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Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

The main focus of this months newsletter will be the commemoration of the passing of our dear founder, Arun Nevatia. Featured below is eulogy written by Arun’s elder brother and closest friend, Anant. As the founding member of our organization, and a man who has touched the lives of so many, Arun will be remembered by all of us as a truly great man. Arun Nevatia, 18th April 1965 — 22nd June 2013

One day in October 1975, a family waits patiently for important news. In an earnest attempt to add a touch of levity to a tense environment, an 11 year old boy proposes a deal to his mother. If the Biopsy report of his younger brother’s neck gland is found to be negative, she will buy him sweets. Much to his naive delight, the report delivers the seemingly innocent diagnosis of “Hodgkins”. In an era without computers or Google, a relieved elder brother looks happily to his mother to fulfill her promise, painfully unaware of the seriousness of this deadly disease. At ten years old, Arun Nevatia began both chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. Being an academically brilliant and mentally determined kid, Arun refused to let these invasive and exhausting procedures take over his life. In fact, he did the exact opposite. He continued his studies with newfound vigor and proceeded to shine at the top of his class. At the age of 12, Arun and approximately 200 of his grade 7 classmates nervously took their seats for a notoriously difficult mathematics exam. Sure enough, the exam lived up to its merciless reputation. One after another the disheartened and shell-shocked students filed out of the exam hall, glad to be free of such a cruel and unfair test. While marking the exam papers, the teacher’s mood is that of despair. They discard yet another depleted red pen in what seems like an endless distribution of corrections. At the end of the day only one student proved himself worthy of the examination. Unsatisfied with being the only student to even pass this exam, young Arun distinguished himself even further by sailing through with a score of over 80%. Having shown his true colors in times of adversity, people began to mummer about a young genius. Later that same year the disease showed its face again, but testing revealed that it had migrated south to Arun’s chest. Treatment was the same, multiple sessions of chemo and radiotherapy. Admirably bearing a brave face, Arun remained optimistic and began the familiar fight against his disease for the second time. By applying this same attitude of resolution and perseverance to other aspects of his life, he achieved exemplary results in the classroom. This did not go unnoticed by Hindi Magazine “Mela”, published by

ISSUE 2013/7, July/August 2013


Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

Ananda Bazar Patrika, who recognized Arun’s efforts and ran an article on the "Best Boy" in the school. Upon passing High School with flying colors, Arun energetically embarked on his third level education by joining Saint Xavier College, opting to further his studies in Math. In 1984 Arun received the all too familiar diagnosis that his cancer had reappeared once more. This time it was located in the stomach, and had progressed to the more serious stage of 4B; the relentless disease had become more widespread. This crushing news offered very little light at the end of tunnel. Yet God had different plans for him. Again Arun fought, and eventually overcame this latest and most severe attack, surely a miracle.

During this time, Arun and a classmate of his began to develop what would eventually grow into a life changing relationship. Falguni was a well-educated young woman who hailed from a wealthy Gujarati family. During a blood donation camp at Saint Xavier’s, the couple had a chance to get to know each other. Falguni noted that Arun had devoted a significant amount of time to the organization of this event, yet he was not queuing up with all the other donors to offer his own blood. In response to this Arun simply explained that it was impossible for him to do so due to the nature of his disease. Being sympathetic by nature, this news touched Falguni. At this moment on something Irreversible happened between the two, a bond was created that would prove to be stronger than anyone could have known. There is an old belief that if God takes something from someone, he compensates the soul with something else. Throughout the years Arun had endured countless hours of mental and physical suffering due to his condition, now god had finally smiled upon him by sending Falguni to be by his side. An educated girl from such a prestigious background and relative of Dr. Prafulla Desai, the then eminent Cancer surgeon not only in India but perhaps entire Asia, took such a bold step which I admit I would have not allowed my own sister to take. The courtship continued to unfold and develop over the course of the next seven years. Meanwhile, another academic success was celebrated, Arun graduated from Saint Xavier College. Without hesitation he joined the family construction business, and despite being from a science background, he soon became an expert in construction and accounts. So much so in fact, that it was commonplace for even qualified, charted accountants to seek out the advice of this young professional. Finally, in May 1990, despite stiff resistance from parents and relatives, Falguni tied the knot with Arun, and they were happily married. To this day I still wonder how she managed to convince her parents and relatives to permit a social marriage. Within 6 months of their marriage the disease again relapsed, and the same grueling treatment started over from scratch. Usually a couple has the luxury of looking back on a honeymoon at a picturesque hill station, or a beautiful beach, whereas Arun and Falguni often recalled their trips to Tata Memorial Hospital for Arun’s treatment. In 1991 another glimmer of hope arrived, the disease appeared to have once more been cured. However, this time therapy had taken it’s toll. Due to the extended exposure of such intensive medication, Arun’s immune system was compromised allowing other diseases to manifest themselves. Hypertension, Diabetes, and Cardio Myopathy were among the fresh hurdles that now had to be faced. Arun did as he had always done, and continued his fight, all the while never allowing himself to neglect his business.

