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Posts Tagged "maitri"
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Lama Zopa Rinpoche visited MAITRI Charitable Trust, an FPMT project in Bodhgaya, India that offers a wide array of health and education programs to the very poor in the area as well as care to animals.
Children from the villages surrounding Bodhgaya lined up to greet Rinpoche upon his arrival. The children attend schools overseen by MAITRI. Rinpoche came to give a talk and advice to the children.
During his visit, Rinpoche also thanked Adriana Ferranti, who founded and directs MAITRI, and the project’s skilled staff who do all the incredible good work helping poor, uneducated mothers and children, those with leprosy and tuberculosis, and animals as well as doing HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and providing humanitarian aid to those most in need.
MAITRI began its work in 1989 helping people with leprosy and working towards its eradication. Since then, the project has expanded greatly to meet the needs of the people in the Bodhgaya-area in Bihar, one of the poorest, most depressed and most populated states in India.
At present, MAITRI has 105 stray dogs they care for, most arriving with severe injuries and sickness. The staff does their best to provide them with the medical attention they need. Usually they are able to roam the entire property of MAITRI, but on the day of Rinpoche’s visit, with so many visitors, including so many children, they were tied up.
The project also cares for rescued goats. In addition, MAITRI has a veterinarian clinic to which local people can bring their animals.
More information, photos and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s homepage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche via email, sign up to Lama Zopa Rinpoche News.
Visitors to the Maitri Charitable Trust’s center in Bodhgaya are confronted with an apparent jumble of activities – lines of coughing TB patients, crying babies, bandaged leprosy patients loitering in the sun, bleating goats, and, above all, dogs all over the place. Their perplexity is palpable, and the unuttered remark can be read in their eyes: “From leprosy to animals – what on earth is all this?” Still dazed, most choose the program that appeals to them, give a donation and go. Some will remain faithful supporters of either the human or the animal work, making it clear that the money should go ”only to that specific program”. It seems that the concept of integration as proposed and actualized by Maitri is generally not grasped well, Adriana Ferranti reports.
When I drew up the plan of the future Leprosy Center, complete with name, logo, campus description, and ten-year budget, and submitted it to Lama Zopa Rinpoche for blessing and approval in 1987, my view was that eventually Maitri would take care of other manifestations of human misery besides leprosy. But, as Rinpoche put it, “Not yet –later.” I therefore wholeheartedly concentrated on establishing the leprosy eradication program, with the goal of detecting and treating leprosy-affected people, the hansenians, throughout the area allotted to us by the government, in painstaking door-to-door surveys and at numerous, ubiquitous monthly field clinics.
One of the features of leprosy work is the social rehabilitation of those disabled by the disease, for which an in-depth assessment of the economy of villages is necessary. Since patients under the program are not confined in colonies, but are treated at home, they must “fit in,” thus the idea of rural development started forming in my mind. However, I soon understood that in Bihari rural society the concept of vocational activities is still mainly tied to the caste set-up, and in fact so far leprosy patients have not manifested any inclination to learn any other skills, as they have managed to adapt their disabilities to whatever work is available in their “society” (read caste). Rehabilitation of the hansenians has thus become limited to physical therapy, mostly consisting of reconstructive surgery, and rural development has turned into a broader, ideal plan that has gone beyond leprosy work.
In their field activities Maitri field workers, themselves from rural background, were daily faced with the reality of village life and witnessed all the tribulations of the population. The mobile clinics too, which I used to attend, revealed other ailments that affect village people. As the number of cases registered and treated by us kept soaring from hundreds to thousands, so, too, the new programs began multiplying. …
From Adriana Ferranti, director of MAITRI Charitable Trust
Since February, MAITRI Charitable Trust, an FPMT-affiliated project in Bodhgaya, India, has been carrying out sterilizations of street dogs from Bodhgaya with a major three-week camp and two smaller ones. We’ve seen 395 dogs that have been sterilized, vaccinated against rabies and released to their territories after full recovery. We seem to be catching many “latest-generation” dogs. Amazing how many have managed to escape our drives and how many puppies have managed to survive.
In April, we finalized the results of the end-of-year test in our three village schools. Since only pupils with regular attendance were admitted, 326 took the exam in all six grades in both formal and non-formal classes and 108 were promoted. The new school year started with 547 pupils, inclusive of promoted, failed and newly registered children.
In May, we organized and paid for a deep boring tube-well and hand pump in the extremely undeveloped and destitute village of Nimi in Fatehpur province. There are hundreds of such villages in the district, which somehow fall in the blind spot of the government services that are supposed to provide hand pumps to all villages.
