LETTER FROM NEW HOPE INDIA – Eliazar, Director
Greetings and apologies that it is so long since we were able to write to you with this update
New Hope India, people in leprosy colonies who we support and Tribal Kondh Dongria communities and all at New Hope have been affected by this pan endemic that has caused the world to ‘sigh in disbelief’ In India I have never felt such fear and sadness. For our culture not to be able to attend ‘last rites’ is – ‘shame’! It has challenged us with lockdowns and yet we had daring staff that for months got food supplies to Leprosy colonies. The irony that many leprosy patients go out to beg to survive and the lockdown kept them in their colonies. 5 major colonies literally survived by our ‘food support’ made possible by support was donors in the UK. It continues even today, We have an obligation still to support many and also aged Kondh Dongria women. We are but one piece of a jumbled up not fitting together jig saw puzzle of this time! Over the years many people we help have smiled and laughed when we have visited them to give a Love Bundle. This time it was different – they cried with joy that their actual survival was with us. The pressure on our staff and finances were stretched BUT faith overcomes such challenges – It’s like a ‘Bollywood movie’ that 6 times we used a boat to cross a river in Sambalpur to get food supplies to a leprosy colony during lockdown. At that time – no vaccinations – just masks and sanitizing. Not with nice scented lotions but old fashioned surgical spirit!
The situation of the Kondh Dongria 37 villages was simply horrendous. They are ‘animist’ (not Hindu) and believed that the Covid was an ‘evil spirit’ aroused by long gone anger ancestors. They simply isolated themselves because theyheard that Kondh Dongria families who had shifted from tribal villages to live in town were infected – for this they saw evil. this isolationmeant they would not come to weekly markets and sell forest products, their basic survival hand to mouth income. We drained our Emergency fund and had very complicated village by village come and sit sociallyspaced and collect essential food materials including for them one essential ‘salt’. The fact that we also gave them soap caused both joy and humour.
THE COVID AND IMMUNIZATION BATTLE
The second movies would be a story of frustration and at times angry discussions and heated debates as we went through the red tape of insisting on the Kondh Dongria people having a right to vaccination. Many times we have said lightly “its a left over rule red tape from the British.” That’s true to some extent. BUT we Indians have painted it even more red or not ‘freed’ ourselves of it. Excuses have been fantastic “But they (the Tribal Community) dont have proper door numbers. I will leave it at that. Sadly the division of communities between groups who also live in the Tribal area has not helped. This has caused us to have to work around having different places than our own Community Centre for the Tribal’s and not associated with other communities. We came to a ‘working’ arrangement with the local health department which although hard and almost impracticalwe had to go along with to achieve the real goal. That staff spent days tracking up and down to different location with al that is needed to ensure safe immunization was not easy.
We spent days planning how to start the Immunization that fitted in with the Government rules, the social disparity between communities and the sheer difficulty f getting aged in the hills at the far end of the Tribal hill forest area. So thankful to the Village Women Traditional midwives and our staff.
I say humbly that without New Hope and my own long association with the community and proudly I say with the support of a remarkable Tribal woman who started with New Hope and is now an elected woman District Councilor the immunization would not have happened. The fruit of many years of input with the Traditional Birth Attendants also paid off with their determination to ensure all people co-ordinated with the tight schedule needed to cover the maximum number of people. These are women who moved away from using unsterile knives to ‘cut theumbilical cord and a process that for generations was the root cause of Infant and Maternal Morbidity. The same womenwho helped us implement Iodized salt as opposed totraditional rock salt. It changed the high thyroid rate among women in particular.
The time required for this programme meant that visits often took place during peak times of the Monsoon season with work undertaken during incessant heavy rain. Workers exchanged stories at the end of each long day about tracking down patients who had gone hunting for food and spending time to reassure others who had last minute fears of ‘an injection’ or who had listened to vaccine horror stories!
As we neared the end we have had what we call 7 rounds of villages.
We have now covered age range 18 and upwards. A few oldies just shrugged in a ‘no’ that we accept. They represent 6% approximately. The population is those above 16 or mature girls (say 14 years range). More females than males and that is good as its women who go to markets more than men. Population target 2860 of this population in the 2,755 have 1st vaccination and 2,127 second vaccination. In the first round 489 had vaccine injections and they were mainly women who came down to the Immunization Centre we had set up in an adjoining village to our Tribal Community Centre. This ensured we had no ‘cross mixing. Then in round 2 and 3 – 799 across all villages 820 persons. In the 3rd round we also started 422 for 2nd Vaccination. This was not easy but helped that more women came down to the Centre and although they didn’t like being ‘touched’ by non Tribals as our mainly Tribal staff were there – it was accepted. I can say that my own and the presence of long time ‘worker’ Sakuntala was a PR for those who came. We always see ‘people, but in percentage 96% covered 1 vaccination and 2nd vaccination 66% and ongoing. November 15th. (Sakuntala s one of the first young women to join New Hope in 1985.) (It was on reflection now in January 2023 ‘an epic task’).
