By Aravind Rajagopalan – Undergraduate Student, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
When I first reached out to Mrs. Bharath Kumar to inquire if I could spend a couple weeks volunteering for Nalamdana, little did I know that I was about to gain an experience that would very well become not only the highlight of my summer but also an influence on my career path and future.
Beginning with an introductory course at UCLA that caught my attention, my journey and growing interest in the discipline of public health drove me to seek out valuable, tangible field experience that would complement my theoretical knowledge.
This summer, I spent a good two weeks in Nalamdana’s office in Neelankarai under the tutelage of the Nalamdana core staff – Mr. Sampath, Mr. Oyyavandhan, Mr. Jeevanandham, and Ms. Nithya Balaji and the rest of the office staff. I was able to observe the day-to-day progress of ongoing projects such as the “Magale Unakkagathan” Project, a 365-episode women’s community radio project designed to cover issues central to women and the community. I also was able to sit in on an official meeting where Nalamdana and New Concept Information Systems (NCIS) presented the ongoing progress and results of the “Drive and Thrive” Project, a health campaign for local truck drivers and their families, to the Chola Murugappa Group’s CSR representatives.
On yet another eventful day at the office, I traveled to the Payanoor village with office staff and associated performers to help set up, and even sing, for a short drama production designed to teach villagers how to properly use toilets. This experience was unlike any other, and I marveled at Nalamdana’s ability to hold an audience captive and immersed using their variety of talents while simultaneously delivering an extremely useful instructional message that would promote the villagers’ long-term health and well-being. Calling for audience participation from adults and children alike, the team seemingly accomplished their goal when even the smallest of village kids wanted explain why using a toilet was beneficial for hygiene.
Seeing Nalamdana in action in the areas in and around Chennai has opened my eyes to public health field experience in a way that I could not have received anywhere else. The directors and staff members are incredibly talented and dedicated to their ongoing efforts, and I am inspired to not only continue helping or volunteering again however and whenever I can, but also to carry these valuable experiences and lessons with me into my future in the medical field.