It’s day 4 of GROW 2018 and I already feel at home. The colorful complex of concrete buildings that is the SOVA headquarters has so quickly become familiar to me. Every day here has been filled with such novel and enthralling experiences from conversing candidly with past trainees from the GDA program to partaking in a serious discussion about maternal and child health with Prasantha and ASHA health activists.
When I woke up this morning I took a moment to breathe in the damp air, still heavy with rain from last night. I looked up at the bug-covered ceiling and over at my g fellow GROW team members and was once again hit with the sense of hopefulness and excitement that I had felt the first day. I had to remind myself that I am here on GROW – that today I would get to interview the Chief of the Department of Health for the entire Dhenkanal District and learn about the Indian healthcare system and services, and exactly what role SOVA plays in promoting health equity in the area. Today I would get to learn from primary sources what is really going on in the developing nation of India in terms of their health resources and lack thereof. This excitement for each day to come has frequently accompanied my morning routine – which already consists of lots of chai, white rice, dal, and laughter. It also is carried with me throughout the day and into my nightly routine – which also consists of lots of roti, mosquitoes, humid showers, and more laughter.
On our first night in Dhenkanal, we – Mr. Mishra, Lupin, and us 5 interns, journeyed to the Sri Aurobinda Ashram Temple and Center of Education. At the temple, we spent 30 minutes meditating in front of an image of The Mother, enshrined in red ambient light. After the commotion and welcome ceremony that occurred during the day, this time of peace with ourselves was very much appreciated. During this silent meditation period, I felt that I could belong here. We then walked across the road to the Center of Education where we interviewed the Headmaster of Center of Education where he continually reiterated their school’s “No Discrimination” on the basis of gender, race, or caste policy. It was an amazing experience – to talk to him about the religious values of the school and learn more about the culture in such a first-hand manner. With some difficulty that arose via cultural and language barriers, we discussed the story of the Hero Aurobinda and how to give children a holistic education that prepares them for the outside world. Though there were definitely some highs and lows even on this singular outing, I knew slipping into bed that night that the rest of GROW’s stay would be similarly interesting, surprising, and challenging with a few moments of perfect peace.