The blasts of July 7 in and around the Mahabodhi Temple have marked a fault-line in Bodhgaya. Gone are the shops and hawkers that crowded, littered and polluted with unbearable noise the space outside the temple, but in have come armed guards and detectors of various kinds that are certainly at odds with the seat of enlightenment. But finally the International Buddhist Council has found some common cause to pray for besides electricity bills, taxes and so forth – every week we meet to pray for peace.
MAITRI Charitable Trust does humanitarian work in Bihar, one of India’s poorest and most densely populated states, providing programs addressing the needs of people in the areas health, nutrition and education as well as care for animals.
By Adriana Ferranti
On February 24 we had the great privilege and joy to have Lama Zopa Rinpoche visit for the first time one of our clinics. The process that eventually led to this important event was started two years and six months earlier, when we filed an application with the government of Bihar requesting the authorization to operate a leprosy control program in Bodhgaya Block; at that time I was quite confident that within one year we would have been ready to start our work!
The reality proved to be different, quite different: the way was a long winding road full of bumps and holes that at times made it impossible to proceed, and yet with sudden clearings where mirages of accomplished deeds and functioning structures would stand right in front of my eyes, looking real, incredibly real. The next moments, when the structure painstakingly pursued and almost complete would suddenly crumble down and vanish, leaving the mind in an astonished vacuum, were excruciatingly painful and depressing. It was very difficult to put into practice the advice that Rinpoche once gave me during one of my fits of discouragement that “the most important thing is the motivation; if you do succeed, it is better, but otherwise it doesn’t matter.” Very difficult for people like me brought up believing that external achievements are the measure of one’s own worth to successfully bring peace to the frustrated mind in a situation of apparent defeat. Anyway, here we are now, definitely on the go, producing results, developing a center. And I would like to share with you what we are actually doing, how we do it, and what we are after.
The “romantic” perception that Westerners generally have of leprosy work as being confined within the boundaries of a colony, segregated from the rest of the world, surrounded by ugliness and desperation should be removed once and for all. In fact the structure of the leprosy colony is being quickly abandoned and is being replaced by the activity of prevention and treatment based on a national well-established control program. Such program operates on the basis of the activities of “S.E.T.” – Survey, Education, Treatment – which are carried out through the combined efforts of paramedical workers, health educators, and medical officers, their numbers depending upon the size of the area under a leprosy center’s control. The general rule is one paramedical worker for every 20,000 in population, one medical officer and one or two health educators for every five paramedical workers. Bodhgaya Block has therefore been divided into five portions surrounding a sixth one, which is actually under the direct control of the central government and which includes Bodhgaya town and another 24 villages. At the moment we have four paramedicals, one health educator that also functions as their coordinator, and two part-time doctors.
A paramedical’s job is hard, very hard. It means getting up early in the morning with any kind of weather and temperature, cycling to the villages, going door to door asking people to allow to be checked for symptoms of leprosy, explaining what leprosy is about and how it can be treated, requesting the persons suspected to have leprosy to come to the monthly clinic, where a doctor will check them, give the final prognosis and, in the case of leprosy, give the proper treatment. After that the patients need to be followed, making sure that they do not skip one month’s treatment, as this would lead to resistance to the drugs and impossibility to treat the disease. At the beginning of a Leprosy Control Center’s activity in an area, the majority of people refuse to be checked, and in fact it takes three to five years to have an area totally covered, i.e. to have the entire population properly checked. In order to achieve this, a health education program needs to be carried out, which with the aid of proper audio-visual material explains that the disease is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae, that it is among the least infectious diseases, that it is transmitted mainly through the nasal discharges of the infectious cases which is a very small minority of all leprosy cases, that it can be successfully treated with the so-called multi-drug therapy, a combination of three very powerful drugs, that such treatment is free of charge, and finally how deformities can be prevented with early detection and treatment. The purpose of such program is the elimination of stigma, the powerful social ostracism that prevents people from coming forward to be treated, which is the only way to successfully eradicate leprosy from a country.
The explanation of these principles must be clear and appropriate to the people it is addressed to. It is in this area that we are trying to introduce the basic principle of karma both in its negative and positive aspects. The popular perception of it is in fact one of “bad luck,” intermingled with “God’s curse” and the punishment of sins, and these concepts are rejected by the current so-called “scientific” approach that brings everything down to germs and pills. We think that such presentation on the one hand disrespects people’s religious feelings and may keep them away from treatment, and on the other hand undermines the basic human need for religious faith. In order to be able to successfully work with and for the people both such potential dangers have to be carefully avoided, and the best way to do so is to try to understand people’s traditions and, through personal example and caring words, add the concepts of love, compassion, and human responsibility. Since this process requires everybody’s involvement – the workers and the population, the administrators and the village leaders – if done with love and care it will naturally end up in the elimination of social stigma. The battle against leprosy will at that point be half won.
