Hands On India officially formed in 2016 following several years of university student organised trips which began in 2005. Initially in 2005, Chiropractor, Dr Brett Dellar and a group of Murdoch University students visited Siliguri, a remote community in the far North East of India to volunteer chiropractic and basic medical care. The trip was such a success, groups have been returning annually to the community.
Hands On India works to support the community around Siliguri, West Bengal, in North-East India – an area bordered by Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and China.
What began as annual trips to provide chiropractic and basic health care to a region, has grown to supporting a community that was locked in poverty and lacking education. Much of the community works on tea plantations picking 20kg bags of tea and breaking river stones by hand to sell for road base and building works. This population consists of many minority groups, tribals and vulnerable illiterate people who live on $1-$2 per day. Their hard labour results in many musculoskeletal problems.
With 1 in 4 children in child labour in our target area, we realised we needed to fund schools in the local communities and support women in Women’s Empowerment groups to allow children to attend schools and receive an education to escape the poverty cycle.
Hands on India now provides financial support for 7 schools, and over 700 children, in their local rock breaking or tea picking communities. Our funds provide schools, teachers and learning materials for these children. Once completing these primary schools almost 50% are mainstreamed and are able to attend government and private schools. In addition, the 600 families involved learn of health & hygiene, gain legal documents such as birth certificates, voter cards and have an overall improved quality of life.
Over 2300 women are part of Women’s Empowerment Groups and secure funds which they use to purchase piglets and goats, sewing machines or learn skills to run small businesses allowing them to build financial independence for their families and form community support networks. Most of the women in the project are illiterate and “voiceless” resulting in poor status and lack of unity. These women largely work in tea gardens earning under $2 per day. They are often victims of social injustice, harassment and trafficking with difficulties providing health food and health care for their children. Support of these women has allowed their children to attend schools rather than work in child labour.
Annual trips to the region take groups of around 30 chiropractors for 2 weeks to provide “hands on” musculoskeletal and basic health care to the people of the Siliguri region. For 2 weeks they will stay as guests of the Seva Kendra NGO. From there they travel daily, to set up make shift clinics in the slums, orphanages, remote rock breaking and tea picker communities. They also work with the Mother Teresa nuns, seeing those most in need who have limited access to any health care, as well as visit orphanages. Most are labourers, tea pickers and rock breakers, so appreciate the care of their weary and physically stressed bodies. In previous years, our teams have attended to over 40000 people during their stay, helping some of the poorest in India.
Attendees volunteer their time and fund 100% of funds raised go to funding the Siliguri region schools, Women’s Empowerment projects and providing healthcare.
The region is largely tea plantations, where the majority of the poor people work as tea pickers, or in stone breaker communities.
Stone breakers work in the riverbeds where they search for stone to break by hand and sell for road base.
Tea pickers pick 20kg of tea leaves in bags which they carry all day on their heads.
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