From the instant we stepped off the train onto the Koppal platform, the group of Samuha staff made us feel welcome and respected. They loaded our bags into their Jeep and us four girls got our first glimpses of Koppal from the back of motorcycles driven by the staff. The town is bigger than we were expecting, with many shops lining the streets, cows meandering around and cars, motorcycles and buses blasting their horns. We pulled into the campus, just outside of town, and relished in the calm and safe atmosphere created by the staff. After eating our breakfast with only our right hand (the left hand is the toilet hand), we settled into our room for the 5 weeks. It’s a simple and spacious room with 4 mosquito net clad single beds and our own bathroom with a squat toilet. We are sleeping just upstairs from the Early Intervention Centre (EIC), the staff offices and the kitchen and mess hall where we eat all our meals.
During the day, the calm of the campus is disrupted by the arrival of many families bringing their children, sometimes as far as 300 km, to be seen at the EIC. We quickly learnt through observation of the Community Based Rehab (CBR) worker, Prabhaker, who works in the EIC, why so many families come to him. His years of experience show in his ability to apply his depth of knowledge to each case with ease, all the while explaining everything to the child’s parents. As he works, he asks us for feedback and suggestions, even though we feel we have much more to learn from him than he does from us. Throughout the mornings, we see children with Cerebral Palsy (CP), Spina Bifida, malnutrition, and more. Prabhaker breaks only when chai is brought around and even then, he only pauses for a minute. He will work tirelessly until every child at the EIC is seen, regardless of how long it will take. The entire dedicated staff work diligently to provide the best care possible to their clients.
During our first staff meeting, we planned the schedule for our first two weeks. Through all the discussion back and forth, we were able to synthesize one main piece of information, the staff all want to learn from us. This was a daunting fact for some of us, as not all of us have completed a pediatric placement. It felt strange and remarkable that before any of the staff had seen us work, they already respected and trusted us. As much as they want to gain from our presence, they also all want to ensure we have the best experience possible. From driving us around in the Jeep, to accommodating our allergies, to showing us how to do our laundry (it involves slamming and scrubbing our clothing on a rough cement block), they never hesitate to lend a helping hand. A perfect example of this is when they took us to the local festival. 400,000 people attended the festival from surrounding villages, all traveling in overstuffed cars, piled on tractors and crammed into buses. For some of these people, we were the first Caucasian people they had ever seen. We got a lot of attention. People tried their best English to talk to us, grabbed our hands, but mostly just stared. If we stopped, they stopped and surrounded us. The Samuha staff then surrounded us, like a protective barrier, to separate us from the crowds. They must have anticipated this, but that didn’t stop them from providing us with the unforgettable experience, even though it took away from their ability to enjoy the festival.
As the days progressed and we settled into our roles as the Canadian Physiotherapy Students we continued to be humbled by the unwavering hospitality of the staff. We were also exposed to many of the CBR workers in the field and, again, were impressed by their knowledge, skill and dedication. It is clear that we will learn a lot from the staff and will be exposed to many different and unique cases. We have already experienced so much and can’t wait to see what the next four weeks have in store for us.
– Krysta, Josina, Sara, Madison