Thursday, September 22, 2016

Elise B. ILR'18: Vivekananda Teacher Training and Research Center

At the temple in Sravanbelgola. 
I can’t believe that six weeks have passed since I first stepped off the plane at Bangalore airport and walked the streets of India for the first time not knowing what to expect. In my time here, I have found unique architecture, delicious food, beautiful clothing, friendly people, and a culture so vibrant that people need to experience it first hand to understand its true beauty. I have made memories that will last a lifetime and India will always hold a very special place in my heart.

My project at the Vivekananda Teacher Training and Research Center (VTTRC) consisted of creating a digital database to house admissions and academic information for this tribal vocational school. I then analyzed the database to identify relevant trends in student demographics/enrollment and identified recommendations to admissions to maximize school’s success based on challenges.

With the students in Hosahalli.
Looking back on the past four weeks working on my project at Hosahalli, I simply don’t know where the time has gone. I was so impressed by the students at VTCL and VTTRC. They were kind, funny, selfless, intelligent, athletic, artistic, and so much more. I feel blessed to have grown close to many of them and saying goodbye was extremely difficult. From getting my hair done Indian style by the 9th standard girls, to dancing together in celebration of elections, I made so many joyful memories with the students and although we spoke different languages, that did not stop us from making strong connections.

I think this concept is what makes cross-cultural exchange so rich in importance and meaning. The idea that two vastly different groups of people, who speak vastly different languages, from vastly different places on the globe, can come together to simultaneously grow and learn from each other is absolutely amazing. As I prepare for my final departure, I can’t help but hope that my life journey leads me back to India some day.
GSL team resting after the climb down the mountain from Sravanbelgola Temple. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stacy J. GH '17, Cerebral Palsy Case Studies at Sargur

This summer, I was fortunate enough to work at Vivekananda Memorial Hospital in Sargur, India. Unlike other hospitals I have worked at, VMH had a very active Community Health Department that worked with local people to implement initiatives to improve their health. Among their many projects, I worked with Dr. Manohar to create case studies of children with cerebral palsy who were beneficiaries of the hospital’s Chaitanya Vahini program. Not only was I able to research and learn more about cerebral palsy, but I sat in during physical therapy sessions at the hospital, interviewed patients and parents, and went along for home visits along the rural countryside. I also created questionnaires and research proposals for the maternal and child health initiative and Mobile Health Units.

General ward at Sargur hospital.
Being placed in Sargur was the best of both worlds. We had a small town to go fruit shopping at during our down time, and living inside a hospital allowed us to make friendships with the physicians, medical residents, and staff. The hospitality was amazing. We were invited to dinner at one of the physician's homes where we watched her cook dinner and ate homemade dosas. Since VMH also targets rural, tribal populations, I was also able to visit these communities through the Mobile Health Units that deliver care and medicine daily to these tribal villages. During my free time, I was also able to shadow the delivery room and the operation room. It was incredible to see how much the hospital could do with the resources that they had.

Mobile Health Clinic Van from Sargur Hospital.

Overall, India was an incredible experience. I learned so much about myself these two months. Not only was I able to learn so much about the culture through trips and my new friends, but I also feel like I genuinely contributed to the needs of the hospital. The Global Health program at Cornell has truly allowed me to open my eyes to the needs of global communities and learn how to learn from and work with them in an effective, culturally appropriate way. I can’t wait to visit again!

Stacy dressed in scrubs to observe surgery in Sargur Hospital.


Improving Employment Outcomes for Workers with Disabilities; Alex C., ILR '17 and Seth L., ILR '17

Did you know that an estimated one billion people live with a disability? This eye-opening statistic from a prominent international financial institutionthe World Bankreveals that 15 percent of the world's population experiences disability on a daily basis. Further, the World Bank calculates that "one-fifth of the estimated global totalor between 110 and 190 million peopleexperience significant disabilities" (World Bank, 2015). People with disabilities represent a sizable community. Both historically and presently, this community has been stereotyped, stigmatized, and discriminated against.