We are just at the beginning but, thanks to the dedicated work of MAITRI’s staff, we have already achieved positive results and have about a hundred patients. However, we are also pushing forward toward other aspects of the project which involve the purchase of land and the construction of premises; we have a long way to go. It is vital that along this way we keep in mind the words of Mahatma Gandhi which so well reflect the teachings of our perfect gurus that aim at helping all of us become better human beings:
“Leprosy work is not merely medical relief: it is transforming the frustration of life into the joy of dedication, personal ambition into selfless services. If you can transform the life of a patient or change his values of life, you can change villages and the country.”
Learn the story of MAITRI Charitable Trust’s Adriana Ferranti, one incredible woman with a lot of energy and a lot of compassion for Bodhgaya’s poorest residents.
From Mandala December 2001 – February 2002.
You can find more information about MAITRI Charitable Trust on their newly designed (and constantly growing!) website.
By Phil Hunt
To arrive in Gaya, India by plane is to perpetuate an illusion that 21st-century technology and methods in other parts of the world will work here in the same way. As the MAITRI Charitable Trust jeep took me out of the airport gate, doors rolled up and diesel engine roaring, we immediately entered rural Bihar, a desperately poor part of India. Ten minutes later we were at MAITRI campus gate, the dogs not barking until they realized a stranger was present. I recognized many from earlier trips, and some seemed more inclined to wag a tail than bark. I knew that after a couple of days even the most frightened or cranky of them would relax.
I spent three weeks at MAITRI in the lead up to the Kalachakra initiation and I wanted to write something about the amazing work that this organization does. One of the problems with MAITRI is that they do so much that it is difficult to condense it all into a short article. Another problem is everyone is so busy trying to carry out the work helping the people and animals of Bihar, that less attention is given to promoting what they do.
MAITRI is 5 kilometers [3 miles] from Bodhgaya and it is not a Dharma center, so few people visit. It is not geared towards international visitors, but aimed at the local population. Its activities are heavily based on outreach, with paramedics and other staff going out daily to run the leprosy, tuberculosis, mother and child, HIV awareness, animal care, and village school programs. I have been out many times in the last 10 years with staff to some really remote villages that have no government services. It is inspiring, but not easy for casual visitors to the campus to appreciate.
Despite its current financial shortfall, MAITRI has been, I believe, incredibly effective. Most of the many programs on director and founder Adriana Ferranti’s 20-year-old masterplan wish list have actually come to fruition or are well developed. That is not to say that it’s easy to have success in India. The Western mentality of “easy, happy, now,” as Lama Yeshe would put it, does not work here. Westerners, such as myself, are used to short timeframes and the use of technology and skilled labor to produce success. In India, however, the entire education system is in crisis and Bihar has some of the most underprivileged communities in the country. If you hope to help, you have to involve the people and involve them in the journey. That requires working at a pace and in a way that the local people can warm to. It also requires discipline and tough love. It is a different culture, and our so-called egalitatrian and democratic systems cannot yet compete with India’s entrenched caste system and rigid family obligations. Its not that change won’t happen, just that it won’t be done to our impatient schedule.
How do you measure success? I think one way is to listen to how local people talk about a project. Many times I’ve seen the warm reaction of locals when they hear that staff are from MAITRI. For example, a policeman near the Kalachakra grounds who was giving the cold shoulder to one of our paramedics as we were trying to set up a stall suddenly turned around when he understood we were from MAITRI and was most helpful. “One of us,” was what he said. “Local.”
Not just local. MAITRI is an organization that has a reputation of following through on things. This is where so many “aid” projects fall down. Money is spent, things are done, but the locals don’t feel any sense of ownership and responsibility to it and sometime later it all falls apart. MAITRI has some very crucial roles where a lack of follow through would spell disaster. Tuberculosis patients, for example, must be carefully followed up to ensure they are taking the full course of drugs, otherwise drug resistance can develop. I have been out with paramedics and seen the attention to detail following their distrubition system and utilizing existing community networks.
Another example of MAITRI’s approach that is designed to engage the community is the Village Schools program. In some of the poorest villages where no government school has been, MAITRI has set up schools. It is a partnership with the community. MAITRI provides the teacher (including the all too important supervision and teacher training), and the community builds and maintains the school and ensures that all children attend. Parents who have been illiterate and who are totally at the mercy of others to look after paperwork for them are seeing their children becoming more self-sufficient. The program has many difficulties, especially in a country where public education standards are failing, but for each individual that learns a little bit more, it makes a huge difference to them.
