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Times of India: “A Different Medicine”

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

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.

Arjun Ravichandran

Anand Charity: "Building a better India, slum by slum"

Monday, April 27th, 2009


Anand Charity
is an Non-Profit Organization based in California which “aims to identify and provide need based financial support to organizations involved with health care, primary education and disaster management in India.” In the short span of 2 years, they have been able to donate over $32,000 for charitable causes across India.

We’ve been mentioned in this quarter’s “News @ Anand,” a quarterly publication by Anand Charity. You can download the pdf by clicking the link above, and you can also read the full interview (not included in the newsletter) here.

Passing by a slum or a group of poor children in soiled clothes playing on the streets is an everyday sight in almost every city in India. So common, that we tend to ignore it. But for two NRIs who had come to Chennai to study Medicine, this plight could not be overlooked. Just a few months into college, they decided to start Sangam India, a charity organization, with an aim to reach the underprivileged sections of the society. Since its inception in early 2008, they have been working with the Ramavaram slums, around River Adyar in Chennai. They have ameliorated the slum conditions by providing nutritious meals, sponsoring education and medical camps for its residents.

What inspired you to start Sangam India?
It is very easy to turn a blind eye to the injustices and inequalities that we encounter in day-to-day life, but we have a responsibility to those around us. Sangam India started out of a desire that we, as medical students, should do at least something small for the underprivileged. We started out as a small group giving out food and are now growing into a larger organization, taking on health care and education initiatives in addition to our original aims.

Click here to read the full interview and click here to read the newsletter (pdf).

Thanks to writer Mrinalini Daran for taking the time to write about us and for helping to raise some awareness about the work that needs to be done in Chennai.

The WIP: "Students in India Take Social Change into Their Own Hands"

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The WIP is The Women’s International Perspective. It is a news site and blog written by women authors about world and social issues.

“Our mission is to provide quality news from the unique perspectives of women that is accessible worldwide and free to our readers.” They write, “The WIP honors underrepresented voices. We honor women, we honor the indigenous, we honor the poor, we honor the personal and the invisible, we honor stories that don’t get press and we honor the freedom that is the gift that comes with the open exchange of ideas, analysis, and opinion.”

Several weeks ago, Nivedita and I were interviewed by a contributor for this organization, Fehmida Zakeer, who wrote an article about us that was published today.

The article highlights three student-run organizations: Umang Foundation from Mumbai, Diya from Chennai, and Sangam India. It discusses why young people work together for social welfare and how they are interested in making positive changes.

Here is an excerpt from the article:


In another part of Chennai, a group of medical students was distributing food to underprivileged children near their college when a man walked up to them with a request, “Can you help me send my daughters to school?” In a section of society where education for girls does not even warrant a cursory thought, here was a father who wanted to send not just one, but two daughters, to high school. The medical students soon founded Sangam India to help improve the quality of life for those in underprivileged communities. Their plan was to adopt one disadvantaged community at a time and guide it towards self-sufficiency by supporting education for children, providing vocational training to adults and establishing public health measures.

“We pass by slums and impoverished people on a daily basis but how often, if at all, do we stop and actually consider what their lives might actually be like? Where do they go when it rains and floods? What happens to them when they fall sick? Do their children go to school? What are their hopes and dreams? The answers will come only if we actually stop and meet the people staying there, and take the time to know the cadences of their lives on a personal [level],” say Nivedita Gunturi and Sriram Ramgopal, medical students and founders of Sangam India.

The article can be read for free at The WIP website. Click here to view the entire article.

Thanks to Ms. Zakeer for writing up such a great article, and of course thanks to The WIP for spreading the word!

Kumudam Article Translation

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

After some delay, here is a translation of the Kumudam Article that appeared about us on September 17th. Kumudam is an immensely popular Tamil biweekly which is read by Tamil speakers around the world. Below is the translation:

These are the students of Ramachandra Medical College, Chennai. Having established a socially-conscious organization named ‘Sangam India’, they are involved in many service-oriented activities without making much noise. They aim to improve the living conditions of poor people.

Hundreds of other medical students are also members of this organization. Where does all this responsibility come from?

Says Nivedita, a second year M.B.B.S student who started the organization: “In Ramavaram, which is close to our college, there are 96 houses. These are all huts. They cannot afford even three square meals each day. We would see them everyday on our way to college. We could not tolerate to see our fellow human beings suffer so much. We started the organization with the sole purpose of helping them. The organization that was started with just two people currently has hundreds of students as members.”

