India has a long and renowned history in systems of traditional medicine. AYUSH-Isha Organic Health Systems is a pilot project launched under the aegis of Isha Foundation, which is delving into this vast bank of ancient knowledge and applying this understanding to improve the health of the rural populace of the Kolli Hills Block in the district of Namakkal. AYUSH is an acronym that stands for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy. AYUSH-Isha was launched in October 2010 by Isha Foundation’s social development branch – Isha Outreach, in collaboration with The Government of India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s AYUSH Department.
One of the residents at the ashram who has been intimately involved with AYUSH-Isha since its inception, went on a field visit to the project villages recently. She shares her experience of this enriching visit.
We had another chance to visit Kolli Hills for a field visit and for training on yoga and naturopathy. We arrived at the base of the hills at Karavalli village, where we were welcomed into the hills by the nice cool breeze that touched me to the core. From there we climbed up, travelling through seventy hair-pin bends to reach the hill top – Semmedu village, to our project office. After 7 months of work, going there and seeing the results and the openness of the community was an overwhelming feeling for me.
Initially in the project startup phase, there were small struggles with the rough hilly terrain, the cold climate and the incessant rain, but still our team succeeded in reaching out to the community. Let me tell you the story of how we found office space. For ten days, 3 of our residents had been searching throughout the hills and had lost hope. One day they saw an advertisement banner for the Trichy – Ananda Alai program. As far as they knew, there was no active volunteer in Kolli Hills and the place was so remote from Trichy. They wondered who could have done this? After a bit of searching, they came to know that it was actually an Isha volunteer who was in Kolli Hills for his vacation. He graciously offered us his vacation house to use as an office, and what’s more, he even offered our team his cottages for accommodation.
In this visit, we first visited a home herbal garden and were welcomed by everyone in the family. The planter and caretaker of this garden was a fourteen year old boy in the family. We were able to see how deeply he relates to the plants. We asked him a few questions about the various ways in which the herbs could be used, which he was unable to answer. We then advised him to find out from the AYUSH team and told him that the next time we dropped by, he would have to prepare herbal tea for us – a proposition which was greeted with a big smile and an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’
We went to another nearby village to meet pregnant mothers and children benefitting from the program. Sanjeevini which is a favourite at the ashram has become their favourite too. Initially there was so much reluctance and a kind of carelessness towards Sanjeevini, the energy balls and the AYUSH medications which we offered for their anemic problem. But now after getting a taste of these items, they eagerly await their arrival. We also met AYUSH sevaks – the local health volunteers for the village, who are housewives, energetic youths and even differently-abled persons. They have been given the responsibility to treat their neighbours for common ailments using the safe and simple AYUSH medical kit. They told us about the huge response this has received from people since there are no side-effects in taking herbal medicines.
It has been a hectic seven months for the AYUSH-Isha team but every moment of it has been worth the effort. With a vision to empower the deprived sections of India towards improved health, education and environmental well being, Isha Outreach volunteers have been routinely involved in various such efforts over the years. Whether it is bonding with the villagers and being a pillar of support when they are faced with difficult times or joining with villagers in tree planting activities, making a difference and lending a helping hand where it is needed is what matters.
Some statistics about AYUSH-Isha:
|Date of Launch:||9th Oct 2010|
|Total Number of Panchayats & villages in Kolli Hills:||14 & 273|
|Total No. of patients treated by MHCs (Mobile Health Clinics):||7,324|
|Total No. participants in Yoga programs:||1609|
|Total No. participants in fitness programs:||757|
|No. of herbal gardens created:||144|
|No. of AYUSH sevaks trained and oriented:||214|
AYUSH medicine and nutrition supplements distributed regularly to: 385 ANC/PNC (Pregnant and lactating mothers), 422 adolescents, 418 children under the age of 5.