My partner and I took the 2 hour ride from Cochin, through periods of torrential rain, to the large town on Kottayam- the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. Joseph and his wife Tessy and their elderly Aunty were waiting for us at Kottayam train station. We greeted each other on the street like long lost friends- such a strange occurrence- only made possible through our connections via Nabuur.
We immediately drove to the hospital where Joseph's elderly mother, the impetus for the home-based medical care program, had been ill for over a week. Unfortunately Joseph's mother had been taken a turn for the worse due to her condition but it was due to the connection and generosity of Dr Koyakkuty ( the volunteer doctor) that she was able to be cared for in a small private hospital. This hospital was tidy and clean and off the main road, but it was not like the hospitals of Sydney or any other western city. It was outwardly basic and the room lacked important things like anti-bacterial hand rub to prevent infection etc. Our visit to the hospital was short but important in understanding the overall situation of similar elderly people in Vijayapuram.
We then drove a few short kilometres to the Joseph's home. A simple, well loved home surrounded by a lush garden that provided water and some sustenance for Joseph and Tessy. The jack-fruits were large and hanging low- but not quite ripe yet for eating! After a most delicious lunch of fish curry, chicken curry, jack-fruit curry, tapioca and fried fish I presented the money which was raised at my workplace (along with a personal donation) to HRESEDC. We then spoke at length about the medical program. It became quite clear to me that trying to find ways to get medical attention to those elderly people confined in their homes was not an easy task. The other patients whom the program is currently assisting did not have the means to pay for travel to hospitals and some did not even have the family support. The donations will help in some way to provide basic medical care to the 8 other patients however a means of transport to get them to hospitals, when needed, is important. To purchase a second hand van that can be used as an ambulance would cost around Rs100,000 - at least. That is about $2500- $3000 Australian dollars.
The need to provide ongoing assistance with medicines and nutritious drinks is also a priority. Followed by continuing education for carers and general emotional support for the elderly. The work that Joseph and Tessy have already begun in this area is admirable and encouraging. They have volunteered their time and care to their community and intend to continue to do so despite having their elderly mother to care for as well.
I was very happy and equally honoured to meet Joseph, his entire family and the neighbours. It was a wonderful afternoon for all of us. We still have a long way to go with the program. It will be slow at times. However our priorities are clear for now- transport, medicine and education. I hope 2010 will allow us to realise some of these goals.