This is prominently reflected in the economic participation for people with disabilities. "People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and generally earn less even when employed...the World Health Survey shows that employment rates are lower for disabled men (53%) and women (20%) than for non-disabled men (65%) and women (30%)" (World Health Organization, 2011). These facts illustrate that the world's largest minority faces daunting employment challenges ahead. Recent peer-reviewed articles suggest that employers are acting against their own interests. Employers receive myriad direct and indirect benefits from hiring, retaining, promoting, and accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace. These benefits include, but are not limited to: heightened worker productivity, increased job tenure, improved job performance, enhanced job satisfaction, and superior absenteeism rates.

In 2016, we focused on disability-related projects at the public policy division for the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement ("SVYM"), known as the Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement ("GRAAM") in Mysuru, India. Further, our endeavor was in conjunction with staff and faculty from the Cornell University Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability ("YTI") located in Ithaca, New York. Specifically, we worked on two interrelated projects: (1) crafting case studies on firms that gainfully employ workers with disabilities and (2) developing an android-based application to facilitate employment relationships between workers with disabilities and potential employers. While these projects had distinct objectives, our end-goal was singular: authoring public policy to improve the lives of people with disabilities on a national level. We are grateful for support from a plethora of domestic and international stakeholders. 

Our multidisciplinary team discussing new technology with public-sector colleagues.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Heather B. GH '18, Community Health Project at Sargur

Heather (center) with roommates, Nayo (left) and Sarah, in the Saragur hospital dormitory.
This summer, I worked in the Department of Community Health at Vivekananda Memorial Hospital in Saragur, India. My project involved developing standard operating procedures for Chaitanya Vahini, a rehabilitation initiative that works with persons with disabilities. Chaitanya Vahini is three years old, and provides institutional, field, counseling, and special events services for adults and children with disabilities and their families. However, there was no set documented protocol of what goes on in each component of the program in detail.

I worked for two months gathering information, researching, pulling files, interviewing staff, observing appointments and going on field visits. After gathering all of the necessary information, I synthesized my findings into manuals describing the processes. I created a standard operating procedure for Hospital Services, one for Field Visits, and one for Residential Camps. These manuals ranged from 15 to 20 pages each and included a complete description of the program as well as a detailed timeline and explanation for the steps of each service.

Outside of my project, I also helped to create an analytical data report based on a school health screening. Furthermore, I created a motivational poster for parents, and compiled a document of staff suggestions and my own brainstormed ideas of future success of Chaitanya Vahini.

My project manuals were printed soon after I left and will be available in the Community Health Office for anyone who needs to learn more about the initiative. They will also be shared with new employees and future interns working with Chaitanya Vahini. I thoroughly enjoyed working on my project as it equally balanced research, observation, interviewing, and creation. I appreciated the opportunity of getting a comprehensive overview of the hospital services offered through Chaitanya Vahini, interacting with patients and their families, and getting to communicate with many staff members inside and outside of VMH.

Heather assists with child weight measurements at Sargur Hospital.


Nayo M. - GH '17, Patient Education Materials at Sargur

Nayo enjoying coconut water.
During my six weeks in Sargur, I was given the task of creating patient education materials for a number of diseases. In order to narrow down my project, I spoke with the education department of the hospital and found that they were in most need of materials dealing with patients suffering from Alcoholism and Depression. After establishing my focus, I spent a couple of weeks researching and observing how alcoholism and depression affects people in the context of India and more specifically amongst the village communities that the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital serves. One important aspect of my research included shadowing my mentor, Dr. Chaitanya-Prasad a couple of times a week. During his rounds, I witnessed first-hand, the affects of long-term alcohol abuse on one’s health. I used all my observations to then come up with creative posters that would hopefully encourage patients to not engage is such activity. I was also able to create a four-minute informational video on Alcoholism and a few other posters advertising the hospital’s counseling department as a source of help. In addition to my project, I went ahead and created questionnaires for the counseling department. I was able to produce three questionnaires that the counselors would give to patients in order to screen them for alcoholism. Based on their results, the counselors would have an idea how far along the patient’s addiction was and if it improved after months of individual and family counsel.

