was going to write about. I guess the little things all add up to alot, which is a lesson I am learning more about every day here in the clinic. Have a wonderful week, from all of us at Sambhavna!

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We believe Dow & DuPont must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.