Despite Tragedy, Hope for Saanvi

Soon after her 18th birthday, Saanvi was climbing a tree near her home and fell, seriously damaging her spine. For weeks following the incident, she was bedridden and depressed, unsure of her will to continue living. Sewa Bhawan’s palliative care team visited her at home. It took two years full of challenging therapy sessions and hard work, but Saanvi was able to walk again with the help of some rudimentary bamboo sticks.

Whenever the community health team visited Saanvi’s home, she expressed a desire to do something more with her life. She talked of starting a small business to help sustain her family, but finding work as a disabled person is challenging. Sewa Bhawan’s Nai Disha Youth Resilience Program provided the perfect opportunity for a young woman like Saanvi. Agreeing to the challenge, she enrolled in the hospital’s residential skills development course. After three weeks of hearing about God and learning how to dye, she took the steps necessary to establish her own tie-dye business.

Saanvi had found hope in the midst of the darkness in the wake of her injury. Though her path to a fulfilling livelihood was full of challenges, her determination has enabled her to thrive. Her life has helped to inspire other local youth who have dropped out of school or are inhibited by disability. On a practical level, Saanvi has been able to purchase crutches to replace her homemade bamboo sticks.

The Sewa Bhawan hospital staff were instrumental in identifying Saanvi’s needs, assisting in her arduous recovery and connecting her with their skills development program. With the simple encouragement of faithful workers, hope can be found even in the most tragic circumstances.

Education and Seed Money Helps Build Income

Rekha came from a poor family of farmers. Her alcoholic father beat her disabled mother. Rekha’s prospects were very limited. Then she joined an adolescent group with one of Broadwell Christian Hospital’s community projects. Rekha’s leadership skills grew and the staff invested in her growth. Even as a young woman, she became a true leader in her community, heading the advocacy initiative for her basti (slum). She also visited the district magistrate twice to submit an application for electricity. Rekha had a strong desire to get a college education, but there seemed to be no way that she could afford it. Having a degree would make a big difference in the marriage she would end up in and in the respect and autonomy she would experience in her life. Broadwell’s community project staff helped her get a sewing machine, and Rekha began mending and sewing clothing in her basti. With the first 2,000 rupees ($30) she earned, she applied for admission to a bachelor’s degree program. She continues to earn money for her family and she also plans to enroll in the women’s police force.

Najina was destitute and lived in a mud house with her husband and five children. Her husband mended tires on the highway and earned a meager income. Since Najina had no steady source of income, Broadwell Christian Hospital’s community project gave her a goat. She took diligent care of it and now she has three goats and one more on the way. Najina has promised to give one goat to someone in need, just as Broadwell did for her.

Kishanpal is disabled but he is very active in the village of Aadharpur. When Broadwell’s community project staff loaned him some seed money for a business, he began selling peanuts. Once peanut season was over, Kishanpal moved on to bananas. His income began to increase and he was careful to save. He also used his earnings to improve his children’s welfare. Next Kishanpal moved on to selling fruits like pomegranates, apples, and grapes at a major roadway junction near town. Now his business has expanded to three carts and he is very thankful to Broadwell for giving him this opportunity. The seed money they gave him has definitely sprouted, flowered, and borne fruit in the life of Kishanpal.

Progressive Farmers See Change Through EHA Projects

Shyamlal Patel is a progressive farmer in the village of Aurakala. He is president of the Hitendra farmer’s club, which was formed in 2013 with the guidance of Champa Christian Hospital’s community project staff. Before coming in contact with the Champa team, Shyamlal struggled with both illiteracy and a disability, making it difficult to support his wife and four children.

Then Shyamlal learned bio-farming techniques from the team such as using compost and natural pesticides. He began to encourage farmers in his area to try these new methods, and now his initiatives have become a model for bio-agriculture in the district. Last fall, he installed a solar pump as part of a government program, and now he has electricity to use for irrigation to cultivate vegetables all through the seasons.

