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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birsena A. ILR '18 - Sneha Kiran Mysore Spastic Society

Namaskara! My name is Birsena (ILR ’18) and this summer I had the honor of being a part of Sneha Kiran Mysore Spastic Society, which is a school for children with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Sneha Kiran not only creates awareness about CP among the community members but also guarantees opportunities for children with CP participation in social activities and also excising their rights with in their own communities rather than getting isolated into institutions. Sneha Kiran gives children a chance to be a part of something and gives them a sense of belonging. The able-bodied children act as volunteers rushing to the aid of other children as friends.  I want to see that love reflected in the world I live in, where people rush to the aid of others and try to be the best versions of themselves when no one is watching.

Sneha Kiran Mysore Spastic Society - a school for children with Cerebral Palsy and other physical and mental disabilities.
At Sneha Kiran I was responsible for independently teaching classes with focus on individual children. I taught English, math, and environmental science to a class of 15 students with their ages ranging from 9 years old to 23 years old. Tara, another student from Cornell also at Sneha Kiran, was responsible for developing computer skills in individual sessions with students. The two of us tracked the progress of our assigned students and developed specialized teaching methods based on the student’s disability in order for students to learn most effectively. We fostered strong relationships with the students, volunteers, and teachers, which in turn led to a fluid line of communication that enhanced our experience.
Birsena and Tara worked with some students in the computer lab to enhance their cognitive thinking skills.

There is so much love Sneha Kiran, every single person is there because they want to be there. Being at Sneha Kiran for a month has taught me more about compassion and love than I ever could have imagined leaning. From the second I walked into school, to the second I walked out there was never one dull moment. Each day I was in absolute awe of the accomplishments every student made, and when they got excited it was genuine and contagious. I dare anyone to spend a day at Sneha Kiran and not leave with a smile on his or her face. Sneha Kiran created an environment that encouraged people who want to make positive change to join them. Every teacher there is there because they want to be there. I wish that everyone could experience the magic that is Sneha Kiran by participating in this program.
Tara (left) and Birsena (right) receive a farewell gift from their mentors at Sneha Kiran.

Ingrid W. GH '18, Knee Pain Management Booklets at Kenchenahalli

Ingrid with Madam Sindhu, Director of VIIS
 All eight of us were adopted into Dr. Mohan and Dr. Arundhati family. They have become our home away from home. The staff at Kenchanahalli have given me so much joy. Shukmar’s kind words that welcome us to tea every day to Mahadevi’s “How are you?” to Gita’s outstanding Chapatis and Praveen’s smile are all integral components of making all of us feel at home in this beautiful place.
At this site is where I was stationed to complete my project which included creating a booklet and flipchart that discussed techniques to help Knee Pain Management. My goal was to create booklets that could be used by any member of rural Indian community, and therefore make it understandable so everyone could comprehend the material.
In the guest house at Kenchenhalli.
During my stay at Kenchanahalli, I participated a couple times with Deepa and Gowri in Yoga routines. I was able to learn the entire Surya Namaskara. Gawri showed me how to do proper patella mobilization practices like what was described in my individual project and she also helped me as we discussed how my project could be improved by inserting certain yoga practices into the knee healing process.

Last week I was able to have a massage called Janubasti from Dr. Arundhati, Gowri, and Putti. The message included a calf and ankle massage combined with heaps of hot oil rubbed and placed on and around my patella. This was so helpful for my project because it gave me a personal experience on how knee pain is treated using Ayurvedic methods. After two days of massage, I can really feel a difference in the amount of knee pain I experience.

Practicing Kannada language with students. 
India has been amazing, but it also has had its set of challenges. For example, Kenchanahalli is a much different environment to anything that I have ever experienced. It is much more isolated than I would have thought and being away from my family for seven months has been hard to deal with. The food is much spicier and my stomach could not adjust to it well.

Dr. Mohan, Ingrid's mentor, showing the students the view from roof of the guest house. 
However, I would not give this experience up for any type of issue and am so thankful for the peaceful environment that Kenchanahalli brings which I have come to appreciate so much.

