Health..for…ball! wall! what!? ALL!

Last week was a whirlwind of dedicated preparation and excited anticipation.

On Tuesday, August 27th, CRHP celebrated the Grand Opening of our Izmir Training Center, a beautiful facility that will allow us to expand our training opportunities tremendously. It was a ribbon-cutting ceremony like any other, complete with song and dance, distinguished guests and beautiful speeches, and a colorful, engaged audience.

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How did this state-of-the-art building come to be, you ask? It all started in 2010, when the class of 2012 Periclean Scholars from Elon University (hey, hey Elon!) decided to make a short documentary that would compare different, innovative health organizations and their approaches towards improving health. They researched NGOs travelled to India, shot footage of two different organizations – CRHP and Swasth India – and created a film entitled “Health for All”. Little did they know that Izmir, Turkey, a candidate city for the World Expo 2020, chose “Health for All” as their theme for the Expo. A series of Google searches and e-mail conversations later, Izmir and Elon partnered. In November 2012, the documentary was screened in Paris as part of Izmir’s 20 minute presentation to 300+ Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) delegates from around the world.

Watch it here!

As part of the Izmir-Elon-CRHP partnership, Izmir donated $100,000 to build this 2100+ sq.ft. training center. Construction began early this spring, and after many late nights and early mornings (and many, many cups of chai to keep Vishnu, our Construction Supervisor, going), it was completed! It has two large classrooms with the capacity of 50 students each, and a residential suite with a living/dining room, and two bedrooms and two bathrooms, which can accommodate up to six trainers or international visitors.

Representatives from Izmir came to CRHP to celebrate the grand opening, and their camera crew was on a mission to capture the essence of CRHP and how, together, we are working towards health for all. As they pulled into the courtyard, our guests were greeted by the entire CRHP staff, welcomed with music and a typical Indian ceremony, and garlanded by Sureka, Monica, Shahabai and Sultana. After some pictures, Lexi and I then helped them to their rooms, and they rested up for the Welcome Dinner that was in the works for later that evening.

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Shahabai reaching to garland one tall Turk! at the Welcome Ceremony

The next day was the Grand Opening. Like a child awaiting Christmas morning, I was hardly able to sleep, and so I finally went on an early-morning run. After one of the fastest showers I’ve ever taken, I rushed over to the Training Center to help put up Turkish and Indian flags and Expo 2020 posters, finishing touches on the masterpiece. Then, it was time to get dressed. Pranoti, my kind-hearted ‘older sister’ who has consoled me on multiple occasions and has been helping me learn Marathi, offered to help me and Lexi dress in saris – did you know a typical sari is 5 to 6 meters of fabric?! After much folding and wrapping and pinning we were dressed. Pranoti, however, had finishing touches of her own to make, and adorned us with necklaces and bangles. It was the most dressed-up I have felt since arriving in Jamkhed, and I truly felt beautiful.

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With my two lovely ladies, Lexi & Pranoti

A procession of boys performing a typical Maharashtran dance led us to the ceremony. Our VHWs, Farmer’s Club members, adolescent girls and boys, hospital workers, and everyone else on CRHP’s staff attended. The unveiling of the cornerstone and the ribbon cutting was done by Dr. Selim Tokmak, İZMİR EXPO 2020 Vice Secretary General.

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Proud to represent both Elon and CRHP! with our Turkish guests after the ceremony

The rest of the day we helped the Turkish team with their videography. I won’t give away any of the scenes, but I will say the interns did have our own shot! The short film will tell the story of the partnership resulting in the new training center, and will be presented at the final BIE conference this November. At the conference, delegates will cast a final vote on which of the four candidate cities will host the 2020 EXPO – we will be waiting with anticipation for the announcement. Besides being excellent filming professionals, our Izmir guests were amiable, generous and open people. As we discussed their village visit, I described their seeing a rural Indian village firsthand – as suited businessmen – a clash of two worlds. “Two very different worlds,” a representative responded, eyebrows raised, a shocked smile on his face. “But, you know, that makes what we are doing even more worthwhile.” 

Cheers to that.

One of my favorite moments of the filming was when Jayesh tried to teach a group of preschoolers to wave their ‘izmir expo 2020’ flags and scream “Health all all”. They were absolutely precious, some not having any idea what was going on, and some regurgitating a phrase completely different – we heard health for all, health for ball, health for what – but the videographers were pleased with the footage, and our group of onlookers was all smiles and laughs watching the kids try their hardest.

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At our goodbye breakfast – feast, rather – of french toast, pancakes, eggs, plum juice, and tea on tea on tea on tea – Lexi and I presented our guests with a token of CRHP’s appreciation for their visit: a hand-made sari bag, set of bangle coasters from Helping Hands, and a copy of Jamkhed. 

Reflecting on these chaotic two days, I am honored and humbled. Honored, firstly, to identify with such incredible institutions: my alma mater (wow that’s weird to admit) Elon University, and, of course, CRHP. Separately and collaboratively, they pave the way towards development and innovative education. I am filled to the brim, bubbling over even, with pride.

I am humbled, secondly, to witness such kindness and generosity. Though this meeting of corporate and non-profit was truly two worlds colliding, innate differences were broken down by gratitude. Mutually expressed – CRHP towards Izmir and of Izmir towards CRHP – both groups genuinely appreciated and learned from each other. The cooperation between groups was also brilliant; I believe this to be a beautiful partnership and I hope that it is not only sustained, but continues to grow.

Campus sighed a sigh of relief as the jeep of video equipment and new friends drove off. We were tired. We had worked hard. We were ready for a relaxing afternoon at the farm. Ani, Lexi, Irene, Alison and I headed to CRHP’s Khadkat Farm for lunch and ended up spending the rest of the day talking with Jayesh and Ravi Kadlag about agriculture and a potential beekeeping project, laughing as we assigned each other spirit animals, taking a tour of the grounds, eating fresh grilled corn on the cob, and milking the cows. The sun was strong but the breeze and easy conversation were just the refreshment we needed.

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Ani enjoying an appetizer of worms as Ratna, the farm manager, shows us the vermiculture plots

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There’s always tea, always! with Ravi, Lexi, Jayesh & Ratna

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Learning the ropes, or should I say udders, of milking a cow

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