As with many traditional farmers, after Sukhram Binjhwar’s crops were harvested, he was forced to migrate to a city as a laborer in order to continue to have income to support his family. When he became a part of the Jagriti farmer’s club started by Champa Christian Hospital’s community project staff, he received training in mushroom cultivation. Eventually he gained the use of a shed put up with government funds in order to expand his efforts. His hard work was not in vain as he was able to make a profit of $212 after only three months. Sukhram is thrilled that he no longer has to leave his family to work as a laborer but instead can operate this new business, thanks to the training and caring of Champa’s community project staff.

Creative Solutions Are Found

The many Community Health and Development Projects at EHA vary widely in the people groups they serve, but each one reaches out with love toward those in need. Even meeting basic needs such as bringing in income and putting food on the table is a regular area for CHDP to help with. 

One idea EHA staff came up with was raising backyard poultry, both as a way to improve household nutrition and to empower women as they generate income. There were three challenges faced by the project: protecting from predators which could take out uncaged birds, providing a consistent food source, and dealing with a particular disease which affected poultry in the area. They came up with some chicken feed and an immunization for the disease, but the high cost of cages ($40) had them stumped. Since an average family in this area only makes $30 to $50 each month, the cost of one cage would be astronomical for them. The project leaders bought some chicken wire in 50-foot rolls and made cylindrical structures with a mesh door on the top. These would keep out the wild cats, snakes, and rats which would endanger the birds, and they could be made by local boys for a fraction of the cost.

Having fresh eggs and chicken to eat is a blessing to these poor families, as well as having the option to sell extra eggs and birds. Simple solutions to life’s dilemmas mean so much to those helped by EHA staff.

Agribusiness Assistance

One of many economically crippled villages in North India, Rovindra Tola had a population in which 90 percent of the families belonged to the scheduled caste category – the poorest level in Indian society. The people of this village, including the children, worked in leased-out agricultural land for landlords. Their only source of food security was what they grew themselves, a portion of which had to be turned over to the landlord. But over the last few years, weather-related problems and over-use of the land had resulted in poor yields. This affected each of the families immediately, making them vulnerable.

One of EHA’s Community Health and Development teams became aware of the situation, and they came to Rovindra Tola and identified eight families where the children were working as laborers when they should be in school. The team mobilized these families into a farmers’ group and linked them to the government agricultural department. Through a number of training meetings, the workers’ skills were developed and their agricultural knowledge increased.

The agricultural department then gave them a variety of seeds to cultivate. After their first harvest, each family sold its share and earned a profit from 3,000 to 8,000 rupees ($45-$120), enough to make a big difference in their financial state. The team also worked to make sure that the children were sent back to school, and several families were able to use some of this new income to pay for their children’s tuition. Practical help like this is what villagers need to make a real difference in their lives, and EHA helps to provide it.

EHA’s Self Help Groups

So many poor Indian families struggle to support themselves with the crops they can grow on the small piece of land that they own. Often, it isn’t enough to stave off hunger.

One young father named Ramal was struggling to make ends meet when he heard about a Self Help Group (SHG) meeting in his village that was run by the Spandana CHD Program. The idea behind SHGs is that members contribute money monthly, and then they can receive benefits like borrowing from the group to start a business.

Ramal attended the meeting, heard about the advantages of Self Help Groups, and decided to join, even though paying his monthly contributions was difficult. The project staff taught the villagers about the benefits of raising livestock for extra income.

Ramal was very interested and talked with his wife about the idea, but he didn’t have enough money to buy any animals. In discussing the problem with his fellow SHG members, they encouraged him to take a loan from the SHG. He applied for a loan of 10,000 rupees ($165) and also got a subsidy from the government and bought six goats.

As the goats have multiplied, he has been able to sell them and purchase equipment like a water pump to further his business. Ramal has now started a kitchen garden behind his house and is able to sell extra vegetables. This extra farming income has provided enough to support his family. Ramal is very thankful for his SHG and the start that they gave him.

Paying 50% Interest No More

For decades, the Malto tribal people living near Prem Jyoti Community Hospital have been under the bondage of Mahajans, or money lenders. They had never learned the practice of saving money or keeping a bank account.

