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MOVING MEDICAL CAMPS IN RUSSIA

Till now, we have had in H2H inspiring stories of Sai Seva from Australia and Fiji to UAE and Kuwait to Argentina and the US. But this is the first time we bring you a story from the Federation of Russia. Unknown to the world, there has been a lot happening for almost a decade, albeit silently, in this huge country that stretches over a vast expanse of Asia and Europe. In fact, during the Shivarathri celebrations this year (2007), Sai Kulwant Hall saw a multitude of devotees from this nation which has the world’s eighth-largest population. Not only that, Swami even extolled their devotion and sense of dedication during his Benedictory Shivarathri discourse and said, “You are no longer Russians. You are all mine. I love you all.” The Lord surely knows from which direction pure love is flowing. It is, therefore, no wonder, that there is so much Sai-love suffused selfless service going on in this federal republic which is an energy superpower and largest country of the world.

"You are all mine.."
Russian devotees raise thier hands in joy!

For the current story, we will restrict ourselves to two important medical camps, both of which had an indelible impact on the needy and caught the attention of the government and the media.

 
 
 
The city of Nyazepetrovsk lies in the Chelyabinsk area of South West Russia
 

The August 2006 Medical Camp – Serving Sai Love

Nyazepetrovsk is a city in Western Russia, located on the Western slope of Ural Mountains – the mountain range that runs through north and south of Western Russia and is sometimes considered as the natural boundary between Europe and Asia. It is in this city, known for machine-building and metal-working, that the 2006 International Medical camp was conducted. It would be interesting to note that such is the importance of machine-works here that the city itself is named after a metal merchant, Peter Osokin, and the River Nyazya on which the first iron-producing plant was established. Many industries means many rich people but at the same time a large number of people who are quite poor too. It is to address the needs of this underprivileged class in the city, as well as the deprived who lived in the villages in the periphery of the city, that the Sai Medical Camp was organized.

From 5th to 12th of August 2006, a medical team comprising of 96 people which included 34 doctors landed in this city. In addition there were 200 volunteers who came from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, UK and USA. Dr. Surendra Kumar Upadhya from UK, who led the whole operation, had brought a team of sixteen doctors and three medical assistants from London. Other members of the team included twelve medical assistants, twenty translators and fifteen people who worked at the registration department.

A patient descibes his problems
Ophthalmology care

During the eight days of the Medical Camp, which was carried out in close cooperation with the regional administration and the hospital management, the doctors attended to a staggering total of over seven thousand patients. They also distributed bountiful supplies of free medicines and over a thousand pairs of spectacles to the local people. 7,500 disposable syringes were also handed over to the regional hospital for their use.

Taking special care of the elderly
Relieving dental pain

Inspired by Bhagavan’s message to reach out and find those in desperate need of help, many doctors made day trips to twelve nearby villages, a lifting crane factory, an orphanage and a primary school.

 
Concerned about an old woman's eye...
 
Checking a little one's development

Provision of True Holistic Care

The service was not restricted to consultation and treatment alone, it was interlaced with other service activities focusing on health and hygiene and preventive healthcare too. For example, there were three barbers in the team who were serving along with the medical team. During the eight day medical camp they cut the hair of 430 people, absolutely free of charge. Also, to promote health awareness, dermatologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists and dentists conducted educational lectures which were translated for the local community. Moreover, a conference was held with the local doctors on the conclusion of the camp where the visiting doctors discussed and deliberated with their local counterparts on the impact and results of the camp, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship that so easily fell in place between the hosts and the visitors within those few days.

This is the repair team on site
They are fixing the plumbing system

The medical camp’s outreach did not stop at curative and preventive health care alone. Motivated by Bhagavan’s love to give all-round comprehensive care, they went a step further and also had a Damage Control Team, consisting of twenty members, which focused on repairing rooms, a corridor and a kitchen at the surgical department of the local hospital. This went on in parallel as the doctors treated the poor patients. This team also carried out an inspection of the whole plumbing system of the hospital and carried out extensive repairs.

