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VT Seva Internship - A Chaperone's Experience

Dr. Padmaja Vemula, MD, USA shares her experience accompanying Interns

VTSeva is truly an organization that cares most about empowering its youth volunteers – something that I am reminded of every time I am involved in its activities. This summer internship experience is another testament to that fact.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to chaperone the India trip for the VTSeva summer internship. This helped me broaden my horizons as well as enhance my understanding of our cultural values and heritage. It has also given me a chance to get to know many wonderful people.

To begin with, we had a three-day alternative medicine immersion camp comprising Ayurvedic and Homeopathic philosophies. Dr. Irfan ji, Dr. Rajput ji, and Dr. Ravinder ji educated us as well as gave extensive tours of the facilities and various treatments. They also allowed us to do patient interviews.

Being a physician trained and practicing in the western medical system, these immersion camps made me realize that they are more of an integrative approach rather than alternatives to standard medical practice. After all, Ayurveda takes advantage of remedies present in nature and tries to eliminate the use of synthetic medications. Homeopathy emphasizes the mind-body connection.

Now, I feel that every physician might possibly benefit from learning both ayurvedic and homeopathic principles. At the least, the study of these methods may lead to increased trust from patients, who might feel more empowered in their care when their doctor examines with a more open mind. Plus, upon closer look, I found that many concepts proposed by homeopathy– the principle of “similarity”, the individualization of prescription, and the use of very low doses of medicines are important topics worth noting for physicians like me.

As our beloved Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji explained, physicians should be like the river Ganga. River Ganga accepts many rivulets, and creeks into her and makes her flow strong to support the world. Similarly, doctors should integrate all methodologies and make their practice stronger and more effective.

Next, we experienced cultural immersion. In our daily meetings, Swamiji helped us delve deeper into our Hindu philosophy and Vedic way of life. We learned how cows are pivotal to our culture. And, how there were hundreds of breeds of indigenous cows that existed at one time, and now only 16 breeds remain. We had first-hand experience interacting with cows, feeding them, feeling their energy by being in close proximity with them, etc.

We were fascinated to see the age-old process of synthesizing medicinal products by distilling cow urine mixed with herbs. Veerababu ji, who was the supervisor for the ashram’s Gosala with about 400 cows, did an excellent job making us comfortable with cows and providing details on how carefully they prepare the cow feed, and how they make use of every byproduct. He also served us mouth-watering hot milk beverages and sweets.

Finally, the largest part of the internship was exploring community service. We went on a medical camp conducted by JIMS college in a nearby village. The next day, we learned about the Mahila Arogya Vikas program which so far screened hundreds of thousands of women for cancers.

Our trek to Allampally was the highlight of our trip. We all got unspeakable joy and satisfaction working with tribal kids and interacting with nearby villagers alike. What we provided to the school children was dwarfed by the hospitality and love we received from them, the principal, Prabhakar ji, and, the school staff.

I personally taught human anatomy. I was awe-struck by their level of curiosity and how quickly they grasped the concepts.

In the following days, we had memorable sessions with Netra Vidyalaya kids over several days. They showed us disability does not stand a chance when your determination is strong. They were curious, happy, and full of life. The level of artistic talent that was on display was mesmerizing. Their enthusiasm was contagious.

During the course of our stay, we also discovered what makes the ashram tick. It’s the dedicated set of people such as Krishna Kumari ji. She went above and beyond to make our ashram stay comfortable. It is due to selfless service from volunteers like her that so many initiatives and programs are being conducted at the ashram successfully.

In addition, we got a chance to pack food and groceries for recent flood victims. Although swamped with hundreds of responsibilities and programs, Swamiji still thought about the flood victims. This only goes to show how infinitely compassionate our Acharya is. As Swamiji put it, it was our responsibility to help people in need, not generosity. He taught us that joy shared is doubled and sorrow shared is halved. He urged all the interns to share their joy with like-minded people and share others’ sorrows at the same time. I believe that’s not only the essence of community service but also the best life lesson we received.

Finally, I highly encourage all youth and adult volunteers to consider going on future VTSeva internship trips to Allampally and Beersaipet tribal schools. I guarantee you that it’s gonna be a life-changing experience for you and will leave you with a lifetime of fond memories.

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