Says Bhavya, with a very hopeful voice, “For now, we have just adopted the Ramavaram area. We are going to supply food and medical facility. Students that have stopped school due to lack ability pay fees will be sent to school. With the help of our post graduate students, we run medical camps and give free medical check-ups. All in all, by improving the quality of life for these people, we want to make them stand on their own legs.”

Where does money come from for all this?

“Our pocket money, of course. We have more than 3000 students in our college. Even if each one of us contributes Rs 100, it is a lot.”

Is there time in the midst of your hectic medical courses?

“We have the heart to help!”

Amidst youngsters that ‘pick-up’ and ‘drop,’ these responsible medical students are the real stars!

Below is a scan of the original article, in Tamil:

குமுதம்
17.09.08

Thanks once again to Kumudam for the great publicity, and to Malathi Ramgopal for the translation!

NXg: “Youngistan in Action”

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Today we were published in The Hindu supplement, NXg. A few weeks ago, Nivedita, Sriram, Pragnya, and Apta were interviewed by up and coming journalist, Carl Felix Müller. He wrote a great article about the beginnings and growth of Sangam India.

Here is a link to the article on the NXg home page.

Youngistan in action

INITIATIVE: ‘Sangam India’, an organisation formed by the youth, aims to inspire their not-so-privileged counterparts.

CARL FELIX MÜLLER

A group of students from the Sri Ramachandra Medical College have recently been gaining publicity among the media in Chennai. In March this year, seven friends from the college decided that they needed to get involved with their community. They wanted to make a difference, and they had the energy and motivation to do it.

Starting out

To start off, they decided to distribute 50 packets of curd rice to a rural community in Mylapore. But then, they realized that in order to make a difference, they would have to distribute food every single day, and they could not yet sacrifice that much. So they started a project called ‘Sangam India’. Sangam India is an organisation that tries to work with rural communities to lead them towards self-sustainability and eventually enhance their quality of education, health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. Also, they are in the process of obtaining the NGO status (Non Governmental Organization). The founders Nivedita Gunturi and Sriram Ramgopal and the other members are all students currently studying at Sri Ramachandra.

Besides conducting medical camps, the students also sponsor some of the children’s higher education. The project is not at all ‘just’ about giving them food, education, and medicines. The students actually work with the children on a “buddy” basis. They interact with them, play games and try to be their role-models. They want to inspire the kids, motivate them to finish school, because “they are the next generation.” The group’s aim is to provide a model which other organisations and students can follow. Ramavaram, along Poonamallee High Road, next to Miot Hospital, is their pilot project. Here, they have already conducted a door-to-door survey and collected information on the residents. “It’s just a matter of getting there,” says Nivedita, who’s now in her second year at Sri Ramachandra. “People are socially aware, but they don’t see options to act.” It is part of Sangam’s aim to also reach out to the general public and give them options to contribute to their society.

Together for a cause

At their college, the original seven have now become a group of 150 students volunteering to participate, donate, and help; ‘together for a common cause’ is their motto. “Right now we have the energy! There are so many different courses at in college that we don’t even know most of the students.” The project has brought the students of Sri Ramachandra closer together.Through word of mouth, the residents of Ramavaram have already found themselves a huge support from the new, enlarged group. “Without the group, we would have never gotten this far” feels Nivedita. Their new ideas and main support comes from the group itself. Through fundraisers that were organised at the college, they have been spreading the word among the students.

The last fundraiser was a Basketball tournament at the college, charging Rs. 100 per participant as a donation towards Sangam. “The tournament was a lot fun and the students want more fundraisers like that,” says Pragnya Chigurupati, who’s also in the second year of her MBBS. Also, they have been receiving donations in the form of money, clothes, and expertise from different sources. “There haven’t been any limitations so far concerning our funding,” says Sriram, who’s in his third year at Sri Ramachandra. The students have been lucky to have their parents as occasional financial back up. They were also surprised when they received support from the college staff. On their first dental camp, the students had only a few chairs and tables for their procedures, but with the second camp they had support from professors and better equipment for better treatment. “That’s our belief: youth helping youth to improve our society.”

