Up one level
India, february 2002

Some of you will know that in 1971-72, we lived 7 months in India, sponsored by Danchurchaid and IMCC, working at  Christian Hospital, Bissamcuttack, Orissa. We had a wonderful time there and have never forgotten that experience. Some pictures from  back then can be viewed here. For many years, we kept contact, partly through one of the danish doctors, Kai Erland Pedersen, also due to the fact that he took care of some local boys ("the hindu boys") , and made us participate through some financial support for the education of one of them. However, years passed, some things changed, and we lost contact.


In the beginning of february 2002, the 6th World Conference in Echocardiograhy and Vascular Ultrasound was to take place in Delhi. The program was very relevant to my work, so Inge and I decided to combine my participation with an ensuing holiday in the vast country. We spent one week in Delhi, getting used to people and the climate. The congress took place in a large hotel and was very successful. We did the city in auto-rickshaw and by foot, seeing only very few other tourists. Tourism is 80% down due to 11. september and the India-Pakistan-crisis. As expected, we were severely attacked by hustlers and touts of all sorts, and cheated with our train tickets, but the loss was bearable.
Pictures from Delhi here.
Film from Jama Mashid.

Before leaving Greenland we had traced an e-mail contact to Bissamcuttack through some of the other "old students", one of these actually also work here, is even one of our neighbours!
So, we had positive feedback from Orissa and engaged in a 30-hour journey by train from Delhi, this time by air-conditioned coach, though even this by no means is luxury compared to european standards. But it is a fine means of transportation in India, seeing a lot of the country and meeting many kind people.
Pictures from the journey here.
Film from a railway station.

Christian Hospital, Bissamcuttack

On the station in Muniguda we were picked up by the hospital jeep, and furthermore of two of the boys, Suri and Sahadebo, with flowers. In the hospital, the guest house was ready for us, and we felt very welcome, this sentiment growing even stronger as days passed by.
The hospital was completely unrecognizable, but then, 30 years is a very long time. Much bigger, now with piped (clean) water and electricity, X-ray, ultrasound, anesthetist, pediatrician, ofthalmologist etc, a total of 10 (indian) doctors, and heavy activity. In 2001, 51.877 oupatients, 6.771 inpatients, 2.164 operations - at a total cost of DKr 3.6 millions (more figures here).
The economy ia based on a Robin-Hood-principle, rich patients fees paying for the treatment of the poor. The hospital has a good reputation in surgery, attracting rich patients with money, the surplus being used for the benefit of the poor - though everybody has to contribute something. The alternative is the government hospitals, where everything is free - on paper. But if you have no money, you must wait, till the doctor is available - or accept very low standards in treatment. It doesn´t work due to corruption and bureaucracy. If the patients has no money, expensive treatment as heart surgery or chemotherapy for cancer is no option.
But also at Christian Hospital money is the most important issue, as it is for the individual patient - seeking treatment only when his ability as provider is threatened.
Everything is reused. Diposable articles are there, but are resterilised, till they fall apart - papermasks and plastic included.
Pictures from the hospital in general, outpatients (up to 5 doctors in one room with one couch), operations (anaestetic ether), prematurity (one nurse cares for 6 children, one 1100g, to operatede with colostomy, one of these 1700g), and from the wards.
Inge of course also visited  the lab, still using very few machines, most analyses done by hand.

Furthermore, the hospital has an extensive Community-Health-Department. The head of this is an outstanding person, Johnny Oomen, being at work around the clock, it seems, ever fighting for a better health in the villages. Clean water, education, malaria, tuberculosis, vaccinations, child health surveys, northing escapes him, engaging a lot of other people with his enthusiasm. He also took care of nearly everything regarding our stay at the hospital, knowing the place to the detail.
He also took us to the villages, where we tried to fight tuberculosis 30 years back - and a lot has happened in that field also. Some villages have electricity, schools are abundant and most have access to plenty of clean water.
The community work is concentrated in 46 villages comprising some 10000 inhabitants, primarily in the tribal area, where the government is not very active. There might be some official programs, sounding fine on paper, but often hampered by corruption and bureaucracy.
The pioneer work of Lis Madsen, founder of Christian Hospital, has been followed up and corroborated by deployment of health-workers, offering vaccinations, health-surveys, malaria control (mosquitonets), tuberculosis control, education etc etc. The effect has been documented by halving of the mortality of the under 5s.
A boarding school in the village of Katjapahu (in the MITRA-project  - Madsen Institute for Tribal & Rural Advancement - details here) has been raised and run by collected means, also from Denmark. The government has schools there also, but often the teacher won´t show.
Pictures from Katjapahu and the MITRA-school, and from a village clinic in Borodaguda, and from Bissamcuttack.


A couple of years ago, through Danchurchaid, we sponsored a well in a village in Orissa. Before leaving Greenland, we traced the exact location of the village, Kokodamal, which turned out to be only 70 km from Bissamcuttack, in one of the hottests areas of India with summer temperatures up to around 50 centigrades. We would like to see the village and the well, and it turned out to be possible, again with the assistance of Johnny Oomen. We established contact to the neigbouring district of Kalahandi and the Lutheran World Service, who picked us up in their jeep, offered lunch in Bhawanipatna and took us to the village, we being there the happening of the year. But it felt good to see our contribution in the real world - the well was there, it was needed, and provided abundant and clean water for the villagers. Pictures from Kokodamal, the well, LWS - and a monkey.

The hindu boys

The journey also turned into a very positive experience by the foster children of Kai Erland Pedersens "the hindu boys". We hadn´t had contact for some years, but again Johnny Oomen was helpful and provided the address of "our" boy Senapati, now being a bank manager in Bombay. Through Kai we also got his e-mail and thereby contact, and he wanted to meet us in Bissamcuttack. Altogether, there are 6 boys. The eldest, Chanciri, har had the responsibility for the others - Suri, Sahadebo, Bhagirothi, Nobino and Senapati, under the supervision of Kai, who also provided the money from Denmark. Senapati turned out to be the brightest, but three of the others have also been educated - one teacher and two engineers. Only Suri is still in Bissamcuttack with no education. But the tenderness and care they all showed during our stay, was outstanding. Suri and Sahadebo received us, later Senapati came from Bombay and Chanciri from Berhampur, from far away, travelling night and day. And provided a car, so we could go for a trip to the waterfall, familiar to all, having bathed there many times.Helping with shopping, took os to the mountains, provided tickets to next stop Rayagada, where Nobino waitede will all his family dressed up, serving dinner and taking us to the train, that arrived  04 a.m.in Berhampur, there being met in the middle of the night by Chanciri and his two sons, taking us to a hotel and later a visit to the family and wife Hira, Kais old maid, and their beautiful daughter, who has become a zoologist. To of the sons are IT-engineers.

Later all of us travelled to Gopalpur on Sea, an old, now somewhat ramshackle coastal resort, where we had been recommended a hotel on the beach,  Hotel Sea Side Breeze, a wonderful place, cheap and appropriate. We spent the day with Chanciris family on the terrace , later we had a couple of days be ourself and could enjoy life on the beach, the fishermen, beautiful women, sun, sea and beer.

The train ticket further on Chanciri also had taken care of, he and his familiy again meeting us at the station ensuring our safe departure for Bhubaneswar - being met there by Senapati, who once more provided a car and offered sightseeing at the sun temple in Konarak, the Ashok-temple and the holy city of Puri. The day ended with dinner with his wife and son of 14 months - taking us to the train the following day for our journey back to Delhi.

We won't easily forget them - now the boys talk about establishing a boys home, providing others with the chances they got.

Pictures from Bissamcuttack

Inge and Jens