Although I am nearly at the end of this article and haven’t really started to describe MAITRI. MAITRI is not a project that can easily be quantified, much like India itself. You need to sit and observe. If you just pop in for a short visit, it is just overwhelming: nearly a hundred dogs running around at the news of a visitor, excited and frightened depending on each personality; hospital in-patients shuffling around in various layers of bandages; village mothers in their colorful saris; staff members calling and being called in a place where all electrical communication has failed; jeeps and motorbikes going out or coming in on any number of scheduled and emergency tasks (the paramedics used to go by bicycle for many jobs) – this is the busy appearance of MAITRI.
When you are there for longer you have the chance to see the smiles of the patients warming in the sun by the stupas; the contented sighs of dogs who have found the right position to curl up in; the call of “chai” as the staff take a break; the tap-tap of a computer in the office; the light banter and joking between Adriana and staff during a meeting; the happy cries of the rescued goats going out to graze; Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s recitation of a sutra over the speakers. It is actually a big family and even though Adriana gives the staff a tough time, you also see the mutual affection and the bond they all have with each other. Most of the time it is a very peaceful place and despite the busyness, it has been like a retreat.
Yet there is no escaping the difficulties of trying to do something positive here. I have been here three weeks and there are still so many things I haven’t finished! Simple things. Like taking photos of each of the animals for the records (I managed 30 dogs on the first day and nothing since). I wanted to organize the cleaning of the old bikes to sell. There are some tsa-tsas that I started to paint in 2005 that are still unfinished. So many odd-jobs that I could do, if only ….
“What a realm we live in,” Adriana sighs, “where it takes so long to build something, yet it can be destroyed in a moment.”
It has really hit home to me this time how immense the task is. Not just Bodhgaya, but samsara. From here you look out and there is no hiding it. How can you hope to help in a place like this? The inertia. The karma. Now I understand why the printers don’t work properly, why you have to ask staff over and over for the simplest of things, why the new generator is playing up, why the old bikes have not been put out to sell despite repeated attempts going back five years. To print a page here means pushing against this inertia. Even such a small thing is trying to change the karma of the beings of this place. The poorest of the poor, the outcast among outcasts.
So how does MAITRI do it? How does it manage to get its programs to work? Sure, none of them are running problem-free and exactly how Adriana would like them, but they are actually running. I believe it is pure perserverance matched with careful observation of Indian life. Adriana encourages volunteers to just observe for a few days and see where you can help. This is India. What better way to get in touch with this ancient land? The birth of a flower is not just due to soil, water, sun and air. It also requires time.
Phil Hunt is joint project coordinator for Enlightenment for the Dear Animals, an FPMT project aimed at helping people, particularly Buddhists, to benefit animals. Phil is an archaeologist who works for the Aboriginal Heritage Office in Australia and who has been involved in animal care and rescue for many years.
You can read about how MAITRI’s Adriana Ferranti began her work in India in started this archive interview: “Fulfilling a Lifelong Calling to Heal Leprosy” from Mandala January-February 1998.
SOCIAL SERVICE IN BODHGAYA
By Phil Hunt
It is the 21st century and yet there are still people with leprosy. Men with missing fingers, women with missing toes, children with damaged ears and faces. Adriana Ferranti, MAITRI Charitable Trust Director, has explained to me many times how this devastating disease affects the body and the community, yet I always forget the details. What I have not forgotten are the faces of the patients, whether the inpatients at the MAITRI hospital just outside Bodhgaya or those at a field clinic in an outlying village. I remember one of the first field visits I went on with MAITRI staff years ago. An elderly man removed the bandages from his foot to reveal an enormous gaping ulcer. His sandal had rubbed his heel but as his nerves were dead, he didn’t notice until it had become infected. As there is such a social stigma about leprosy, he had been too ashamed to speak up and so it became worse. Fortunately, he was picked up in one of MAITRI’s outreach programs and was now learning how to self-treat injuries and take control of his very treatable condition.
When you look at the figures of those who have been treated for or educated about leprosy in 2009, it is breathtaking.
- leprosy – 1321 high risk cases assessed; 817 disabled cases instructed in self-care; 787 deformed cases trained; 4371 community members trained; 151 government staff members trained; 770 new cases identified and treated; 1470 villages including 430,902 people and 30,554 students given health education lessons; 192 education pictures painted on village walls, and 179 days holding an information stall in Bodhgaya
These figures do not include more serious cases that end up at the small MAITRI hospital or who are sent to a district hospital for more involved care.
