This September marked milestone anniversaries for the two clinics set up in Bhopal to help survivors of the 1984 gas disaster along with those who have been damaged since. Sambhavna and Chingari have been offering care for 20 and 10 years respectively and the largest part of their funding has come through individual donations from supporters of the Bhopal Medical Appeal. Our supporters’ donations have financed their work: saving lives; caring for children; and improving overall healthcare and knowledge of contamination-related issues in the communities affected by Union Carbide’s poisons.
The Sambhavna Trust was founded in 1996 following a series of appeals, in the Guardian newspaper, which had been running since the 10th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster in 1994. The present, purpose-designed Sambhavna Clinic which opened in 2006 is a beautiful, modern building, ecologically constructed throughout and designed to provide a pleasant and uplifting environment for people coming for care. It stands in about one acre of medicinal herb garden in the heart of the gas-affected area of Bhopal, half a kilometre from the derelict Union Carbide factory and directly south of JP Nagar, the neighbourhood worst-hit in the gas disaster and now affected by the contaminated ground water.
“In a time that humanity needs to reconcile the care and health of ecosystems, populations, communities and individuals, the Sambhavna Clinic stands as a true model of ecological health and well-being.” Robin Guenther, FAIA Perkins+Will, as appearing in Sustainable Healthcare Architecture, Wiley.
To date, the Sambhavna Clinic has treated in excess of 43,000 people and employs around 50 staff, over half of whom are survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. It has pioneered new treatments combining modern, Western medicine with traditional ayurvedic herbal medicine and yoga, to great success, and carries out valuable research and studies, informs, educates and trains people in gas-affected communities to monitor and improve their health. The work at Sambhavna has won a string of humanitarian awards.
“My main recollection is that as an example of a holistic, environmentally sound, community focused and patient centred approach to health-care the Sambhavna clinic is way ahead of anything I have ever visited or worked in, anywhere in the world.” Dr.John Hurst, Senior Lecturer/ Honorary Consultant UCL Medical School/ Royal Free Hampstead Trust
Since 2009, the Bhopal Medical Appeal has also been funding the Chingari Trust Rehabilitation Centre. The Chingari Trust began operating in 2005 after two disaster survivors, Rashida Bee and Champadevi Shukla, were recognized for their activism on behalf of survivors of the Union Carbide Gas Disaster, and were presented with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award- considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ of environmentalism. The two women used the prize money from the award to set up the Chingari Trust with a mission to help the second and third generations affected by the gas disaster, especially women and children.
In the short time the Bhopal Medical Appeal has been supporting the Chingari Trust we have helped move its rehabilitation centre to much larger premises; allowing an enormous expansion of services helping hundreds more children and families. There are currently in excess of 250 children receiving treatment each day.
In the Bhopal Medical Appeal ‘we’ don’t ask ‘you’ to help ‘us’ help ‘them’. The Appeal, the Sambhavna Clinic and the Chingari Trust are shared efforts between those of us who are survivors, those of us who run the Clinics 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 go 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.
More about Sambhavna: CLICK
More about Chingari: CLICK