A life changing experience: Working at DIR-India changed my outlook! Before working for DIR, all I wanted to do specialization in some plush medical field, earn good money and that's it! Working for DIR, changed my outlook towards life in general and my future career direction in specific. As a physician just out of medical school, I worked on teaching the health promoters (bright young people who were hired from the area of operation) the basics of medicine, nutrition, vaccination, hygiene and disease prevention, and they, in turn, diligently visited each house in their alloted area to teach the residents what they had learned. Such a simple model, really, and an exceedingly cost effective one. And the results of this intervention were nothing short of dramatic. A childhood vaccination rate approaching 100%, a reduction of prevalence of children with malnutrition below the national average of India! It was then that I realized the importance of public health, realized that interventions need not be fancy and expensive to make the highest impact. I don't know about how anyone else would be affected by such an experience, but for me it indeed was a life changing one, so much so that I went on to pursue a degree in public health. As a result of this, DIR will always be close to my heart, and the person behind it all, Dr. Frederick Shaw, is a role model in my life - an idol who I try to emulate always (though I frequently fail to get myself up to his standards).
At DIR (India), Nayagaon, Punjab, the first noticeable aspect is a transparency in accounting and work ethics. The next is near perfect mapping of the work area and feed back on every individual and activity. In a slum, heavily populated by migrants from all parts of India, who have no records or identity cards, people become a faceless, right-less mass with no recourse to even the basic facilities of food, water, hygeine or health, let alone education and jobs. Dr. Frederick Shaw is trying to right all these wrongs. With his usual hands-on approach, he is making life better for these people. The DIR School, with children between 2 and 6 years, readies children for higher education in the city. The CASE project takes teens off the streets, to educate them about health and nutrition through lectures, games and field work. Later, as adults, they can get jobs as Health Promoters, who earn salaries and work with every family assigned to them. Most purchases are made in the local bazar to help the economy of the area. DIR =School>CASE>Health Promoters> Better Economy. The programme is perfect for a country that has a definite but invisible line between the rich and the very poor. DIR can do with donations in cash and kind.
Supporting good works has always been important to me, but it's hard to be certain that my money goes to help the people who need it, rather than line someone else's pockets. I KNOW money donated to DIR goes to help the people, because after hearing about the success of Dr. Shaw's projects, and seeing first hand the work in Janta colony, I volunteered to be the treasurer of DIR. The success of the work DIR does is unparalleled as far as I know, and is tremendous - in terms of lives saved and helped - any way you want to measure it.
I am a Physician Assistant licensed in the state of California. The only adjective that comes to mind when describing my volunteering experience with DIR in Chandigarh, India is "blessed". I had the opportunity to work extensively with Frederick Shaw and ancillary staff in April 2009 teaching Medical Terminology and Anatomy and Physiology to the field health providers of the Janta Colony in Chandigarh. The dedication, integrity, and unwavering good hearts of all concerned was incredibly moving for me. The good that resulted from their deep caring was evident not only "objectively" (in a clinical sense) but in the deepest heartfelt sense as well. In that regard one need not have looked any further than the glowing smiles of both the workers, and the recipients of such tireless,profound generosity...I will carry their good hearts always.
I'm a Sociology graduate from the Netherlands. I volunteered at DIR from February 2007 till June 2007 and it was a great experience! I immediately felt this organization is honest, warm and very eager to tell people in the slums about health, food and hygiene. I was stunned about the immunization project and the care for children and pregnant women. DIR educate local people from the slum (Health Promoters) with passion. Each Health Promoter gains the trust of people in their own district and spreads the message of DIR. The knowledge of the disciplined Health Promoters is widespread. The fact that information DIR is bringing comes from local people explains the speed of DIR successes. In June 2009 I will return to Chandigarh to see the progress DIR made in the last two years; I can't wait!
After spending 30 odd years I came back to India 4 years back to pay back my debts to society. I work in the area of primary education and vocational , job oriented courses. I am a bit vary of NGOs in general because most of them spend more time in getting themselves photographed than in actual work. I found DIR a noble exception. And a pleasure to work with as a volunteer. In an extremely poor area of demotivated people they provide health care using local persons. Difference in attitude, work culture of local DIR persons is an eye opener if one is aware of the general attitude of people living in the area. Educational facilities for young kids are at a level that after two years these slum kids can get an opportunity to join the best schools. I think DIR and Dr. Shaw are doing a fantastic transformational job.
Developing Indigenous Resources should be an example for many. The concept of educating locals and together with them work on improving the living circumstances shows to have great long term results! Where other NGOs temporarily improve the living environment, DIR makes a long term difference. I've worked as an intern at DIR for 6 months and was amazed by the work ethic of all the employees and how they manage to pass this spirit to the local population and inspire them to work together with them on a better future for their families.
How many of us have ever spent our weekend or a day or two by helping our ‘near and dear ones’? The answer would be, ‘’Yeah! We try to help them out because they are close to us and we care for them’’. But how many of us have really really worked and helped the ones who are neither known to us nor related by any biological or other relation? The answer is apparent. It would surprise the people that an American, who should ideally be enjoying the mischief and pranks of his grand kids, is in reality working for the downtrodden section. He is away from his home and family so that the families in this slum area can live healthy and happy life. Two and half years ago, I joined this organization as a nutritionist. I had a mindset of working for just a month or two with these people. Meanwhile, I started enjoying the work, because there were so many things going around. People learning about health, diet and nutrition in actual terms and also implementing it in their daily lives. And the result of learning and teaching process that is analyzed at the end of every month made me more and more attached not only to the program but to the people also. I got so involved that I ended up working with the team not for months but two complete years. Had I not got married and moved to US, I would have continued with it. Working with this team has changed my outlook completely. Now I am looking forward to divert from Nutrition to Public Health.
My experience with DIR was amazing. The staff was incredibly dedicated and the Health Promoters surprised me with their amount of knowledge and eagerness to learn. The conditions they work and live in, the challenges they face daily, and the work ethic of the staff was truly inspiring. DIR is making an impact in a way that will better lives far into future. This, I believe, is the true challenge, and one that DIR is on it's way to successfully overcoming.
I learned about DIR through Prof Garry Fehr at the Institute for Indian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley (Canada). Dr. Fehr emphasized that it is a unique model that is showing excellent results in achieving its goals to improve health, social and economic conditions in the slum. As a photojournalist, I was interested in doing a project on DIR and spent four weeks in total following the Health Promoters. Without exception, the HPs demonstrated that they have a sound knowledge of local health and nutrition; it also became obvious that the residents see them as a first point of contact on related issues. Even more impressive was the sense that the daily visits to each neighborhood in the slum is strengthening the sense of community and increasing general knowledge. Of particular interest is DIR's efforts to educate children, many of whom are the primary caregivers for younger siblings because parents are away working long hours. DIR is doing great work, but it is also KEY to note in developing the skills of the local people, DIR has created a means by which the community itself is solving its own problems. Dr. Shaw also made use of me beyond a photojournalist by having me teach English classes and assist with the annual report.