Albaro T. ILR '17, Demographic and Educational Trends of Tribal Communities

Albaro (center) with Madam Sindhu, Director of VIIS, and GH student Azael.
My name is Albaro Tutasig and I am a current senior in the ILR School. This past summer I spent six weeks in Karnataka, India as part of the Cornell in India Global Service Learning program. As part of the program, I spent the first two weeks taking courses on gender, Kannada (Karnataka’s official language), labor and economics in the context of India. Besides formal classes, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to travel to a few landmarks of Karnataka. Traveling to these heritage sites allowed us to get a better understanding of South Indian culture, and what sort of practices and customs made the region unique to India.

Upon completing our first two weeks, we were all sent to our distinct project sites to begin our work. I had the distinguished opportunity to work at the Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning (VTCL) in Hosahalli, India. VTCL is part of an education initiative made possible by the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). VTCL is a school with a mission to provide children from tribal communities with a formal education. I was in charge of updating a database that consisted of the students’ demographics (age, gender, caste, and where they come from). This kind of information is crucial for the development of the school because it gives administrators some insight of how to approach recruitment for the upcoming years. If one region of the zone is lacking student attendance, then the school’s administration would know to allocate more resources to make sure said struggling region is getting the help it needs.

Few experiences have had such a profound impact on the way I perceive things such as education, culture, and traditions. The goal of VTCL is to educate children from tribal communities, but to also celebrate their own traditions and to guide them down a sustainable path that could be achieved through education.

Alvaro ILR'17 gives his final presentation at VTCL in Hosahalli, India.

Alvaro and the ILR team with the mentors at the Hosahalli Tribal School.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lena R. GH A&S'17, Vivekananda Memorial Hospital-Sargur, Fellowship Program in HIV Medicine

Lena at the Shravanabelagola Temple.

            This summer, I spent my time working at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital – a secondary care facility that serves people living in and around the rural village of Sargur, India. In two months of working, I learned more than a few invaluable lessons and now enjoy the satisfaction of having made a contribution to the efforts of this hospital. Among several other programs of specialization, the hospital offers the Fellowship in HIV Medicine. This Fellowship is a yearlong course doctors take to learn clinical and managerial aspects of an integrated, non-discriminatory approach to care for patients with HIV. For this program, I was asked to update a variety of curricular materials, including a list of learning resources, flyers, a student handbook, and new promotional video.
            When entering the scene of this hospital, the staff greeted us kindly and with respect. Never was I made to feel badly about my shortage of experience or contextual knowledge. However, one cannot help but notice the professionalism and competence of each staff member. Doctors, nurses, and administrators all approached their jobs with joyful devotion. This spark of enthusiasm was contagious for our group. While the first few weeks required that I overcome some bouts of shyness, I soon found myself conversing easily with residents, nurses, and doctors whom I now regard as both colleagues and friends.
Dorm room in the hospital.
            So what did I learn? The implications of HIV transmission go far beyond immediate clinical consequences. Indeed, patients must grapple with the struggle to obtain antiretrovirals (ARVs), adhere to these drugs, maintain confidentiality, avoid transmission of the virus to others, and watch their overall health. Working on the Fellowship taught me about the unique skillset that doctors must have in order to care for people living with HIV. In response to severe societal stigma against PLHIV, doctors at VMH use a similar protocol for all patients, such that there is no routine differentiation between patients with and without the virus. An Integrated Counseling and Test Center (ICTC) provides PLHIV and their family members with ongoing counseling and guidance, support groups, yoga, and care for psychological difficulties. What I saw in this type of care was a profound respect for the person, and an acknowledgment that holistic, multifaceted treatments yield better prognoses and improve quality of life. The challenge I faced was doing justice to such an incredible program.
            The video below gives one an impression of the hospital and what is to be gained from the Fellowship in HIV Medicine. To explain all that doctors get out of the course would take a much longer video. My hope is that this film alerts doctors and other professionals to the existence of this program and its potential to empower, educate, and prepare doctors to make a difference in the lives of many.
 Link to video: