Good Health for All in Morning Star

By Dorothee Driever
One of the days in Morning Star, I was writing up a summary sheet about CPR. I wanted to give the boys a first aid course. “Step 2: call an ambulance.”  While writing it down, I suddenly hesitated. What is the story with ambulances here on the rather rural outskirts of Bangalore? Are there any? How would they get through the insane traffic of the city? Would it be quicker just to take your own car (assuming you have one)? I changed the sentence to a somewhat ambiguous “call for help,” and resolved to ask Joy the next day.
indi18Joy, one of the co-leaders of Morning Star, is a man who has an in depth knowledge of his country, and takes immense pride in being an Indian citizen. He explains to me that yes, of course there are ambulances. According to him, the density of hospitals is quite satisfactory as well. And indeed, when you take a rickshaw ride through the bustling streets of Bangalore, there is a myriad of health related businesses: dental surgeries, eye clinics, peadiatric hospitals. Even in the Botanical Garden, strangely enough, there is a pop up tent by a diabetics clinic and an ambulance that claims to be “an ICU on wheels” next to the roses and hyacinths. The opportunities for getting health care are seemingly in place and not easy to miss.
But for many people that live here, all those opportunities remain inaccessible. Healthcare is expensive. This goes especially for the prominent private sector, which is seen as giving better quality services in India (Banerjee). As someone with health insurance, for me it’s a given that I can get a surgery when I need it. It’s a privilege which, I will admit, I somewhat took for granted. This hit me especially when I was talking to John (the other co-leader) about one of the boys with disability living in Morning Star. It turns out that he has a septal heart defect (basically a hole in his heart) of the kind that would have gotten surgically fixed in infancy, had been born in Ireland. After years, once he moved into Morning Star he got diagnosed, but it was too late to have the surgery, and moreover the means were not there anyways. Similarly, some of the other boys with disability would have had early interventions and therapy in Ireland that are simply not attainable  in the place and circumstances they were born into.
This all sounds very disheartening, and at times, I feel overwhelmed. But the thing is, when you walk into Morning Star, this is not the narrative you see. Yes, the means are limited and the access to healthcare restricted, in a way that we don’t have to face at home. But John and Joy still manage to create a home for the boys that promotes health. For one thing, Joy takes the boys to the doctor when they need to be seen, and while big surgeries or expensive equipment for the boys with disabilities may not be an option, more affordable things like anti-seizure medications are made a priority. Moreover, a homeopathic doctor visits Morning Star every now and then, and donates medications. Granted, homeopathy is not scientifically proven to work. But one has to take into consideration that in India, way more than in Western countries, it is a very valued and accepted treatment option for many people. And so, while I remain skeptical on the actual usefulness of these medicines for the boys, it does once again show that John and Joy want all the best they can get for them.
There is also less obvious ways in which Morning Star is a healthy place for the people living here. John has told me repeatedly how important he thinks food is for the boys. There is an emphasis on the boys eating plenty, and on their diet being varied and nutritious. Again, for the majority of us at home, this is a given, but here in India it is not. Furthermore, the boys have PE for an hour every day, and therefore get a good amount of exercise.
On top of all this, the boys in Morning Star have an environment in which they are valued, encouraged and loved. They may not all have been born into such surroundings, and in other cases they were ripped from them when their families couldn’t afford to take care of them anymore. But here in Morning Star, they find a place where they become an active part of this little community and are valued for who they are. A place that wants them to succeed and tries to give them all possible support. Where they are loved. The value that this holds in terms of mental health, as well as a child’s ability to prosper and realize their potential, is monumental.
All in all, I think that John and Joy are managing the challenge of ensuring good health for all the boys in a very impressive manner. I admire them for using their limited resources, in a system that lacks the guarantees we have at home, to make Morning Star a healthy place.
Reference: Banerjee, A. V.;  Duflo, E.:  Poor Economics.  Penguin Group.  London.  2011.  Print.