Set in the Sahyadri mountains of Maharashtra, the quaint little village of Nilshi is a zen of peace and solace, a place where one feels the very essence of Mother Nature. It is home to the YMCA International lakeside campsite which plays host to the RYLA for Rotary Club of Bombay Central and their youth wing: The Rotaract Club of The Caduceus and their Interact clubs. Having witnessed the beauty of this place, it is almost impossible to believe that something so serene and pure can breed disaster for human life.. a potential healthcare abomination.

Project Nilshi was first conceived during RYLA’11 when Mr. Devdas of YMCA expressed a felt need for delivery of healthcare to the villages of Nilshi and surrounding areas. Since then, Community Service director Rtr.Owais Khan was in continuous touch with him and the project was taken up as a top priority issue on the Caduceus community service agenda. Post exam, a BOD meeting was convened and work on the Nilshi project thus began. Transport and accomodation arrangements were fast tracked thanks to RCBC President Rtn. Adarsh Bagaria and Rtn. Melvin Louis. A survey questionnaire was designed by Dr Akhil Goel of Dept. of PSM at JJ Hospital after a meeting with Rtr. Udit Dalmia, Rtr. Sanket Shah and Rtr. Pradnya Shinde and amendments were made to the pre determined objectives and survey pattern. Thus on a chilly 27th Jan morning, 15 Rotaractors left for Nilshi to conduct a primary survey and medical camp for the neighbouring villages.

Enroute to Nilshi, a short stop was made at the Govt Primary health centre at Takve village which catered to the villages we were supposed to cover. An appt with Mr Shinde,the MPW supervisor had been setup beforehand and a telephone conversation with Dr Aarote, the CMO of Takve PHC along with an appropriate letter of request ensured that we would have no interference in conducting our camp.
The sight that greeted us as we entered Nilshi was worse than we imagined. After having trained for 4 and a half yrs and learning how and what the govt does for ppl, it was easy to digest the fact that the village was in shambles from a healthcare point of view. Door to door survey teams accompanied by local village help set off to do the survey while the 2nd team set up shop in the small village school and started seeing patients.
Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle we had set out to solve started falling in place as the day passed and we were able to quantify the prevalence of the most dominant healthcare conditions in the village namely – malnutrition, cataract, poor dental hygiene, severe vitamin deficiencies, inadequate family planning practices, bone and joint problems, infestations and recurrent respiratory infections, poor sanitation, no garbage and sewage disposal systems, no clean water supply, use of wood and kerosene for fuel to name a few. We could also identify areas where our efficiency could be improved and made alterations to the pattern for day 2.
The 2nd day started with a check up for the employees of YMCA. An interesting observation that everybody could make was that the male workers were reasonably healthier and open to advice whereas the females were only interested in the drugs and supplements we had carried with us and turned a deaf ear to whatever lifestyle changes and advice we had for them.
As soon as we were done at the campsite,we broke up our tents and set off for Khandi village – an area with higher population and a bigger school. We were scheduled to meet the Sarpanch and speak to him but were unable to do so. A door to door survey in Khandi revealed a lot more about the village, and as expected the situation was even worse. 4 of us with Mr Devdas surveyed the entire area on foot to identify potential areas where interventions would prove effective in altering the health status of the population on a long term basis. We saw a lot of cases on that day notably Meningitis, CSOM with central tympanic perforation, Cerebral Palsy, Keratomalacia and innumerable respiratory infections and cataracts. Care was administered wherever possible, but the resources at our disposal were limited. Appropriate referral letters were given to each patient for convenience at big hospitals.
On the way back, a short stopover was made at Takve PHC where we met with Dr Shinde, obtained permission to use their operating room for surgery and also got his assurance for cooperation in our future endeavours in the area. A tired but satisfied team then departed for Mumbai.
All in all, Nilshi was an eye opener for all of us and it strengthened our resolve to deliver better care for the village. Meetings with Dr Akhil Goel and other people from the rural healthcare sector will now follow to plan phase 2.

Photos from phase 1