This picture show how we worked in co-operation with the District Medical Government staff to ensure the Immunization was ‘fair’ to all communities and candidly the standards was as we have always insisted on.
We have also been able to re start our Eye Care Project. Pre Covid 19 times, New Hope would provide cataract surgery to over 470 patients a year, and we are indebted to our UK supporters for making this possible. During the pandemic our project halted as neither patients nor surgeons could move from their locked down areas, but with Covid ‘behind us’ – We are in February 2023 planning our first safe socially distanced ‘cataract camp’. Thanks to the vaccination programme, many younger women came to ask about eye check-ups at the same time as they attended for their immunization.
NAMASTE HOUSE – CHALLENGED YOUNG PEOPLES HOME -Can not have a newsletter without them
Last winter priorer to Covid the Namaste House group all received ‘beabie’ caps – This was a gift plus for them
At the start of Covid they had long talks with myself and seniors whose words they ‘trust’ . They stuck to masks and
distancing when ever ‘others’ came near. They missed their walks to see ‘grans who came for their eyes to be fixed’
ROELLIS GARDEN – Childrens Community Centre – Kothavalasa – Chickens, Goats and Cows with Bees
too; it changes to suit the ‘green situation’. Part Beehives, Hens goats live in the area.. Cows next door but get
Roellis Garden grass. It has Passion fruit (lost in last storm like all the vegetable garden. Wind blew down vine
trellis and vine growing frames, washed away drip irrigation – still recovering.
Bee Hive Project We did not expect a high yield in the monsoon season, but we were surprised how good
it was. However there is a still a sad cloud over the Bee project. The two main persons who have maintained it
– Sreenu and Ramu. We made many jokes about and to Srinu having so many ‘girls friends’ – He started by
jokingly saying one day ‘I’m king of the bees’. It rebounded of course. He ‘crafted’ the project and taught a
younger senior oo manage ‘ordinary work’ on Hives. Its not as easy as one thinks. Ramu travels twice a week to
support the checking that needs to be done. Both were trained in Beekeeping. Srinu passed away. No signs of
Covid but he had travelled that was a little upsetting. On return he was ‘well’ Then within five days passed
away. Its similar to many senior born HIV+ to pass like this. Conscious talking in coherently to within an hour
of passing. A sad and great loss as he was also our intrepid garden planner. The hives are about to expand in
number with change of season and we aim for 34 hives!
In all though its one of the most well used land areas. The major borewell collapsed and through
a generous donor in U.K, was ‘re-drilled’ and working again. It was a drama!
New Hope Schools Situation Our schools situation has been a great concern for Ruth and I; due to the Covid lockdown, households were not allowed out of their area. Families who could afford to pay for education unable to send their children, resulting in a huge financial loss for our school As the pandemic wore on, those same families were themselves heavily impacted with many losing their jobs and livelihoods. We have sadly had to take the decision to suspend our school programme for a year in order for the economy to pick up again and for a return of children from families able to pay. It is the fees paid by these families which help to fund the education of our orphaned children. New Hope looks forward to 2023 when we are able to open our school. Ruth and I have arranged
for children from those families who would have lost out to be able to attend a government school so that they do not lose out on their education. It is with relief that we can let you know that our Rainbow School, for vulnerable children with highly compromised immune systems due to HIV, is continuing to run. Orphan children even though Ruth and I are their Guardians were told to return
to their last address! This was one of those red tape rules that put children at risk. So for example a ‘uncle’ came and left the child with us because both parents had died. Mother came as husband deserted and she begged to survive went back to the very situation that was the reason for them to be with us! No child from a economically sustainable situation comes to New Hope. It meant we supported aged Grandmothers to care for a child who they may in real life hardly seen the child. It was a stressful situation . These are children who were in a safe environment put out in areas where Covid was rampant. The children had clear instructions on safety. Most ‘persons who took a child’ also understood the risk that that they would somehow be held ‘responsible if the child became infected by their neglect. Six months and slowly we simply ‘manipulated the system! Its hard to express stress at this time.
One of the most in need girls has been returned to us
In the midst of all that we have struggled to ensure senior girls were cared for in skill training The senior girl in
the photo has a Grant to cover a major part of her Auxiliary Midwife Nursing course
– Thank you Soroptimist
This is not appeal letter – but to share with you – after a long silence that we have all experienced in many different ways during the last 2 years of Covid. We are thankful to those who give through www.newhopeuk.org – Virtual gifts – More hens, a Beehive as a birthday gift, sandals for protective footwear for leprosy affected and Love Bundles,. All appreciated -all needed.
May 2022 be a ‘safe’ and healthy year for all of us as individuals, families, communities and nations
Eliazar T. Rose,
Director New Hope India
Thanks to the New Hope UK Trustees who all give time, effort and more as real volunteers