Name : Santhoshamma
During a meeting of our Sangham it was observed that our villages are remote, with no reliable transportation facility, so that it would be nice to have an Arogyam karyakarta (Health worker) in the village itself. Everybody felt that Shanthoshamma would be the right person for this job. Accordingly, she got trained in medicinal plants. First, all the useful tree species were identified, and then their properties were explained by Uma madam and some of the old people in the village. A complete list of all the plants was made, after which the training programme began, which continued up to 5 years.
As the plants were not readily available for their use, it was decided that that they ought to have a plantation of their own. With great difficulty 5 acres of wasteland was obtained within the village. It was cleared, bunded and fenced. What to plant was decided by the group itself. The plants were provided by DDS.
Now, about 42 types of plants are available in the community-owned land and these plants are useful for 30-35 types of diseases and disorders commonly noticed in the village. The situation now is such that as soon as Shanthooshamma wakes up, some body or the other comes to her with a complaint. For instance, today Neelamma came to her saying 'paikhana pettindi' (suffering from diarrhoea). Santhooshamma gave her 'danimma podi' and asked her to take it with curds. Then came Padmamma, complaining about 'sheema rattam paikhana' (suffering from dysentry) She gave her a stomach massage with edible oil, and asked her to do some exercises: like lying flat on the stomach and then slowly raising the legs first, and then the head, for 3 days. In the mean time Lakshamma came saying she had a fever, so to her she gave 'tippa teegalu' (used in herbal medicine) and asked her to boil it in a glass of water till it became half a glass and to drink it. As she was getting busy with her household cleaning and cooking, came Hamsamma; a stone had fallen on her little finger, so Santhoshamma applied 'pattika podi' (herbal medicine prepared by health worker) and bandaged the wounded hand. As she sat down to sieve and clean rice, Narsamma came-a day before she had talked about 'ontallu saff raka occhindi'(Urine infection), so Santhoshamma gave her 'mottku poovu' (flower used in herbal medicine) to be boiled in one glass of water till it became half a glass and to take it for 3 days. Ultimately, it was not possible for Santhoshamma to cook the rice, so her daughter-in-law took over that task. And then came Arjun to take Santhoshamma to his wife Ishwaramma, who complained, 'tellupu aytunadi (white discharge) and 'garbha sanchi baitiki oochasutundi'. Santhooshamma said "idi chala pedda kashtamu, operation ausaram padatadi" (it is a big problem and need an operation.) Ishwaramma said, "in your Sangham you take people to the hospital and give them treatment, can you take me too?" But Santhoshamma said that as the financial help from the office is given only for the Sangham members, that would not be possible, but if these people could arrange their own finances, she would surely take them to Balakumari doctor in Hyderabad.
Apart from these regular calls from the villagers, Santhoshamma is also responsible for the 'mandula chettula gubbadi' (Medicinal Plantation site). The other day she went to the gubbaddi, brought some leaves and made tablets at home. In the rainy season planting, fencing and grass cutting are all usual chores of the day.
As of today, she says it's a very good change she has seen in her own
life: "as our village is remote, it is difficult for people to
reach doctors. And as I am able to give treatment and reduce pain and
suffering, this gives me tremendous satisfaction and happiness. Otherwise,
who would bother about us; we would get up, cook our food and go to
work. But now the Patels and Karnams (village heads), in fact the whole
village comes for treatment, and in fact they now tell others that Santhoshamma
has good medicines and recommend them to visit me.
Name : Jogola Kamalamma
Before the Sangham came into our life, we were a voiceless people. No one knew that we had a mind of our own, because there was no way of knowing we had one. There were no opportunities for us to express ourselves. We were just labour, working for 'Kapus' (upper caste) and 'Patels' (village leaders), the village bosses. We did not have proper homes, clothes, food and other basic essentials. Our life was just a pain. We were like puppets, driven by our needs. We would go wherever there was work like weeding, harvesting, or grazing. And what did we get in return? Just a pittance from the upper caste people. We were the outcasts of society, unworthy of any respect, social equality and financial security. Yes, we were just a marginalised lot. All this changed after the Sangham came to our village 15 years ago. I was the first one to join the Sangham, whose membership now is 75.
Ten years ago I was appointed as a health worker / Aarogyam karyakatha, and I feel good to think that I can now handle most health problems. We started out by taking training for 5 years in attending to diseases largely concerning women and children. We were taught animal husbandry too. I was selected to take up health work because I belong to a poor family, and as such, I am aware of the problems afflicting the poor. What is heartening about our work is that we are treating cases using the local resources. I can now easily cure 20 to 25 minor diseases. Further, I am also working as a plant protector (Kavali), and you must know that we have 36 varieties of medicinal plants. My work, I must say, has been very, very rewarding.