So, when they had a major expense such as cultivating crops, educating or marrying their children, or getting medical treatment, the Maltos would approach these money lenders. The deal they would agree to was to pay 50% interest along with repaying the capital within 6 months, otherwise the interest rate went up even more. Needless to say, they rarely got out of debt.

Since the Malto tribes are typically led by women, the community project staff from Prem Jyoti decided to empower these ladies through self help groups. Each member of the group would save from 50 to 500 rupees ($1-$7) each month and put it in the common bank account. In times of financial need, they would take an internal loan from this account and pay it back with just 2% interest. This simple plan has broken the debt cycle of the Maltos, and all of the villages Prem Jyoti staff are working with in this way are now debt free.

In order to ensure the success of these self help groups, project staff closely monitor their activities at least twice a month, visiting their meetings, checking on the progress of their savings, encouraging internal loans, teaching leadership skills, and informing the group of government programs they can take advantage of. The difference that this community project has made in the lives of these tribal people is priceless, and the EHA staff are encouraged to take this plan to many more area villages.

Restoration of Creation

So many of India’s rural villages depend on farming for their survival, both to put food on the table and to sell the crops as income. Unfortunately, in many areas, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is rampant, causing depletion of the soil’s nutrients, and food contamination resulting in health issues for the consumers.

The Chhatisgarh region is known as the rice bowl of India. Located in Eastern-Central India, Champa Christian Hospital is situated in the heart of Chhatisgarh. As Champa’s Community Health and Development Team began to assess the agricultural issues in the area, they realized that farming was becoming so unprofitable that many were giving up and migrating to other areas to find daily-wage jobs.

The team began to seek alternative solutions for fertilizer and pesticide to save the soil and improve people’s health. Both the government and the team wanted to help the farmers work toward organic farming. So they conducted training on integrated collective bio farming. They focused on the production of bio fertilizers in the form of compost and bio pesticides to help with insect control. The resulting crop yields went up, and the quality of the grains and vegetables improved. This allowed the farmers to make a better profit and improve their soil at the same time. The nutrition of the food produced improved as well, benefiting the health of everyone who ate the crops, which was especially important for children and pregnant women.

This project went so well that the farmers received $800 awards from the government, which is a significant amount for those who live on a few dollars a day. Three years into the project, these farmers are becoming consultants to help others learn these new agricultural techniques. Both the project staff and the farmers are thankful to become better stewards of God’s creation.

Teams Bring Relief in Many Forms

When Harriet Benson’s Community Health and Development Program (CHDP) team came to Gadiya village, Rekha was thrilled to be chosen as part of the cash-for-work program to improve water retention on agricultural land. The income she was able to earn allowed Rekha’s family to not have to migrate to the city to look for work, and she is thankful for the option to stay home and make money to buy wheat to feed her young family.

For 40 years, the CHDP teams at EHA’s Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital have been bringing aid to poor villagers in various ways. They currently have a focus on water conservation land treatments because of the drought caused by limited monsoon rains in both 2015 and 2016. Crop failures have caused widespread famine and family migration (called “distress migration”). Such trips often end in heartache, with villagers falling prey to illness and child trafficking.

This cash-for-work program benefits these communities in two ways: it provides income for the men and women who work on the project, and it improves the water retention of the areas where essential village crops are grown. Often this income makes the difference between these families having food on the table or going hungry. The CHDP teams focus their efforts on the fields of marginalized people who need the most help — widows, disabled people, and those from undesirable castes and tribes. This work is further strengthened by helping to set up self-help groups and farmers’ clubs that work on improving savings and investing in new livelihood opportunities in the villages.

Another significant Community Health and Development Project at Harriet Benson focuses on reproductive and child health. In the villages where the CHDP teams serve, underage marriage is rampant, with between 72 and 84 percent of the girls from undesirable castes and tribes marrying before the age of 18. The project works with young mothers to improve adolescent health and encourage safe motherhood. The primary activities are to monitor and follow up with pregnant women to get quality antenatal care, to aid lactating mothers and their infants, and to improve the overall health of young people. Additionally, in these villages, five percent of children under five years of age are classified with Severe Acute Malnourishment (SAM) with many more underfed. Infant mortality is 73 per 1,000 (US infant mortality is 6 per 1,000). Children found with SAM are sent to Nutritional Rehabilitation Centers, and moderately malnourished children are enrolled in Mother’s Feeding Clubs to help increase their weight and empower local women to better feed their children using local resources.