All the members present during our meeting said that they have learned to be responsible, not only for themselves but also for their community. With their project, they hope to inspire others and build awareness. Everyone agreed that “social work will always stay with us”.Concerning the recent attention from the media, the students were surprised, but to them it is encouraging and nice to know that people do care. For those interested to engage themselves, the next camp will be held on September 21.

For details log on to: www.sangamindia.org. Reach them at: info@sangamindia.org
or call: +919789901650

Thanks for your help, Felix! We hope that articles like these will help raise some awareness of the conditions in India’s urban slums and how ordinary people really can make a difference.

If you saw this article and have any ideas, thoughts, or advise – we’d love to hear it. Please feel free to send us an email and let us know what you think. We are a growing group with a lot of ideas, and we need all the help we can get! Send us an email at info@sangamindia.org and let us know what you think!

Caduceus Magazine, 2008

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008


Caduceus is a yearly magazine put out by the the students of Sri Ramachandra University. It features poetry, stories, and essays written by the students and faculty at our college.

This year’s Caduceus features an article on Sangam India. Written by Sangam India members Aslesha, Sriram, Nivedita, and Lakshmi, it contains some information on what we do and how people can get involved.

We’d like to thank the editors of the magazine for getting us published in this year’s edition! They are Apta, Rajah, Sai, Irfana, and Gem.

Below is the article that was published:

Sangam India

Who We Are: We are a group of medical students studying at Sri Ramachandra Medical College. We began our work in early 2008 with distributions of food to slum residents, and we have grown in membership and vision since. Our members come from a variety of courses and from all years.

Our Mission: Sangam India is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and is concerned with slums, located on the Adyar River next to the Miot Hospital. We aim to improve the living standards of this underprivileged community by enhancing the quality of its education, health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene.

Our Approach: Sangam India collects financial gifts to purchase equipment necessary for its medical and educational initiatives. We also collect donations in kind for distribution to slum residents. We plan to provide recreational activities for children and to offer them positive, lasting role models through the establishment of a ‘buddy-system.’ We will also offer vocational training to adolescents and adults.

Our Work So Far: We have made several trips to the Ramavaram slum over the past year and we have organized a wide range of activities. We have provided nutritious meals to the residents, played games with the children, conducted a field survey to gauge the needs of the residents, sponsored higher education, and coordinated a pediatric medical camp.

What You Can Do: Sangam India has a large and enthusiastic group, but as a growing project, we are always in need of more help. We need volunteers who are willing to take some time to assist on event days. In addition, we need financial assistance for large projects such as scholarships and medical camps.

We are also looking for donations in kind:
- Clothing (new or gently worn) for men, women and childrem all ages.
- Toys such as dolls, sports equipment and basic art supplies.
- Hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, combs, lice combs, and sanitary napkins.
- Medical supplies such as essential drugs and first aid materials.
- School items such as notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, scales and folders.

For More Information:
Website: http://www.sangamindia.org
You can also send us an email at info@sangamindia.org

Download the Article: Caduceus2008.pdf

Kumudam Magazine

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

We are excited to announce that we have been published in this week’s Kumudam magazine. Kumudam is a very popular Tamil biweekly magazine. Not only read by people across Tamil Nadu, it is also read by Tamil expatriates around the world looking to catch up on news of their home culture.

This week’s edition is dated for September 17th, 2008 and we can be found on pages 62-64. The article is full of photographs that show some of our events as well as some of the members of our group.


Thanks to Kumudam for the great publicity!

Times of India Article

Sunday, August 24th, 2008


Coming Together for Health
Students Of Sri Ramachandra Medical College Spend Their Weekends Teaching Kids Good Hygiene Practices
Pushpa Narayan | TNN

The underprivileged children living in Ramavaram have new buddies — 150 medicos of Sri Ramachandra Medical College. Almost every week, they spend time together kicking a football, sharing a meal, or talking about health and hygiene. In the last eight months, the medical students have managed to create health records for all the children living in the area, besides having enrolled many of them in schools.

Today, they know the children not just by their names but also their problems, needs, likes and dislikes. Children like Hamsavalli, Radhika, Pacharas and Dharma know their new “buddies” equally well. They even teach some north Indian and NRI students Tamil, while they pick up English. Almost every weekend, the kids are ready and waiting for the group of young men and women to march in with their white coats and stethoscopes.