MAITRI is known as “the leprosy centre” because the destigmatization and treatment of leprosy has always one of Adriana’s primary missions. Yet what surprisingly few know is how much more MAITRI supports in the local region: tuberculosis control, mother and child care, child immunization, birth control, HIV/AIDS awareness, village schools, adult literacy, water resources and reafforestation, animal care and other special sponsorships and charitable works.
The figures for tuberculosis control projects in 2009 are as impressive as those for leprosy projects:
- tuberculosis control – 837 new cases registered; 605 patients released from treatment; 1453 cases sputum-tested; 448 cases under treatment; 430 patients provided supplements; 424 patients supplied with food; a network of 744 Directly Observed Treatment providers expanded with an additional 1084 providers; 10 new sputum collection points established, and 1682 villages of 522,355 people and 30,544 students given health education lessons
The main reception area of MAITRI is regularly awash with the bright saris of local mothers and their babies (either in their arms or still in the womb). So much pain and suffering is prevented with early and ongoing monitoring of mothers. There are also always field workers going out to villages where access to care is minimal. The emphasis is twofold – to provide preventative education and early diagnosis of disease, and early intervention and follow-up treatment.
The animal care program is also hard to miss; there are over 90 rescued dogs within the compound! I know this has drawn criticism from some – it can be unsettling, as the dogs will generally bark at strangers. But if you had the misfortune to be reborn as a dog, you would know that every effort will be made to help you at MAITRI, whether you are from the street or
from the temple, on death’s door or a cripple. If you ask Adriana or the staff, “What’s this one’s name?” they can tell you not only her name, but when she was brought in, what her condition was, how difficult it was to save her and fix her wounds and how she is today. Most animal shelters have even more dogs and they are all in small cages, crying for attention. MAITRI’s goats are cared for in a purpose-built large cage and they go out as a flock every day. MAITRI also has a clinic where villagers and others can bring sick or injured animals, and an outreach program for animal care education and assistance.
In 2009, MAITRI celebrated its 20th anniversary. If you were to take just World Leprosy Day and World Tuberculosis Day and see how many people MAITRI touch in their education and health campaigns, it would be difficult to quantify the positive potential generated. You often hear people say: “I don’t want to give money to a charity and see it all go to administration.” I have learned that you can’t run a big charity only on volunteers, but I have also learned that the best charities are committed to minimizing extravagance. I can’t say I know of a charity that puts the comfort of the staff and director at such a low priority relative to getting that little bit extra from donations in order to directly help others as MAITRI does.
When most of us visit a poor country like India, we immediately wish to help and we think of all the ways we could do so based on what is done in our own countries. Then we see how cheap things are and think all it takes is a bit of money, a bit of love and a few weeks time. We may even leave with a glow on our face, thinking that we’ve changed the world. Yet the good work we thought we had done was not owned by the locals, and as soon as the money and energy is used up, things go back to the way they had always been.
MAITRI, however, does not operate in the short term and for the satisfaction of temporary volunteers like me. All its operations involve local Indian staff and volunteers who are committed to the organization’s aims and who participate in its successes. A good example of this is the school program. MAITRI has entered into agreements with four outlying (low caste) villages where there were no schools and no hope of any government assistance. The agreement ensures mutual responsibility: MAITRI provides the teacher and materials, including regular teacher training and support, while the village builds the school, maintains it and makes all children, boys and girls, attend. The feedback that I have heard has been excellent. This was a village where virtually everyone was illiterate and innumerate. That means every document signed was based on the trust that others would tell you its meaning. Now these villages are training generations of independent, educated people.
MAITRI has been set up to offer service to India. It is designed like Mahatma Ghandi’s ashram and Indians understand this. They feel comfortable there. Perhaps this is the reason MAITRI doesn’t get as much support from non-Indians. It is easy to misread things when you don’t feel totally at ease. I think MAITRI is an excellent example of compassion built on the base of renunciation. It is not built for the comfort of foreigners but to provide the most effective means at helping the beings of the Bodhgaya area. Under Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s instructions there are nine stupas and a multi-religious temple is under construction. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that Adriana is doing the work of a bodhisattva. To many, she is another Mother Theresa, but with far, far less support.
Leprosy is still occurring. TB is still too common, and without the careful administration of the drugs there is the real risk of drug resistance developing. Babies and children are still dying from preventable diseases, which leads to parents wanting larger families to ensure some survive. Children are still growing up without access to education, which leads to ignorance and exploitation. Clearing of vegetation and the over use of water is increasing. How wonderful it would be if MAITRI had all the resources it needed to continue its work in supporting this community to become a success story – one that no longer needed any of us.
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Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
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