About the Community
India, the seventh largest and second most populous country in the world, is a melting pot for diverse languages and cultures. FIMRC began its operations in Kodaikanal, India in 2004 by collaborating with the Betsey Elizabeth Trust. Since then, providing medical checkups and nutritional food has been an integral part of FIMRC's work in South India.
Despite the global attention Kodaikanal receives for its beauty, the health system there has failed to show notable progress, and a number of social, political and economic factors have inhibited the community's development. In recent years, globalization has rapidly changed the face of this community. Ever-increasing numbers of international corporations, factories, and businesses have found a home in Kodaikanal; this economic growth has come at the expense of the local population, who often find themselves without jobs to support their families. Most men and women work in the fields and on the dangerous roads of Kodaikanal as day laborers, performing jobs that require intense physical labor with little reward. The average day laborer makes around 100 rupees a day, which is less than $2.50 in US Dollars to support an entire family. Most children in these families eat only white rice, and in many cases, even that is not available. Since parents must work during the day to support their families, young children are often left in the care of grandparents or older siblings.
In collaboration with the Betsy Elizabeth Trust, FIMRC creates better health services and educational opportunities by working with crèches within the community. A crèche is a combination school, day care center, and health center for children between 2 and 5 years old which provides basic shelter, food, education and care. FIMRC currently supports the Grace Kids Centre, Peach Tree Crèche, Little Lilies Crèche, and Helping Hearts Crèche. When the community's children enroll in the crèches, the family's older children are able to return to school instead of caring for their younger siblings and grandparents are relieved of the task of caring for mobile toddlers. Project Kodaikanal provides comprehensive physical exams for every child in the crèches on a semi-annual basis, the development of a Health Tracking System for all crèche children, as well as funding to Kodaikanal Health and Medical Services to cover primary care for all crèche children.
In the Kodaikanal community, FIMRC helps raise awareness in the community through weekly Health Education sessions on important issues such as HIV/AIDS transmission or prenatal care. Based on need and funding, FIMRC is actively working with diverse group of organizations such as local hospitals, primary health and rehabilitation centers and schools to provide medical attention to people who are unable to access or afford for medical treatment otherwise.
Participants in FIMRC’s Global Health Volunteer Program in Kodaikanal will spend part of each day assisting medical staff at the KHMS Hospital and PASAM Trust and will travel with FIMRC staff to nearby crèches to help carry out FIMRC’s nutrition initiatives and health education programs. All interested individuals, including undergraduate students, medical students, and medical or non-medical professionals, are welcome to join our program. Trips will run year-round for any length of time, though we suggest a mission trip of two to four weeks.
Exact volunteering tasks will vary depending on the number of volunteers in each group, the length of the volunteer trip, and the current needs of the community and hospital. Regardless of the exact itinerary, each FIMRC volunteer mission is culturally and socially enlightening, and aims to expand participants’ understanding of global health.
Each volunteer is given the opportunity to gain basic medical experience, including shadowing the doctor in the examination rooms, administering medications, and taking vital signs of patients. It is important to note, however, that a visit to a FIMRC clinic may not revolve around clinical or medically focused work, as our project reaches beyond the hospital grounds into the community. While giving an injection, for example, may be an inspiring experience for a volunteer interested in a career in medicine, FIMRC maintains the policy that medical care must be delivered by qualified, trained professionals for the benefit of our patients. Volunteers with medical background or expertise will likely have the opportunity to work in a medical capacity alongside the hospital’s staff. Student volunteers are asked to enhance our projects by assisting with well-child checkups and other activities that promote the FIMRC mission, in addition to their time in the hospital. FIMRC asks that all volunteers be flexible and willing to assist FIMRC staff where needed.
In an effort to improve health and hygiene in four communities of Tamilnadu, FIMRC is now focusing on household health and hygiene initiatives. Health education sessions are held for twenty households within one community at a time. We will cover around sixty households helping families understand the basic health and hygiene scenarios that exist within their households. Topics such as water borne infections, air borne infections, respiratory infections, skin infections, hygiene and basic sanitation will be covered in an effort to improve overall quality of health.
Volunteers will be able to gain first-hand experience in community health and hygiene programs while assisting the FIMRC staff and Ambassadors (long-term volunteers). Volunteers will have an opportunity to interact with children at the crèches and aid teachers in education concerning cleanliness. They will also assist the nurse in conducting hospital visits with the sick children and checking vital measurements of crèche children in regards to their development.