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BODHI VOLUNTEERS TO INDIA

BODHI sent nurse Wendy Birley and her son, Kim, to Dhonden Ling, the remote Tibetan settlement near Kollegal, South India in November, 1993. Wendy went for three months as a health worker with no set agenda, only to help in whatever ways requested--a difficult assignment in a settlement more than usually unaccustomed to Western ways. Kim went for up to one year to help Dawa Dhondup construct a new dormitory that would enable T.E.A.C.H. to expand by fifty percent, and to teach English.

Wendy writes that she is working 9 a.m.-12 m. at the hospital and spending the rest of the day at T.E.A.C.H., "establishing a kitchen garden and reading and talking to the younger children in the hope of improving their English. Children are talking to me more and more and demand stories which always have to begin, 'Once upon a time.'

"We can hear the elephants. There are forty-two of them and they have two young, one only three weeks old. Just wish they would keep out of the maize. Butterflies come out with the sunshine: eight centimeters (three inches) big, colored vivid yellow, yellow/rust and electric turquoise; huge swallowtails that are black/red, black/black with white stripes, black/green and black/blue; and lots of speckled brown/golds and good old cabbage whites!"

"The two health workers are very good and I think their standards are high. But they have nothing to do, they just sit around all day whereas I feel they should be out in the villages urging people not to spit, etc. All the hospital staff with the exception of the health workers spit."

"Hope to travel to the villages, do some educating and see people who never make it to the hospital because either they're too busy harvesting in the fields or it is too far to walk.

FRUSTRATIONS AND TRIUMPHS

"One nurse was using terrible bashed needles (she never changes the syringe) until I threw them out. I feel very frustrated as even though I can point out things whilst I'm here, things will not change once I'm gone.

"I have won over a sweeper who now proudly sweeps and mops under the cupboards and does the dressing room Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays instead of once a week!

"Nothing is sterile. One nurse puts things in completely enclosed containers, places them in the autoclave, gets it up to pressure then switches it off! Have luckily found an instruction book which says to cook things 20-25 minutes. Haven't won completely on the enclosed containers, though. How does the steam get in to sterilize? Everyone is dosed up to the eyeballs with penicillin, which is how they get by.

"Have arranged to get a microscope fixed, and am taking the auroscope to be mended, which will make the next live cockroach I have to remove from an ear at one o'clock in the morning a lot easier.

"I suggested they put the vaccines in a plastic bag first, before putting them in with the ice. They were all arriving with the labels completely off, so when Palden and I did vaccinations recently we didn't have a clue what was what. Luckily Migmar, the hospital administrator, knows the bottles, I hope.

"One nurse's aide is so sloppy it's unbelievable. I had a baby in with an enormous abscess after being vaccinated, and discovered that she uses the same needle half the time as well as the same syringe for vaccinations. (Apart from the risk of transmission of HIV, Tibetans already have a high rate of Hepatitis B. This technique seems guaranteed to outweigh any benefits from the vaccine. Ed.)

"I've become chief suturer and really enjoy it. The most difficult so far was the eyelid of a screaming child, who had one centimeter (.4 inch) of adipose tissue hanging out which I had to reduce first--on my own as everyone else had gone away. I've heard that a good Tibetan doctor left here after watching helplessly as a fourteen-year-old girl died; he had no means of reviving her. The last manager would not, or possibly could not afford to, buy any emergency equipment."

"There are sixty-seven patients with TB at the moment. More will arrive soon when the sweater sellers return."

   




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