After a really long crowded metro ride from South Delhi to Gurgaon, I heaved a sigh of relief when I de-boarded and took in some fresh air. Shipra Shukla, Co-ordinator Networking and PR for Sukarya for the past 10 years guided me with the route. I had to take an auto which was a task because Sukarya is located on the outskirts and interiors of Gurgaon. Finally, an auto driver gave in after much argument. It was a 20 minutes drive from the city metro station to the main office. The minute I reached Sukarya’s gate, I was surrounded by children from the nearby slum who came running behind the auto, asking for money. Luckily, the guard came to my rescue. As I entered, it felt fresh, seeing the compound planted with Neem trees, clean glass doors and windows. I was welcomed by a fragrance of mango pickles and sandalwood. I followed the smell and reached this huge shop which sold pickles, bags, powders etc. made by the slum women. Later Shipra greeted me and gave me an introduction about their social enterprise, which gives employment to the women.
She later showed me around. We went inside this small room which had one bed, table, and a chair with clean mats. Without having an idea of what it is, I asked her “Is this the waiting room?” to which Shipra smiles and reverts, “It’s a clinic.” Having visited many clinics, I had a different picture in my mind – an attendant, green bed, white curtains etc. But this one was so lively! Absolutely no clutter and minimalistic. When I asked Shipra if the minimal interiors were intentional, she replied, “We have a lot of children patients – this has been designed with them in mind. Sometimes, even women from the slums who come here, get petrified when they see a hospital kind of environment. Hence we changed the interiors and gave a regular room atmosphere.”
We then walked into the nearby slum – Saraswati Kunj. The slum consisted mostly of migrant workers, domestic workers, auto drivers, laborers etc. Thinking people might just stare and not open up because that is the case in most slums, I was proved wrong when a woman in her mid 50s greeted Sukarya’s team (Field workers, me and Shipra) and offered them a place to sit.
Later on, I interacted with a barber who receives medical aid from the organization. He had a small shed with a mirror, chair and few scissors. He mentioned he migrated from Bengal way back in 2000 and after many attempts of finding a job, he set up a shop on his own. When his son had a fever, which didn’t go for a while, a field worker from Sukarya approached him and told him about the clinic and medical facilities in the locality. Since then, he has been receiving his medical aid from the organization and now calls it his family home.
“People who received treatment from us became evangelists and spread the word amongst their friends in other slums,” says Shipra.
Sukarya provides quality health services to the underprivileged of Saraswati Kunj slums of Gurgaon. With a population of 7,000 individuals, the slum consists of migrant labourers from West Bengal (60%), Uttar Pradesh (20%) and Bihar (20%). Many people living here still do not have access to basic quality health care services. Government health centers are located very far away and the costs incurred in traversing these distances, coupled with the unpredictability of finding a provider at the centre push most of people to quacks. Through Swasthya Kendra, the clinic located on campus, Sukarya provides the entire gamut of primary health services.
A physician runs the clinic two day a week (on Mondays and Thursdays) for four hours and provides medical check-ups and medicines. The centre is supported by a strong community outreach programme where a community health worker conducts home visits to build awareness about key health issues like nutrition, personal hygiene, and sanitation. The community health worker also sends people requiring help to the centre and follows up with those undergoing treatment to ensure that they recover completely. Other duties undertaken by health workers include counseling women on antenatal care, breastfeeding, the importance of an institutional delivery, anemia control etc.
Many of the slum-dwellers are domestic workers and manual laborers. It’s common to find them suffer from musco-skeletal problems like arthritis. Injuries due to occupational hazards are rampant too. For such people, having access to a physiotherapy clinic is rare. To address this gap, a physiotherapy unit was set up at Sukarya’s premises itself, which offers services either free of cost or at a subsidized rate.
While provision of quality health services forms an integral component of their work, the second and perhaps more critical component is a change in the behavior and attitudes through awareness sessions, counseling and continuous interaction. Awareness camps are also conducted to educate women on the importance of adequate nutrition, immunizations, pre and post-natal care, and institutional deliveries.
During my visit, I spoke to 26-year-old Moushoumi. A resident of the Saraswati Kunj slum, Moushoumi was nine-months pregnant with her second child. Before her interactions with Sukarya, Moushoumi was absolutely clueless about things like pre/post-natal care, the importance of eating right during pregnancy, immunizations etc. With the organization’s help she overcame the problems of conceiving the first time round, and is now carrying her second child.
Moushoumi gets herself checked every month. I feel light because of Sukarya’s silent support. They also give me medicines and nutrition if required for free.
Over 7,000 people like Moushoumi have benefited from Sukarya’s Healthcare program. Its cradle-to-grave approach on natal care (medication, regular checkups, and nutrition after a child is born) is commendable.