“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose”. Vijesh Ram is a thriving example of Victor Frankl’s famous quote. In spite of him being specially-abled, he cheerfully moves around his village, finding new ways and opportunities to enrich it.

The first thing one notices about Vijesh Ram is his exuberance about community growth and development. He is the epitome of responsible citizenship and believes in the power of being proactive. As a representative of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI), he is known for his enthusiasm and has inspired people around him to sow the seeds of change.

Vijesh lost his hand in an accident a few years back, but that hasn’t deterred his spirit and commitment to the village’s progress. He leads a busy life, indoctrinating community well-being passionately through different initiatives. Attending Chaupals in the village, advising on what crops to grow and how to take care of fields, encouraging self-sustenance by growing vegetables and raising cattle, taking steps to create healthier surroundings are part of Vijesh’s routine.

“I have been living in this village for nearly 15 years. Earlier, people used to fight with each other on petty issues. Today, they have learnt how to live peacefully and focus on how to improve their lives. It’s safe to say that the current situation of the village is 4x better than what it was five years ago. We have learnt to keep ourselves engaged in various activities. There were barren lands spots in the village and with the help of other community members, we’ve grown small gardens to make it look better.”

The efficacy of vigilance

In his quest to make his village a healthier place, he actively engages with CARE India as a key informant.

This role, Vijesh believes, had cemented people’s trust in him. Initially, people would ignore what I say. My sole motivation to be a key informant with CARE India is its work directly to benefits the community and myself. The role of a key informant not only furnishes his responsibilities as a PRI but has earned him an admirable position. He says, “I do a lot as a PRI and try to lead by example. I play cricket and hit 4s and 6s like any other. Being specially abled doesn’t limit me from cycling around the village to take care of fields and 8 cows single-handedly. Recently, I was felicitated by the Bihar Veterinary College in Patna for my contribution to the village.”

A mutually fulfilling relationship with CARE India

Vijesh considers CARE India and its team a responsive friend-in-need who invests his time and energy with patience and empathy in the village and is eager to help. He talks about the relationship between his community and CARE India “Working with CARE India, people have realised the valuable and immediate support available for them. A key factor is a prompt response. Whosoever I call and inform the CARE India team, whether a small problem or a life-threatening issue like Kala Azar, the team quickly responds. A few times, there have been few suspected cases of Kala Azar where Vijay Singh from the CARE team has come down swiftly and taken charge to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

He notes the marked improvement in health standards and living conditions that he considers vital to building and sustaining his village community. Vijesh remarks, “This village and nearby villages used to be seriously affected by Kala Azar. From 6-7 cases in a year, the number in this village has come down to 1-2. People, in turn, have become more aware of the disease and keep their surroundings clean.

He believes such initiatives have helped villagers become more conscious about the impact of their surroundings on their health and the requirement of timely and appropriate health care seeking. Previously, the villagers were not careful about cleanliness and hygiene. Vijesh makes sure the IRS (Indoor Resistant Spray) squad organized by CARE India visits the village twice a year to ensure that each house gets sprayed. With these visits, the community have been apprised about various other health practices.

Mobilising Community towards Government Healthcare

According to Vijesh, the attentive way CARE India has supported its community has made a significant difference in the way Government services are perceived. Earlier, when one used to visit government hospitals, the desired response and attention wasn’t provided. Our complaints were like listening with one ear and ejecting from the other. Now people have become active in seeking health care, making their files and demanding proper treatment at government health centres.

CARE India’s approach has enhanced access to healthcare, ensured transparency resulting in a growing trust in Government health services. Also, government facilities and treatment have become approachable and accessible, which has improved the village’s health standards. Such is the case now that the frequency of visiting private clinics and hospitals has decreased.

Creating a culture that fosters cohesion

Vijesh states the benefits of CARE India’s intervention in his village are visible to all. In the 4-5 years he has been associated with CARE India, he feels his community has realized the right kind of support at the right time can fight threats and barriers to empower their lives.

As a specially-abled, I strive to improve the village. It’s not to prove a point but to be a leading example of how to overcome limitations. Imagine what all able-bodied people could do to improve the standards if they thought and worked like me?

About the Program: Bihar has the highest cases of Kala Azar in the country. CARE India’s innovative community intervention has led to a multi-stakeholder awareness drive that has made it possible to detect diagnosis and treat Kala-Azar at an early stage

Team CARE India