This question goes out to folks in Pune – how many times have you walked past the Sasoon hospital? In fact even if you’re not from the city but frequent it often, you would have passed by it as it’s located really close to the city’s train and bus station. But have you ever wondered about the patients here? Well, I didn’t give too much of a thought to them either till I visited the hospital as part of a volunteering experience with GiveIndia. I learnt that day that the hospital lends a comforting hand to distressed patients and their families; families who live below the poverty line. And a lot of activity happens within its walls to give them this much-needed comfort and support. One of these takes the form of SOFOSH, an acronym for Society of Friends of Sassoon Hospitals; SOFOSH is a voluntary organisation whose work I was totally amazed by, the day I visited. Started off to supplement the activities of the Sassoon General Hospital back in the 1960s, the organisation has, over the yearsm set up an orthopedics workshop, helped disabled people set up snack shops, spread awareness about HIV+, offered ART treatment and encouraged adoption through their child adoption center. In a very realistic attitude, the organisation starts and keeps only those activities running which have a real impact. So, for example, when enough orthopedic shops came up in the area, they shut down their orthopedic workshop.
A gap area that continues to exist and which they have been able to fill very successfully is Shreevatsa – their home for abandoned children through which they also encourage adoptions. At Shreevatsa, every child is treated as God’s gift; they receive the best treatment in terms of food, cleanliness, education, love, and more. And I witnessed this for myself.
During my visit, Madhuri Abhyankar, their Director, explained to me how a photo file is maintained for every child – from the day s/he was brought to the hospital to the day s/he is adopted. In fact, a DVD of these photos is then gifted to the adoptive parents so that the child knows that s/he was well-cared for and loved. More importantly, the DVD helps the child preserves his/her childhood memories.
But, as I learnt during the course of my visit, adoption is not where it ends. Regular follow ups to check on the child are done by the SOFOSH team post adoption (in fact, workshops are organized by the team for potential parents pre adoption too).
The day I visited, there was a 10-day-old baby at SOFOSH! Mrs. Abhyankar shared with me many stories about the lost, abandoned, and abused children she has seen over the years –the preemies who have literally had to fight for their lives, the special needs children who never get adopted, and the babies who have been left on many a doorstep. One newborn was found floating in a plastic tub during a recent monsoon flood. Another, named Gollu, a 4 year child, was abused with cigarette burns, tied by the ropes and had telltale signs of being manhandled, when the police found him. SOFOSH cared and looked after him till the police were able to track down his equally abused mother in Madhya Pradesh. Gollu was then handed back to her.
Each story was more heart wrenching than the other!
Since 1973, Shreevatsa has facilitated over 2,400 adoptions (most of them domestic). It has cared for over 5,000 children on a temporary basis, including children of patients at Sassoon Hospital. The day I visited, there were over 60 children in its facility.
If you live in Pune or visit it, and you have never walked the halls of Sassoon Hospital, I would recommend you to do so. It is an eye-opening experience – seeing volunteers quietly helping the families of the patients in their time of need. It’s been 50 years that they have rendered this valuable service in addition to their core function as an adoption agency. Way to go SOFOSH!