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.
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.
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.
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.
I volunteered as an English teacher for DIR over several weeks and was thoroughly impressed with the program. Residents of this impoverished village were educated and employed by DIR to support community health, nutrition, disease prvention, and promote sustainable business practices. I took a tour of the village with a resident who documented childrens' weight and counseled families on nutrition and necessary immunizations. The DIR employees regularly visit each house in the village, tracking the childrens health and development and also giving immunizations. This is a real grassroots organization making positive, lasting change by having village residents educating other residents.
I met Dr. Frederick Shaw in India in 2007 and was very impressed with his and the team of DIR people trying to improve the lives in Janta Colony, Chandigarh. This is one of the largest and older bastee/slums in the city. DIR people were on the ground with an office in the slum offering health care support, training, and education to people who lived there.