My daily schedule begins quite early in the morning with neighbours
and other village folk coming to me for treatment. Yesterday, for example,
the day started with Kanthamma bringing her grandson, Surender, with
a complaint that he was suffering from chronic headache. I applied 'Aamudamu'
(Caster) oil to his head, and covered it with certain specified leaves
mixed with jaggery, and tied a bandage around the head. Rangamma's grandson,
too, came with the same problem. Then Mommy, Raju, Yesu and Naveen came
complaining of excessive motions. I gave them ' Daanimma powder' (pomegranate
powder). Then there was a brief lull, during which I completed some
house work, Soon there was again a stream of patients. Kasim and Ramesh
came with stomach problems. I gave them ' Gayapu ' leaves, and suggested
that they take a spoonful of them every morning for three days. Then,
Mallesh and Chandramma came with some minor complaints. I gave them
'Thippa Theega' mixed with 'Besan' (chickpea powder) in boiling water,
a 'Kashayam' (dicotion made from herbal plants) in fact. No sooner had
they gone than Raju came with a mouth ailment. I gave him 'Pattika Powder'.
He was followed by Narsappa who said that his children at home were
feeling weak and listless. I gave him 'Aashoka Gandham'. I then went
to the Balwadi, checked the children and gave them medicine. From there,
I went scouting for medicinal plants, and then watered the ones that
we already have. In the evening, Chandappa came with a dental problem.
I gave him 'Sirisiri leaves/ Theeta Kogila Theega'. The next morning
Narsappa came to say his children were already feeling better. When
people say such things, I feel good about myself and the work that I
am doing. You know something? I attend to delivery cases, too! I really
feel empowered! The Sangham has enabled me to be somebody in our society.
It has brought me dignity and self-esteem. Apart from helping me find
a livelihood, it has taught me skills which inspire me to lay my hands
on my dreams!
Name : Raikode Balamma
In my village, the Sangham was started 16 years back, and I have been a member since then. Today, we fully participate in the work of the Sangham. When I compare our lives today with our lives before the coming of the Sangham, I see how many changes have come about in our lives. At that time we did not have enough food, clothes, shelter. We had no social status and lived like bonded labour. Nobody helped us. We had to work long hours for no extra money and were never paid on time. The people of the Kapu caste did not allow us the use of the gubbadi. Now, we have won that battle and are able to use the gubbadi for growing medicinal plants. In the past, we were not permitted to wear footwear, but were forced to walk on the street with our sarees placed over our bent heads. Further, our husbands did not allow us to work outside the home. Our husbands never gave us any money, but spent it on boozing. All that has changed now. The DDS office helped us in a number of ways. We have experienced a wonderful change in our lives and no longer bother about the status issue. The unforgettable experiences with the Sangham have made us very enthusiastic, and we do everything with interest and joy. Right now, we have 7 acres land and 2 bullocks. I water the gubbadi medicinal plants; 6 members of the Sangham work along with me (2 men and 4 women), and we are paid Rs. 300/ monthly by the DDS.
Nine years' back I was appointed as Aarogyam Karyakartha. As I knew everything about Herbal Medicine treatment, my Sangham members elected me as Aarogyam Karyakartha. I search the forest for medicinal herbs and know remedies for minor diseases. But we do cure major diseases. We handle delivery cases and also provide first aid treatment for the balwadies. We have undergone a 5- year training course on health with Uma madam, including two years' training for delivery cases, training at the KVK in Animal Husbandry. We can provide medicines for minor diseases. We are provided with 22 types of medicinal herbs such as Trifhala, Patika, and Dhanimma leaves. For the past five years, we have successfully treated asthma, nasal, dental and eye problems, headache, earache, backache, pain in the knees and arms and fever. However, for major problems such as mental diseases or TB, we approach the government hospital. We have planted 25 varieties of medicinal plants in our gubbadies.
Wherever we go, we like to learn about new things and new medicines
for new diseases. Since that is our occupation, we are always thinking
about such problems. We are very happy with what the Sangham has done
for us. Previously, we suffered a lot, but now we have brought about
quite a few economic changes in our life. I can discuss any problem
with the Patels. I have been able to gather the courage and confidence
to talk to any officer or Patel. Now we have social status, economic
freedom, and awareness.