Two other project areas seek to help people with tuberculosis (TB) and people with disabilities. Village-level awareness meetings are held, as well as door-to-door visits, to help people understand the symptoms to look for with TB. Those who are suspected of having TB are tested, and the team gets them started on the free TB treatment offered through the government DOTS facilities. In the 15 villages where the team actively helps the disabled, they identify individuals who need help and work to get them entitlements such as disability certificates, pensions, and assistive devices. They seek to include people with disabilities in their community activities and volunteer projects.

Meeting Physical Needs

In the United States, we don’t give much thought to how the food we eat is grown unless we are farmers. We have come so far from our agricultural roots that most of us never think about crop productivity. But in North India, where many people in rural areas live hand to mouth, the success of their crops is vital. Teaching farmers new methods of cultivation is one of the many programs in Madhipura’s Community Health and Development Project.

One growing season, they planted fourteen demonstration plots showing improved ways of growing rice, maize, and wheat. As a result of this training, 25 farmers tried the hybrid rice cultivation. One man, Harendra Yadav, determined to attempt the Scientific Rice Intensification method on his one-acre plot of land. He overcame his initial hurdles of obtaining the seed, fertilizer, and irrigation with help from the project. Other farmers mocked him and told him he was crazy to try this new approach. They said he would have to till his field all over again because he wouldn’t get any yield. After the tillers (stems on the plant producing seed) appeared, the skeptics were silenced. They were bigger, healthier, and bore more yield. Harendra succeeded in developing between 30 to 50 tillers per plant, and with experience up to 100 tillers per plant could be achieved. His yield was double the typical amount, which means twice as much food or income for his family. Now his neighbors can’t wait to try this new method.

In teaching farming techniques, the project staff live out James 2:16, ” If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Helping meet their physical need for food gives the staff a platform to share and be heard.

Setting Up Shop

Kailash Rajput lived with his parents and siblings, often migrating to find agricultural work in order to have enough food to survive. He began noticing that his weight was dropping and he was often suffering from fever and illness. Going from doctor to doctor, he sought a reason for his struggles.

Then the Spandana Community Health and Development Program held an HIV/AIDS awareness meeting in Kailash’s village. He attended but was too fearful to give them a blood sample after they explained the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. Later the team counseled him and he agreed to the blood testing, but was later devastated with the positive results.

The Spandana team further counseled him on precautions and medications that would allow him to live a fairly normal life. Participating in a support group, Kailash was motivated to seek a different form of work. The project provided him with funds to set up his own shop, and now Kailash happily tends his store to support himself.

From Alcohol to Agriculture

Twenty-seven miles from EHA’s Landour Community Hospital lies a 200-year-old remote village populated by just 22 families. Back in the 60s there were 80 families living there, but in the 70s, dysentry hit, killing 100 people. Others moved away in search of a better life. The remaining villagers turned to alcohol production as a way to make a living.

Of the 22 families remaining today, 12 are headed by widows. The death rate of young men is high due to alcohol consumption and the despair of not being able to feed their children even one decent meal a day.

Disaster hit in June 2013 when a huge cloud burst let loose a massive flood, destroying most of the homes. The people lost their will to survive. It was at this point that the Community Health and Development Project of Landour stepped in to help. They brought in relief supplies, and a number of other organizations stepped up to support them as well. Eight temporary shelters were built, winter clothes and shoes were provided, and goats and oxen were donated.

When the Landour CHD team met with the villagers, they encouraged them to give up producing alcohol and start farming. While this was a huge transition for them, the villagers successfully gave up the temptation to drink and began plowing land that had laid barren for three decades.

Through several projects, the villagers were trained in livestock management and modern agricultural methods, including the creation of 100 contour trenches and 300 soak pits for directing and retaining rainwater to irrigate their crops. In their first year, the village earned almost $800 by cultivating cash crops, which brought significant improvements to their lives.

