I’ve always thought of Americans as some of the most compassionate people in the world. I still think that. But the community of volunteers in Bhopal is something special.
During the week the Medical Missions Foundation team is here, 45 local business people and students have been serving the Sewa Sadan Hospital around the clock. They are moving patients from the operating room to the recovery unit, helping people who must stay on the ward. They serve meals, snacks and coffee to our team, and cook food for everyone in the building. That’s on top of the medical volunteers who have joined us from other parts of the country.
You don’t need to know Hindi to understand the loving care they provide to people who live in poverty.
“In the 19-years I’ve been coordinating medical missions I’ve never worked with a partnership like this,” said Abigail Hayo, mission coordinator. “We couldn’t do it without their volunteers and the support of this hospital”, Abigail emphasized. “It’s remarkable.”
Laxman Vidhani is a stock broker who takes time from his business to manage the Indian volunteers out of respect for the late Sant Hirdaram Hahib Ji, the man who founded the organization. This hospital is one positive thing to come from the Union Carbide chemical disaster that killed 20,000 people and left thousands more with lasting health effects. Laxman has been volunteering since he was a child.
“The people who come here and volunteer get a sense of joy and contentment,” he explained. “They share that happiness and then others want to come here and find their joy as well.”
Margie Ross, an operating room nurse from the Kansas City area explains it just a bit differently. “The people here are so loving and kind and for us to be able to give a little to them is amazing,” she said. “We get a lot about out it. Every mission trip I take I have gone home a different person. I go home a better person.”
Personally it seems right American volunteers should join the people of Bhopal in improving the health of people here. I remember the carnage caused by Union Carbide, an American company. But the gentle people of Bhopal don’t seem to hold onto bitterness. They are elated to be working side by side with their new friends from another continent.
“Just this week we have come to know each other,” hospital quality manager Dr. Poonam Parwani said with an earnest smile. “You people come from a different cultural background and we also. But our motto is the same: we all want to serve the suffering of humanity.”
Bharti Janyani the assistant hospital administrator hopes this mutual volunteerism will continue into the next generation. “You have to serve the community,” she said. “You can’t just take. You have to give something back. That is the most important thing for the next generation to know.”
And if by chance, we should need the people of Bhopal to volunteer in America? “We will come,” Bharti said. “Definitely.”