Like the Damage Control Team, the team also had many other Teams like the Transport Team who drove nineteen vehicles from various regions of Russia; and the Kitchen Team who looked after the food requirements of all the volunteers, doctors, paramedics and other participants of the camp with tasty and nourishing vegetarian food three times a day. In addition, there were eight people who maintained the cleanliness of the school and hospital premises all throughout the operation. Mention must also be made of another special group who sang and danced Russian folk tunes and kept the patients occupied while they waited for their turn for consultation.

Waiting their turn for treatment
So many people wait for their turn

It was, in fact, a medical tour de force in that region of the world. Naturally, the local population was stunned by the love and dedication of the doctors and other team members. The Panorama of Nyazepetrovsk was moved to report this on the whole effort:

 
Newspaper The Pioneer reports about the Sai Seva done in Nyazepetrovsk
 
 

....The very first necessity of every human being is to safeguard his or her own life and health. The absence of any kind of disease whether physical or psychological is an indispensable prerequisite for our happiness and holistic personal development. Good health allows us to work, study, do sports and enjoy the fullness of life. It is for their good health that the residents of Nyazepetrovsk attended the free medical camp these last ten days, organized by a joint team of doctors from Russia and the UK (most of whom were of Indian origin).

The Medical Camp in 2003 – Memorable For All

While this is what happened about a year ago, it is not an isolated outpouring of medical care. In fact, a similar, but grander camp, was held sometime ago too. We could not carry the story in H2H then, but in the spirit of ‘better later than never’, here is the wonderful story of the 2003 Russian Sai Medical Camp, again guided by Dr. Upadhya of UK and conducted at that time in south-western Russia, near Stavropol city. Stavropol, by the way, means “The City of the Cross” owing to a huge cross made out of stone found by the soldiers who were building the fortress in the future site of the city.

In June 2002, one of the most devastating natural disasters swept this region of Southern Russia. Torrential rains caused the worst flooding and landslides in ten years leaving 93 people dead and 87,000 homeless. Human suffering was extreme. Infrastructures such as roads, railways and gas pipelines sustained major damage amounting to more than $385 million. Electricity was cut off in more than a hundred villages. The Russian government responded swiftly providing aid to the distressed.

The horrific effects of the catastrophe in 2002
An airial view of the flood...
Many came forward to help...
The devastation was severe

However, by the next year, there were still many areas without essential amenities. Some houses were still unfit for living and it was a sight of suffering all around. Determined to do something for these victims, over 200 Sai volunteers from both Russia and other countries came together in 2003 to share Swami’s love and to serve those who still needed great help.

Dr. Surendra Upadhya, Ophthalmologist and UK Sai Service Co--ordinator, who led the entire operation said this after landing in Russia:

“We feel that we come from such a long distances like London or America - it takes us minimum two days or one and half days. But some other people who have come from Siberia in Russia have travelled six long days to reach here. It is wonderful how 180 people have traveled so far in order to interact with Sai devotees from other parts of Russia and the world. This place has become a ‘mini Prasanthi’ and they have come with great zeal to offer their services to the poor and the needy.”

 
   
Dr. Surendra Upadhya

Looking on-site at the damage done by the flood and elaborating on his plans for the Camp, Dr. Upadhya said, “This area was affected only a little while ago with a flood. And the floods were almost three feet high. So our group is now divided into two; one will offer medical service and the other brigade will do the service of repair and paint all these broken buildings. So this is the beauty of the Sai Consciousness that brings people from all walks of life in order to render the service to the poor and the needy” Dr. Upadhya signs off with a bright smile on his ever-ebullient face.

Assessing vision capacity
Dental care is so important

Over the period of nine days, the camp doctors provided medical treatment to about 9,000 people in six different locations. The poor patients were extremely grateful for the opportunity to see a doctor and feel Swami’s love.