This practical lifestyle and income-production training can make all the difference for the families of villages like Kakru. Your generous gifts allow EHA teams to go out into the communities like these and help bring transformation.

The Difference Four Goats Can Make

After losing her husband to cancer, Rekha Devi struggled to feed her four daughters. Forced to take her older two girls (aged 14 and 12) out of school, Rekha worked long hours in the fields with them toiling by her side. She was incredibly discouraged knowing that without education, her daughters faced a dismal future with limited opportunities.

Rekha’s family had always been poor, living in one of the most needy villages in Madhepura District. Now, as a widow with four daughters under the age of 15, she knew she was in a very vulnerable position. When she heard about a meeting on human trafficking being organized in the village by Madhipura Christian Hospital, she determined to go, even though she knew she’d be exhausted by her day’s labor. Rekha knew trafficking had something to do with people, especially girls, leaving the village for work or study but never returning. What she learned at the meeting made Rekha more determined than ever to do whatever she could to help her daughters. She was surprised when Asha, one of the meeting organizers, approached her at the end of the evening. As a Madhipura Community Health and Development Team member, Asha began to question Rekha about her family’s situation. Learning that two of her daughters had been pulled from school to work in the fields, Asha began to explore ways to help the family.

When Asha later told Rekha that the project staff would give her five goats to start a business, she was overwhelmed. She promised to look after the goats to the very best of her ability. After three months, one goat became pregnant and delivered a kid. Selling a goat kid has made a significant difference in Rekha’s finances — it paid for extra tuition for her daughters for six months. Now that Rekha is able to send all four daughters to school once again, she has hope for a better future for them. Education will open doors of opportunity that have never been open for her personally.

Providing practical help with income generation is just one of many ways that EHA’s Community Health and Development Teams make a difference in the lives of the poor in North India. Their willingness to reach out with God’s love makes an enormous difference for those living hand-to-mouth.

Empowering Women and Children With Mushrooms

Helping farmers improve their methods is a fairly common activity in EHA’s community development projects, but mushroom cultivation is providing a new twist on the typical programs.

Targeting atypical farmers such as women, youth, the disabled, suicide survivors, and those in self-help groups, these programs teach people how to grow mushrooms and are providing a much-needed source of income and independence.

The goal of the program is to reduce vulnerability to poverty and to strengthen livelihoods through the generation of a fast-yielding and nutritious crop. Desiring to empower women and youth, Sewa Bhawan’s mushroom center has given training and assistance to 60 villagers so far, with plans to expand in the future.


Partners in the Field

One component of Madhipura Christian Hospital’s mission statement is to “work with, support, and strengthen like-minded organizations with social and evangelical concerns.” Ultimately, this means that they hold medical camps in outlying villages while collaborating with organizations like GEMS (Gospel Echoing Missionary Society). Their most recent camp was organized at a Muslim village elder’s house porch. Out of 102 patients, more than 70 percent were Muslim. After the medical clinic was finished, a leader held a show in the community. Camps like these act as icebreakers for dialoging within a diverse community about various religious and social issues. MCH’s desire is that partnering in holistic care for these villagers will lead to inner transformation in their hearts along with the external changes in their bodies and in the society of this unreached and hopeless people group.

About Development

One way EHA helps the people of India is by investing in Community Health and Development Programs (CHDPs). It’s not always just about physical health, fixing broken bones and healing illnesses. The CHDPs focus on wholeness and the well-being of individuals and their communities.

In many cases, that means helping villagers learn to farm better. Sometimes that’s through teaching modern farming techniques or improving the land. Other times it’s simply giving people seed money to cultivate and start a business of their own. Villagers learn to care for goats or poultry, finding both food and income in their work.

The CHDPs also teach the people of north India how to sew and to dye and many other ways to make a livable income in villages, and they teach them to save money so they do not take out financially devastating loans. It’s not just about getting them physically healthy but also developing the communities and helping villagers learn practical life skills that make a real difference in their everyday lives. It helps them break the cycle of poverty and begin a new cycle, one of wholeness and well-being.