In August we just crossed 10 years since our family moved to Mungeli. My life has surely changed in these 10 years where I started from our home in Nashville taking for granted a life with the internet on the tip of our fingers to Mungeli where the closest dial up connection was Bilaspur (50 kms) away. We went from Mungeli with its 4 patients in a dark and gloomy ward, to our well ventilated and busy wards today with all the sophistication and staff.
It is this special time of Christmas and New Years that the whole community in Mungeli has been rejoicing. There are lights up all over the place. The wards, OPD, Chapel and School are all competing with each other to see who is going to win first prize in decoration. On the 19th we went around in the wards and shared the joy of Christmas with our patients who are admitted and then had a lovely program which ended with Santa giving gifts and then on to a dinner for the whole community. There were about 400 for dinner.
Yes, Mungeli has been a place that has been constantly evolving in these 10 years and that is what has been the most exciting part of this journey. This year, we have been able to open up another 8 bedded ICU space so that we have three areas to keep sick patients and monitor them closely. It is clear that we are a referral hospital for this region and any sick patient is sent here and many come from the city hospitals as they cannot afford to keep their sick loved ones in these places.
The Cancer centre is up and the machine is installed, but the red tape and lists of permissions are still in the works. We also finally have all the staff that we need and specially have a God send Medical Physicist. Mr. Ajay Chaudhuri is from Kolkata and his desire was to come and help a rural place like Mungeli get a cancer centre started. We look forward to getting this unique department up as it will be the only one of its kind in this state to help poor patients get cancer treatment at a very nominal cost.
We have also completed another 6 classrooms at the Rambo Memorial English Medium School. So now we have the whole ground floor completed. The building is to have another two floors and we will continue to work on that. We now have about 700 children in the school.
We have had many picnics this year. One thing that I find difficult to see is the wish for little children to get in the water. But, they are too scared as they have never had an opportunity to be taught to swim. Most anybody in our staff picnics who is able to swim is over 40 years old. The streams and ponds where kids could jump in and learn to swim are either all dried up or too polluted. My dream was to have a swimming pool in the campus and I have been researching that for a long time. Finally, I got a company with a fantastic price to build us a pool. The work started around the first week of this month and we should be up and going in another two weeks. It is 50 x 30 feet with a maximum depth of 7 feet, and has a separate kiddie’s pool in one corner. You can see how it looks in the picture attached. There is a line of kids just waiting for this to be completed. I also have my medical students from Denmark who are here all year along with friends and volunteers from the States who will be my swimming instructors. So, we are set to be the only mission hospital in this region to have a swimming pool for the community.
The nursing school is going great as we took in another 20 girls this year. My trouble has been that I still do not have a nursing hostel and it is a big task to take on if we are to do it with our own funds. So, we have completed the first floor of new senior staff apartments and one batch of girls has moved in there. We have almost completed the second floor as well and will have two more floors put in for the ones to come in the next three years. In this time, I do hope that I can put up the nursing hostel. We have been fortunate to get the help of Gayatri who is a talented grant writer and she is helping us put up projects so that we can see if we can get some help and external funding to keep up at the pace we are growing at and the need that is here.
We are now in the planning stages of starting a Community college. This too will be the only one of its kind in this region. We plan to start with Nurses aids, Tailoring, Tractor, and four wheel Mechanics and Beauticians. The school building will be used for this after school hours and Avinash, our Principal, will be overlooking this with the help of another staff.
At one time, we were just a hospital struggling for survival. Now we are a community where people look at us and want to be a part of the change that we bring about. We have had many friends who have come to spend time with us, be connected and help in the work that we do, some of these are: Cynda and Bruce Johnson. Cynda is the Dean of the Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine, Lawrence and Colleen, Rev. Gregg Brekke, who is writing a book on parents and their exciting life in Medical Missions, Diane and Sharon teachers, and two students from Harris College of Nursing at Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Jon Feaver, a pharmacist, came from Iowa, Peggy Willis from Jacksonville, FL, Eric Herr from New Hampshire, Richard and Rosamund Bernays, Kahala came with three church members from Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, medical students from Denmark, Norway and the United States, students from Eureka College, Butler, and Piedmont.
I was invited to Butler University this year to give a lecture, and this time was able to get to Richmond where I spoke to the staff there about our work in Mungeli. It is through the support I get from Global Ministries Common Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, that we were able to come to Mungeli and are continuously upheld as we continue our work here. I thank them dearly for backing me up. I want to thank my friends from the Rambo Committee.
We wish you all a wonderful 2014 and do hope to be connected as we continue our journeys in life to see how God can use us best for His Kingdom here on earth.
Anil Henry and Teresa Henry works with the Synodical Board of Health Services of the Church of North India. He serves as a medical doctor at the Christian Hospital in Mungeli, India.