Fancy sunglasses? No, vision assessment!
Complete dental care..all free, with love

And this feeling of gratitude was expressed not only by the patients, but even by the volunteers who served the patients too;

 

“I’m so fortunate because this is the sixth time I have been able to accompany Dr. Upadhya to Russia with this great medical team,” says Margaret, a devotee from London. “All the people in this team have all sorts of qualifications and specialties. And it’s amazing how we all respond to Swami. He sends us out to help our fellowmen. He tells us to go out to the villages and help the poor, serve the needy and treat them as an extension of ourselves, and to love all and serve all.

Once we begin to do this we feel the resurgence of love in ourselves, and in fact, we get far more from it than people receive from us. It’s an overwhelming experience. When I first came to Russia in 1998 I had described it as having a little pilot light simmering away inside and in the end of the week it was ranging full blast. It is the most amazing experience and I’m truly grateful to Swami for giving me this opportunity to come out and be an instrument of His.”

Ms Margaret, a dedicated devotee from London
   

One of the principal camp areas was a local school and many people turned up to assist the doctors in any way they could. With doctors of varied specialties in the group, all kinds of medical conditions were attended to and offered necessary treatment. Sharing his personal experience on the second day of the camp, Dr. Vishva, a General Practitioner from London , said:

“We started work yesterday and it was interesting that the elderly people who were present in the clinic seemed to be going through a grieving process. They came to me and said that all their physical symptoms were made much worse after the flood which they had last year. When I enquired as to why this was, they mentioned that one had lost his son, another had lost his wife and the third had lost her husband, son and all her belongings. And this is the first opportunity where they had where people were empathizing with them and listening to their problems.

 
   
Dr. Vishva, a general practitioner from London

They were just letting their feelings come out. So I just sat there holding their hand, allowing them the chance to speak and all the healing that took place would have been done by Swami.”

Rita, a nurse from the town of Voronezh, who worked with the doctors said, “I feel the treatment which is given here is not only for the body but also for the soul. There is so much love and happiness for all. We are grateful to those who come for treatment.”

From the young...
...to the aged - all are cared for

Well, this was the spirit with which the doctors and other volunteers offered service. They, in fact, they only offered love and allowed Swami to work through them. “Swami is always here, we feel it every time, every minute, every second,” said Olga from Russia, a volunteer who was serving as an interpreter. No wonder, the entire exercise was most successful. While continuous Medical Seva went on with doctors and others, the other team was busy repairing, cleaning and painting a local orphanage, a hospital and many houses. In addition, food, clothing and other basic necessities were also distributed alongside. The elderly of the village were moved with the selfless service of the Sai volunteers.

At the Registration desk
Clearing away debris left after the flood

The Volunteers also devised innovative methods of seva through song and dance to help many who were undergoing severe physical and emotional turmoil in the wake of the disaster. As traditional Russian folk songs and dances filled the air, smiles bloomed on their faces and they forgot their pain. They danced together with joy singing His glory. Sai’s love had penetrated every soul and conferred on them happiness and comfort.

Serving with precision and devotion
Singing with an accordion accords some light relief

A Moving Message from a Young Devotee

But the most moving scene of the whole operation was eight-year old Vladimir who proved that one is never too young to spread Swami’s message. Adept in English, he assisted the doctors and enthused everyone with his infectious devotion for Swami.

When asked what he would wish to communicate to Swami, the ‘wise head on young shoulders’ said,

“We (Russian Sai devotees) work here for You. We want people here to know all good things. We want to help other people who don’t know about You, who don’t know God. We want all people to have good manners, be kind and humble. Also, we want them to be very glad that they know You. Help us to do this work. We are very glad to work here, we are glad to know You”.

valdimir

 

Vladimir, the inspiring young Russian Sai devotee
 

This message of Vladimir, perhaps, encapsulates the spirit in which the entire team of doctors and volunteers worked incessantly traveling long distances and undergoing many hardships to bring smiles on the faces of the distressed and the distraught. It is amazing how Sai motivates, unifies, guides and finally confers His all-comforting love on so many all over the world, so mysteriously and through so many instruments.

- Heart2Heart Team


Dear Reader, did you like this article? Would you like more such stories? Do you have similar stories to share? Please write to us at [email protected] Thank you for your time.


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Vol 5 Issue 04 - APRIL 2007
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