Before the visit you will be expected to do some groundwork and preparation, and whilst in Sainji to get involved in one or more of the programmes of work.
GEMS is a remarkable school where everyone does their very best to provide a worthwhile educational experience for local children, often in difficult circumstances. Each year we have visited we have found new challenges and different priorities, and we aim to be adaptable and to respond to their most urgent needs. Encouraging interactive lessons and a focus on comprehension and understanding over rote learning is a persistent theme. With students having lost a lot of schooling during the pandemic, we may well need to focus on some basic principles.
You do not need to be studying education to be able to help with this theme, although education students are especially welcome and if English is not your first language you are likely to have a certain empathy with others who are learning a second or third language.
This project is a great opportunity for education students, or anyone with experience of teaching.
Gaining a basic knowledge of first aid could literally be a life saver for people who spend their days in remote fields on steep hillsides in the presence of venomous snakes and who cook on open fires. In previous years we have toured local villages with a ‘First Aid Roadshow’ to demonstrate how to treat burns, bleeding, snake bites, seizures etc and try to dispel some of the ‘old wives tales’ such as the practice of rubbing butter on burns. Students studying health-related subjects have led these sessions but others have helped out too. We would love to do more of during our next visit.
Landor Community Hospital in Mussourie is often where the ill and injured end up, and in previous years our paramedic and nursing students have assisted Dr George and his colleagues dealing with a variety of cases in his morning clinic. There may also be the possibility of participating in village clinics and community health outreach programs, if these are running at the time of our visit.
Many young girls and boys have very little knowledge of the physical and emotional changes which occur as they enter puberty, making this a frightening and uncertain time for many of them. For girls, it often also affects their attendance at school and for boys inappropriate comments and actions could have very serious consequences them and their families. We are often asked to provide sensitive advice to males and females aged 9-14 on the changes which happen at puberty. The sessions are always extremely well received by the pupils and by the staff and are likely to have a lasting impact on everyone involved.
These sessions are a great opportunity for students of health care or sciences, or anyone with experience of this type of work, to have a real impact on young people’s lives.
This is the root cause of many of the difficulties that people face in their day-to-day lives and often creates a vicious circle of poverty. Poor people globally are typically undernourished, live in unhygienic conditions and have little access to health care (eg the costs are prohibitive even if it is available).
During the short time we are in Sainji it is not possible to address these long term and complex issues, but you can be an important role model, especially for the children. For example, the children at GEMS regularly suffer from diarrhoea, worm infestations, skin infections and fevers and this reduces their capacity to learn, attend school, develop properly, and later to gain employment. The single most effective way to reduce these conditions (Ejemot-Nwadiaro et al, 2015) is to encourage them to ‘wash their hands with soap’, whilst in school, but also at home.
We are always looking for innovative and creative ways to provide important public health messages (eg using theatre, songs, videos etc) which is something everyone can get involved with, especially those from creative backgrounds.
The pipeline that delivers spring water to the village is old, rusty and leaky. There is often not enough water to go around, which means families at the end of the village, and the poorest who cannot afford their own storage tanks, sometimes go without. Whilst the source, a spring high above the village, is probably unpolluted, by the time the water is used by villagers it is likely to be contaminated with bacteria and possibly parasites. A new water supply infrastructure is needed but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
By understanding more about the sources and types of contamination it should be possible to help the villagers avoid some of the health implications of having to reply on this water. It would also be very useful to know how much water the village currently uses, how much is lost to leaks etc, to calculate how much central storage is needed to at least provide a reliable supply.
This project would be ideal for scientists and engineers wanting to investigate and address Sainji’s water problems.
There are a number of other project areas which we could get involved with, depending on the will of the villagers and the expertise of the ARU team. These include:
Ejemot-Nwadiaro RI, Ehiri JE, Arikpo D, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing promotion for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2015 (available at https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004265.pub3/epdf/full, accessed 24 October 2021).