The past few days have been serendipitous at Shaktishifa. In order to acquaint myself with the broader sweep of activities taking place in Hyderabad, I decided to explore the new website created by the Muncipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH). Anyone who lives in or has an interest in Hyderabad should take the time to visit it. The newly authored City Development Plan, an encouraging step in the right direction, is featured on the site. I scanned through several pages and found the contact for the Secretary of Slum Development (what a title...). Dr. Sabera, the director of the Community Health Network (CHN) at Shaktishifa and I thought it would be a good idea to meet her, as we’ve have been considering expanding our services from the slums we currently serve (Shoukatnagar and Dewarconda), to additional areas. Although the latter areas benefit from our services, government clinics exist in the area, so we felt that it was a waste to be running parallel health systems, hence a search for areas unserved by the government. In the course of a twenty minute meeting, the Slum Secretary explained the imminent implementation of the Hyderabad City Development Plan, which calls for the establishment of 150 urban Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs). Although the MCH is doing its best, they are short on resources for ~20-30 centers. The CDP plan is to be finalized within 15 days; they have been looking for PHCs and we’ve been looking for slums. We walked out of the meeting with a plan for a potential partnership.
The serendipity of the week’s events only got better today. A friend of the family’s, a high-ranking government-type (read: corrupt but helpful), visited the clinic, and decided that he would put in a good word for us if we applied for government funding for our activities. We visited another senior government official today, this time set up through my mom, who didn’t really know about our meeting with the Slum Secretary. This official was receptive to the possibility of funding, but during the course of the conversation, said she needed to discuss the matter with the Secretary of Slum Development to figure out where we might fit in to the CDP. Sabera, a devout Muslim, was convinced it was the hand of God. I didn’t have an opinion, but I’m pleased by the direction things are going.
I’ve been hoping to scale up our programs, to extend them to areas of Hyderabad worst affected by poverty, but funding is an issue. Knock on wood, this week’s developments seem to have killed two birds with one stone. We’ll be able to take on more communities, but with government funding. Moreover, I’m glad to see Shaktishifa emerging from relative wilderness to pursue strategic partnerships, rather than providing services without regard to the broader spectrum of institutions and programs active in Hyderabad.
Quite apart from the clinic, things have been quiet. As pathetic as it sounds, I’ve turned to the internet to find friends in Hyderabad (no, not that kind....). Although some of my friends and family are horrified by it, I’ve found the travel-social networking site, CouchSurfing to be indispensable when in unfamiliar territory. It tends to be used by interesting, altruistic people, so I’ve basically been looking for white people living in Hyderabad on CS (I don’t trust the Indians). There seems to be a community of young professionals working in development in the city, so hopefully I’ll be able to find birds of a feather. It might be puzzling to some why I would seek out friends in Hyderabad when I have so many family members (for those who didn’t know, I’ve easily got a few hundred relatives, and they’re breeding), but walk a mile in my shoes, and you’d be running away from my family in the same footwear. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely people (mostly), but I’ve been lectured at least 3 times in the last 10 days about my Shi’ite Islamic morals, or wholesale lack thereof. The local inquisition almost forced me into going to Friday prayers last week, and after a while, I can’t help but seek out less-than-pious company. So to all of my friends and family living in relative religious freedom, if you’re enjoying an alcoholic beverage or something similarly sinful as you read this, be sure to say a prayer for me.