Ambassador Spotlight: Reflecting on Kodaikanal

What sets FIMRC's Internship Program apart from other programs is that our Ambassadors and Fellows commit to at least three months in the field. We feel that it is necessary for interns to spend at least three months on site because it gives them time to develop relationships in the community where they work and live and carry out their project. Our Ambassador at Project Kodaikanal, Holly Birdsall, has been on site since May and is finishing up her time in India teaching mothers about respiratory illness, assisting Dr. Arun in the hospital, and furthering her passion for helping others.

My Indian journey is winding down here in Kodaikanal.  I’ve been here for 12 weeks already, and will be leaving in just 2 more!  I really have grown to love India, Kodaikanal, and all of the people I’ve met in my 3 months here.  Still, I’m super excited to see my family and friends and home and Geneseo! I’ll be getting back home the day before classes start – hopefully my jet-lag will subside enough for me to stay awake in class!

Being here for so long has given me such a different experience than I would have just staying a few weeks.  I’ve gotten to meet so many different volunteers, travel around to more places on the weekends, develop trust and friendship with the doctors and nurses, and form a bond between certain patients and crèche kids.  One of my favorite things about being here for so long is being able to follow up with patients.  A couple months ago you may remember I posted about applying my first cast on a boy who had broken his arm.  Well a few weeks ago he came in to get the cast removed – which Dr. Arun also let me do!  It was such a great feeling to see a patient all the way through their case and see him smiling, happy, and healed at the end.  Another patient, who is a favorite among us volunteers, is this adorable old lady at Pasam Trust Hospital.  She has a terrible infection that started from diabetic foot.  Sometimes diabetics lose feeling in their feet, so they aren’t able to feel pain.  If their foot is hurt they may not consult a doctor because they can’t feel the pain.  Eventually her infection spread up her leg to her knee.  Her flesh was showing and her skin was practically falling off.  She came in day after day to get new dressings for her leg.  One of us volunteers would do the dressing and the others would hold her hand (and sing to her!) to comfort her through the pain.  It has been very rewarding to see her leg healing throughout my time here.  It was so infected and so painful for her at the beginning but it looks SO much better now, and you can tell she is much more comfortable than before. 

I came here wanting to make a big difference in someone’s life.  I wanted to help get these people out of their unfortunate situations and back on their feet.  I wanted to leave all of the kids happy and healthy and out of harms way.  I wanted to be superwoman.  Much to my dismay, I’m far from being superwoman.  I’ve learned that poverty and the health of those who are impoverished are much bigger problems than any one of us can handle.  Through college, I’ve learned that with public health it’s hard to feel like you’ve made a huge difference when the problems are so enormous.  It can be discouraging, which I have definitely felt, but it also fuels my drive.  Wouldn’t it be so wonderful to live in a world without poverty?  To live in a world where all children can receive medicines and proper nutrition?  Where everyone is healthy?  Where everyone is healed?  I’m not naïve and I know that this is an impossible feat.  But I hope someday I really can make a big difference, at least for a handful of people.  My project here was small in the scheme of things, but I think it was also important.  Respiratory illness is a major problem among children, especially in this community.  The teachers received the information very well and hopefully will continue to implement safe habits in the crèches and the parents in the homes.  I will soon be writing a proposal to give to potential donors for putting chimneys in the families’ houses.  This opportunity through FIMRC has provided me with irreplaceable experiences, instilled in me invaluable traits of compassion and drive, and has grounded me in a way I will be eternally grateful for.