Nayo and her mentor on her last day in Sargur, after her final presentation.
 I had a really great time working on this project. Alcoholism and depression are definitely problems in the US so it was a great opportunity to do research about it and use what I learned in India to possibly help those here in the US. What made my entire experience an unforgettable one were the people I met at the hospital and at SVYM. Everyone was so welcoming and happy to answer any questions I had. Minoring in Global Health is definitely one of the main highlights of my entire experience at Cornell. Being able to interact with like-minded individuals who all share the desire to be knowledgeable about global health and have a heart of service was truly gratifying. This was the perfect start to my journey in pursing a career in Global Health. 

Nayo learning to cook a South Indian dish in the Sargur canteen.


Whitney C. ILR '18, Documenting VTTRC Success Stories at Hosahalli

Whitney shopping at an open market.
SVYM maintains two schools in Hosahalli: Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning (VTCL), which is the primary and high school for tribal children between the ages of five and fifteen, and the Vivekananda Teacher Training Resource Centre (VTTRC), which is a two year college program for future elementary school teachers.  The two schools are very connected, with VTTRC students conducting research at VTCL as well as acting as house parents in the hostels.  I feel privileged that my project has given me the opportunity to interact with both campuses as well as the wider community.  My project this month has been to record success stories of VTCL and VTTRC alumni from the year 2011 to 2016 by analyzing the meaning of success in the context of institutional goals as visualized by select teachers, leaders, and students of VTCL and VTTRC and to develop a list of success criterion in which to identify successful individuals. 
There is an emphasis at VTCL on teaching students when they are ready to learn and preparing the classroom environment with the necessary learning tools, materials, and resources for the active involvement of the learner.  This inquiry-based learning that encourages divergent thinking and leads to more questions and inquiry based habits of mind helps create lifelong learners and inquisitive minds.  The atrium at school features many quotes that allude to these values, including one by Margaret Mead that says, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think”.

Everyone that we have met through our work has been so welcoming and excited to help us in any way that they can.  The students that we have befriended never cease to amaze me.  One VTTRC student eloquently explained why she wants to be a teacher; she said that education introduces you to the world and as an educator, you are an ambassador for children who want to learn about the world.  Thus, she wants to learn as much as she possibly can so that she can be the most effective ambassador for her local tribal community to a world that they shy away from.

As our time in Hosahalli winds down, I know that I will miss my new friends and I know I will think about them long after I have left India.  The students are so talented in all areas and intensely interested in everything.  We had so much learning traditional Kannada songs and dances from them and teaching them some American ones as well.  They are such fast learners and pick up anything that we teach them immediately.

Whitney (left) and Elise (right) pose with Hosahalli students.

Ijeoma E. GH '17, Cerebral Palsy Pamphlets at Kenchenahalli

Ijoema sari shopping with Madam Sindhu, the Director of VIIS. 
My project is focused on an integrative approach using Western Medicine and Ayurveda to manage and treat Cerebral Palsy. I am working with Dr. Seetharam, Dr. Mohan and Dr. Arundhati, and the process has been very eye-opening. I am creating a patient education booklet and pamphlet for mothers to watch for the signs of abnormal development in their children. It has been very interesting learning about how certain practices cause harm to the fetus according to Ayurveda and how these can be avoided.

Besides working on the project, we interact with the staff members when they are free, play games outside, go on long walks by the water, and reflect on our experiences. Eating meals with the staff members also gives us the chance to get to know them and their land beyond the context of the professional environment, and I cherish these conversations the most. We are also lucky to be able to observe operations at both the Saragur and Kenchanahalli hospital. All of the doctors are so willing to teach us and show us around. Overall, my time here has been amazing and I hope to come back soon!

Ijeoma with several of the Kenchenahalli hospital staff members and their children.