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Jharkhand, the “Land of Forests”, is a state in North-East India, born from a separation with the neighboring state of Bihar in 2000. Though rich in nature and landscapes, this region is afflicted by overwhelming poverty, with over 40% of the population living below the poverty line. For more information, see our article “Discovering Jharkhand, land of forests”. Since 2014, Karuna-Shechen supports many rural and tribal communities in this region.
Prone to many diseases and deficiencies, the isolated communities of the region lack medical resources to deal with particularly recurrent cases of anemia, malaria and other serious illnesses, or even simple injuries and harmless disorders which can be dangerous if left untreated.
Very few humanitarian organizations operate in this state, leaving rural areas without access to basic services. Faced with this challenge and opportunity, in 2014 we started our operations in Jharkhand with a medical center in Hata and a mobile clinic to bring basic health care to the surrounding remote villages.
We have since gradually expanded our activities and the coverage of our programs: from raising awareness on health and feminine hygiene (benefiting over 6,000 women and girls) to early childhood development (with 96 kindergartens catering for 3,840 small children). We implement a holistic approach, working hand in hand with the villagers to meet their specific needs and find sustainable solutions together. All our activities are interconnected, creating an interdependence that builds on each other’s successes.
“All our activities are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Together, they create an ecosystem that enables and encourages greater autonomy for communities to manage their own development” says Shamsul Akhtar, Director of Operations in India.
Karuna-Shechen gives disadvantaged communities the tools they need to transform their lives and become more resilient and self-reliant. In 2019, we helped 65,000 people in Jharkhand, including over 18,000 through our health programs.
« Toutes nos activités sont liées et se renforcent mutuellement. Ensemble, elles créent un écosystème qui facilite et encourage une plus grande autonomie des communautés dans la gestion de leur propre développement » rappelle Shamsul Akhtar, directeur des opérations en Inde.
Over the years, with the steady increase of our activities and the number of patients, we have felt the need to move to larger, better equipped and more suitable premises. So we undertook the construction of our own building to replace the current health outpost which we’ve been renting. In March 2020, after 2 years of construction, Karuna-Shechen inaugurated this new clinic and operation center. It is 3 storeys high and covers an area of 1,200 m². However, due to epidemic circumstances, the clinic opened its doors only on November 2, 2020, with appropriate procedures in place to once again welcome patients.
The ground floor is entirely dedicated to medical services: outpatient consultations, pharmacy, pathology laboratory, acupuncture, physiotherapy, radiography, ophthalmology. The clinic is surrounded by nature, with a view of the hills and many green areas (inner courtyard, vegetable garden). The first upper floor is a professional training center aimed at empowering the villagers, such as giving women autonomy, and for our employees ongoing training. Finally, the top floor will house the administrative offices, staff rooms and kitchen.
“This new building will not only ease and improve our medical interventions, it will also provide our staff with the resources required to pursue the general development of the recipient communities” adds Shamsul Akhtar.
Karuna-Shechen benefited from volunteer Sylvie Meunier’s advice, expert architect in the design of structures for medical community and non-profit organizations. Building was designed according to 3 principles, in line with our motivation of effective altruism: “functional” in order to offer a quality of service, especially for the medical part, “user-friendly” and pleasant to live for our beneficiaries and teams, and “ecological” to minimize its environmental impact and be in harmony with nature. More than a place of care, our new clinic surrounded out of town by green hills and the association’s vegetable garden, is favorable to the well-being of both body and mind.
In order to provide a comfortable space, we integrated several features to cope with the high temperatures in the region while minimizing energy consumption, and oriented building to take advantage of the predominant wind blowing 60% of the time. Partially-open premises, built with perforated bricks, promote natural ventilation and thus reduce the use of fans. We do not use energy- consuming air conditioning! Those used during the day have been selected considering sun orientation to limit the need for electricity. The special glass of the windows and the white membrane on the roof reflect sun rays, thus avoiding the greenhouse effect indoor.
Design of the clinic also took into account efficient and anti-waste water management, with the installation of an underground cistern and low-flow faucets.
Finally, most of the clinic was built with materials locally purchased in Jharkhand, as well as traditional materials in connection with professional trainings we offer: for example, women in neighboring villages made sun shades for the windows from bamboo that grows in the region, as we teach to use in our craft workshop.
““When passion meets compassion in action”: this is how I summarize my experience on this Karuna-Shechen project. I have been able to combine altruism with love for my job as an architect, and thus add meaning and dimension to what I do. Consider this combination if you are tempted to embark on a humanitarian project. You will not be disappointed.”– Sylvie Meunier.
This clinic represents a new step for Karuna-Shechen towards even more integrated and altruistic programs. Step by step, hand in hand, we are giving our beneficiaries practical tools for their own autonomy and freedom. Support our action!
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