Here’s an article that appeared in today’s Chennai edition of the Times of India:
Two medical students from Sri Ramachandra Medical College have battled odds to create an organization devoted to the welfare of those less fortunate.
The general image of medical students in India reflects a time tested stereotype ; buried in books, stressed to the point of no return, no time for a social life, leave alone social service.
Two students from Sri Ramachandra Medical College, however, are rapidly changing this. Nivedita Gunturi, 24, a third year MBBS student, and Sriram Ramgopal, 23, studying in final year, are the founders of Sangam India, a non profit organization devoted to the welfare of slum dwellers. Their background is similar; both are NRI’s, Nivedita being born and brought up in Texas, while Sriram hails from Boston. Both are clear and precise about their ambitions and ideals.
“Many of us joined the field of medicine in order to do service”, says Sriram. “We started the idea of Sangam India based on the idea that although we weren’t yet doctors, we still had opportunities to participate in our communities and do service.”
Nivedita concurs; “Many people have the misconception that social service is something to be done in old age. We want to change that”.
Sangam’s core activities concern ‘adopting’ a nearby slum, and devoting their efforts to it for close to 3 or 4 months. The activities include a special emphasis on children, with Sangam volunteers teaching the children the basics of cleanliness, hygiene, and inculcating values of responsibility and good citizenship to them. Sriram explains, “Our main work is based around education and healthcare. In terms of education, we have a weekly educational programme where we interact with the kids. “
Was it hard?
Sriram offers an ambiguous answer, stating that on one hand, “People in these communities lack basic facitilies and information and they suffer from basic necessities of education and healthcare.”
However, Nivedita interjects by saying, “But, on the other hand, the support we receive from young people across Chennai is inspiring.”
Sangam also conducts free medical camps from time to time. This is deemed as necessary by the organization due to the fact that most of the slum dwellers are either too poor or too ignorant to receive proper medical care.
“It’s tragic, because most of the times, the medical problems they have are very easily treatable”, says Nivedita. She goes on to tell a story of how one child was diagnosed with a heart defect at the medical camp, which could have easily gone to become fatal.
So, what next for Sangam?
Sriram outlines the group’s future aims, which are remarkable for its practicality.
“We are always thinking a step bigger. We envision seeing more people from this city getting involved and possibly taking on communities that are nearby to them to ‘adopt.’”
“It’s a simple idea, but getting more and more people involved will allow us to do more to serve people in these communities and it will give us all a sense of solidarity.” he adds.
Nivedita is slightly more abstract, saying that, “the goal that is dearest to us is that of bringing an idea of social responsibility and human values to the young people around us, from every community. We wish to encourage a sense of cooperation and solidarity among members of different communities in working together to better our circumstances.”
Hats off to these two pioneers, struggling against all the pressures and stress of a medical student’s life, in order to make a difference.