“It began with the idea of giving nutritious food to children near our hostel. We cooked it ourselves and took it to their homes. But as we started serving the children, we realised there was more we needed to do. Some of the children needed admission in school, many were malnourished, and almost each one needed to be taught about hygiene,” said Sriram Ramgopal, a third year MBBS student, who initiated the project.

When Sriram spread the word, 20 of his college mates decided to support the move. They called it Sangam India. The team decided to adopt one disadvantaged community at a time and to guide it towards self-sufficiency and provide support for a higher standard of living, with special focus on children. “We are now 150. We divided ourselves into groups and adopted every house in the area. We followed the buddy system, where we make friends with everyone before we introduced the idea of hygiene,” says his batchmate Ritin Goyal.

The students then visited every house and enrolled entire families. Besides collecting details about their medical history, they maintained records of the residents’ height, weight, blood pressure and other parameters. For children they developed a database of growth details, nutrition levels and vaccine records. “From this data we planned what we must do for these kids. We knew there was a big problem of malnutrition, apart from oral hygiene,” said Ashlesha Sheth, a second year student of the college.

They approached students of the dental college and prepared for a day-long camp. While many children underwent minor procedures at the camp, some were asked to come to Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute for major procedures. “We gave them toothbrushes and tooth powder. It was fun teaching kids the right way to brush their teeth. In fact, many adults learnt it too,” she says.

Before every camp, the students hold a fund-raising programme in the college. For instance, there was basketball culturals that required every student to pay Rs 100 to participate. “We don’t just collect money but spread the message about Sangam India and our membership swells. So do the contributions,” Ashlesha says.

After every visit, meeting or camp, the students note down the proceedings and post pictures on their webpage http://www.sangamindia.org.

On Sunday, the students will be there again. This time they will have with them students and professors from the departments of ophthalmology and ENT. “Our aim is to create a model area. We have held several sessions on hygienic practices. We are planning to work on sanitation facilities in association with the local administration,” says Ritin.

Every volunteer knows that when they leave college, there will be a new set of students who would take up the cause. “We will also identify new communities and make new buddies,” he says.

pushpa.narayan@timesgroup.com

Here is today’s article (Sunday, August 24th, 2008) in the Times of India, on the second page of the Chennai Edition.

You can see the article at the Times of India E-Paper site at http://epaper.timesofindia.com/.

Edit: The link to the Times of India epaper has been corrected. Thanks Siddharth!

Extra Extra read all about it!

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

For those who might not know, an article about Sangam India was featured in the Times of India today. This was the second time Sangam India was featured in an article in this newspaper. This article not only talked about what we were doing in depth, but also shed some light on the camps we conducted and the various methods we’ve used to raise money. Please check out the article if you haven’t done so or go to our website, as Sriram will upload the article soon. Until then, be proud of the work you have done, as this would not have been possible without you.

Go Sangam India!

Extra! Extra! Sangam India is in the Times!

Monday, July 21st, 2008


We are excited to announce that we are in today’s (July 21st, 2008) edition of the Times of India. The article covers the medical camp that we held yesterday. We’re on page 4 of the Chennai edition of the newspaper. Click on the link above and you can navigate to the epaper edition of this day’s paper. Below is the article that was included:

MALNUTRITION CASES TREATED

Sangam India holds health camp for kids

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Chennai: As part of its efforts to provide better healthcare to children living in slums, Sangam India, a group formed by socially-conscious medical students residing in Porur, organised a free health camp for children of Ramavaram on Sunday.
Nearly 50 medical staff including seven doctors of Sangam India screened children of slum dwellers as part of their first community service programme since the formation of the group in March this year. Nearly 110 children less than seven years of age benefitted from the camp. “Most of us (doctors) study in Sri Ramachandra University and we thought of selecting a locality that is nearer to our institution. So, we started our first camp in Ramavaram,” Dr Koushik of the group told TOI.
Apart from a general checkup, the children were screened by practitioners of specialists in orthopaedics, cardiology, dental health and dermatology. Most of the cases were for dental attention, while many cases of malnutritions were detected. All those needing further medical attention would be provided free treatment by Sangam India. “There were many cases of skin disease and dental infection. At the camp, medicines worth Rs 12,000 was provided free of cost and we are planning to conduct similar free health camps in other areas as well,” said Dr Karthik, another representative of Sangam India.

Thanks a lot to Koushik for helping us get into this paper!