A story about dedication

I have been planning to write a blog about Rikhi and his social service. He was my 'young' boss and was very disarming and frank about his dealings with me at work. He used to say that he was learning from me about running an industry. Actually we learnt from each other. He was new to industry and I was new to Thailand! With some luck we were able to get the project off to a good start. Later, his brother Rakesh who was also involved with the project, took over from him. I had enjoyed working with Rikhi. While he moved on to other projects, we kept in touch and continue to do so, even after my retirement. Both Rikhi and Seema are very dear to us.

As a member of the Lions club of Bangkok, Erawan, he participates in their 'Rural Relief Program: Medical and Social Aid project' . He really works hard collecting contributions personally from many donors for the camp which is held annually. He also meets them again to give them a letter of thanks with the details of the patient it was used for. I am a small donor and as we meet often, I do hear from him about the work involved in organising a health camp. Hence, I was very curious to see one first hand. I did hesitate to join, as I knew I would be of no use to him as I hardly speak Thai! Anyway, as he invited me to join him this year, I went along with him and I am happy I did.

We were to take the bus at the Chulalongkorn University early in the morning and we were there ahead of time as he is one of the organizers. There was an impressive line up of five luxury tourist buses waiting for the participants, made up of volunteer doctors, technicians, organizers and their helpers. Finally, about 240 of us collected and we were on our way just 15 minutes late! Events appeared very streamlined, but Rikhi assured me it was not so easy in the beginning and they have learnt over the years. We had breakfast on bus and I was impressed as at each seat there were water bottles, straws and garbage bags to collect trash. I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee as we went along.

On the way we stopped at an ethnic village and saw the villagers perform. A very interesting interlude. We stopped for lunch and saw a temple and later we went to the school, the venue of the next days camp.

The group knew their work and in time they were all set for the camp next day. I was told that the 'core' group of organizers make at least three visits before the final day. Once to select the location and the school. Again to seek the permission from the various government agencies and ensure their co-operation and participation. They meet the governor of the province, government officials, the police and the electrical authorities and explain to them the relevant aspects of the camp and the support they wanted from them. They also speak to the head of the school, staff and other service minded locals. Finally, they hold a smaller camp for the patients in need of dentures a month earlier, so that on the day of the final camp the dentures are ready for final fitting. The whole process takes them about three months.

There were some moments of tension as there were a few last minute cancellations by some doctors. The crisis was handled with calm and soon other volunteers were found.

As I walked around trying to get a feel of the whole set up, I saw the 'Van' parked symbolically right in front of a picture of His Majesty the King of Thailand. One of my reasons to make the trip was to see this van. This 'mobile dental van' was a dream project of Rikhi, created with the help of Dr. Piyawat, a member of the Lion's club. As he told me, he wanted to donate to a unique project and a project which merited an audience with the King. We in Thailand understand this well. The King is venerated by Thais and it is not easy to obtain an audience with the King. Anyway, as he speaks with a lot of emotion and pride, he and his wife and mother-in-law, did have an audience with the King. As the project caught the attention of His Majesty, the audience lasted for forty minutes instead of the usual ten minutes. We had seen the video and the pictures of the day, but I wanted to see the Van as well. It is designed as a mobile clinic to make dentures and fit them on patients. The concept could be ideal for a country like India.

This concept was enlarged in the camp to handle about 200 patients on that day. We see a dental hospital in operation, apart from fitting dentures, there are stations for filling, cleaning and even removal of tooth. Multi-nationals chip in with toothpaste and other dental care material at very reasonable prices. The effort also resulted in the design of a very 'simple and effective' dental chair which is patented internationally and has also won awards for Dr. Boonthai, who designed it.
(The scene next day!)

The camp started early the next day and people were gathered at the reception to register. They came in pick up vans and on motor bikes. The system to handle patients was designed well and the patients could easily go to the right place for their treatment. There were, apart from Dental care, centers for checking Eyes, ENT, Dermatology and General medicine. Interestingly, there was even a place for hair cuts and a hair-do.

It was remarkable as the whole process was very smooth. People knew how to go about their work. I did not see any confusion during the whole day.

Student volunteers were taking care of the patients' need with a quiet efficiency and a smile. There was food and water in abundance. For an Indian like me, we are generally noisy, it was amazing to see hardly any one shouting across asking or giving directions. The inauguration and a speech by the Governor and others were non-intrusive and work went on as usual as the officials made their speeches and went around the camp on a tour.

The camp normally takes care of 3000 to 4000 patients on a day. A patient who is in need of a more specialised care is referred to the right doctor in a nearby hospital and the costs are borne by the club.

I went to the camp in appreciation of Rikhi's work and came back captivated by the way the whole camp was managed and run. I have written this blog as a tribute to the members of the Lions Club, Erawan, Bangkok organizers of the camp and the Thais who participated in various capacities. I am sure their beloved King would be really proud of them.


Anonymous said…
Very interesting to know about Mr Rikhi's involvement with charitable work.I always knew that he does a lot of good work but you have done a wonderful job putting it in black and white
Anonymous said…
sounds like some very dedicated work has been taken up. kudos!
priya ramaswami
srinidhi said…
Hi Thanks for your quick responses.
It seems one of you forgot to sign in your name!
srinidhi said…
Nice to receive a comment from Anand Arni. He said "Impressive, congratulations.... Anand"
nandini said…
I'd heard about Rikhi's work but it's wonderful to read about it and see the pictures. Glad that you went along to record the event. No wonder you enjoy spending time with Rikhi! It is indeed inspiring.
sundeep said…
Very nice to read about Rikhi's dedication to the cause and the difference the Lions club is making to the lives of rural Thai's. The pictures really brought the trip to life. -Sundeep

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