Serving at International Medical Camps: Puttaparthi, India
Many doctors, nurses, technicians, and medical personnel volunteer on a regular basis at Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s free International Medical Camps held yearly at Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi, India. During the months of November (Sri Sathya Sai Baba's Birthday), December (Christmas), and July (Guru Poornima, a day dedicated to honoring the Guru or teacher), the number of visitors reach millions. Free International Medical Camps were established at the ashram to serve the visitors’ medical needs and emergencies. These medical camps have grown from long tables under white tents, to being housed in apartment buildings with clinics for acute care, pediatrics, eye care, primary care and diabetes. There is a main pharmacy, with an additional pharmacy stock room on the third floor. There is also a prayer room, where volunteers meet for group prayers and Vedic chanting an hour before the clinic starts each morning, and a break room where everyone takes their meals, tea, or coffee break.
Non-medical volunteers relieve the workload of the doctors and nurses and ease the long lines of patients by taking on many varied tasks - translating patient’s medical history to international doctors and, in return, treatment plans to patients, assisting with patient registration, directing traffic and guiding patients to the right doctor or to the pharmacy, crowd control, pharmacy services and conducting inventory in the pharmacy stock room.
Jorja Kelley from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Pensacola, FL shared, “I was encouraged to volunteer for the first time in 2015 for the 90th Birthday. Since I only spoke English, I was asked to work in the pharmacy stock room on the 3rd floor above the clinics, unpacking large storage boxes of medical supplies, and setting up the pharmacy. I placed all supplies on the shelves, created a beginning and ending inventory of medicines, and notated the brand names, quantities and dosages. Every day, I heard how many patients were served and the figures were staggering! The eye clinic, for example, dispensed 1,000 eyeglasses in one day. At the end of the 7-day camp, 11,000 patients had been treated by a staff of 19 doctors and 22-25 volunteers. Sitting knee to knee in the packed prayer room, hearing the Vedic chanting infused me with healing vibrations, gave me the endurance to meet the day’s challenges, and left me a lasting impact of this sacred task, and the doctors’ faith, dedication, and leadership.”
Raja Ekambaram from Huntsville, AL said, “I served as a greeter, directed traffic and managed crowd control, keeping the lines of patients contained and leading them to the correct clinics. In the process of serving, I was always a little apprehensive, worried about the job at hand and how I was doing, often forgetting that I was just an instrument. The turning point came when I was overwhelmed with the crowds, and became emotional and frustrated. A gentleman observed and said, “If you are not here to serve, why are you here?” I felt like God himself was speaking to me, and my attitude changed as I was reminded that I was not the doer!”
Vivek Reddy from West Palm Beach, FL shared, “The biggest impact on me was seeing the transformation of the patients when they received their medicine or walking cane, simple things we take for granted. Seeing their faces light up with a smile was a rewarding experience. I would do it again without hesitation.”
Don Lamonica from Tallahassee, FL remembers, “I spent most of my time carrying out deliveries and running errands. It was amazing to witness all the effort those patients took to get health care! They traveled great distances on foot, with no idea where they would sleep or how they would eat. They knew they had to rely totally on Sri Sathya Sai Baba for everything. We tend to lean on our doctors for everything and forget to rely on God. In many ways, it’s enviable.”
If you ever have an opportunity to serve in a free medical camp, don’t let your lack of training stop you. Offer yourself and God will use you in miraculous ways.