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Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

Amidst all this suffering it was only natural for Arun to seek solace wherever possible. He began to look towards religion for peace, and started visiting temples frequently. It was during one of these visits where a seemingly insignificant event would change Arun’s whole life. At this point our family had experienced many difficult losses throughout the past decade. In 1997 our dear mother passed away. My elder brother, Narendra also left us later on in 2004, and after such a short space of time our father followed them in 2005. We dealt with these facts of life as best we could and continued with our construction business, but ever present somewhere in back of our minds was a strong sense of loss. Perhaps unknown to us, someone somewhere was aware of our painful state of mind, and in the grand scale of things had a plan for us. It seemed that there had to be some reason that had kept Arun alive all this time against so many odds. Growing up our parents had always been both religious and philanthropic. My father used to donate medicines to many institutions in need, while at he same time he occupied the role of a disciple in Chatianya Math, a religious organization based in Mayapur. Through Arun’s newfound faith it was evident that on some level, they had been influential to their children. The charitable quality that had been so evident in my father was soon to blossom in my younger brother. In one of his trips to a local temple in Mayapur, Arun noticed an old lady begging. He went to her and offered her some money. The old woman refused his gesture, but instead requested something else. In her old age her eyes had deteriorated significantly. She implored Arun to try and arrange a free cataract operation to restore her sight, as she could never hope to afford one herself and her quality of life was rapidly waning. Arun took her call on board, and much to her amazement before long he had arranged the surgery. Three weeks later, while visiting that same temple, Arun was approached by that same woman. The surgery had made such an impact on her life that Arun completely failed to recognize her; she was a new person. The delighted woman opened Arun’s hand and placed a ten rupee note inside. Arun was stunned, he asked her the reason for such offer. The lady told him that she is a beggar and because of him she can see this world again. She said that she begged this money especially for him, so that he could buy sweets with it. Arun realized that he could never begin to know the real value of that ten rupee note. The pleasure that he experienced from this old woman’s sentiment was more than he had ever known in his entire life, and her one small act of gratitude changed his entire perspective on everything. Arun had truly found the real reason why God has kept him alive for so long. In late 2007, my younger brother and I took action on this moral revelation. With little to no medical experience between us, save the countless hours spent in hospitals, we threw caution to the wind and approached the religious organisation that our father had once been a member of, Chatianya Math, based in Mayapur. We proposed to finance a one-day medical clinic open to the local community, if they would allow us to use their premises. They agreed and straight away we began to put the pieces in place. It was to be a bare bones operation that would provide eye care, dental care, and general medical care, for a minimal cost to those patients who came.

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Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

Needless to say, there were many uncertainties. We didn’t know if the location was perfect, we opted to charge Rs 5 without knowing if anyone would pay it, we didn’t even know if people would show up. That Friday morning came around sooner than expected, and before we knew it there were people queuing up for our clinic at 3am. Throughout the morning the queue continued to grow until it was over a kilometer long, patients even came from over the Bangladesh border. Arun’s enthusiastic and ambitious plans had proved successful. Needless to say he was delighted, and having seen how it was possible to reach out and help those who could not help themselves, he was not about to stop any time soon. Our one-day clinic became a once per week clinic, which quickly became a weekend clinic. Before long we became very familiar with the 140km journey from our home to Mayapur. In the first month of operation we saw our clinic treat over 8000 patients, with no signs of slowing down. This was unlike anything that Arun and I had seen or experienced throughout decades of close interaction with Indian healthcare facilities. These patients were coming from the depths of poverty; they were those who had previously dismissed the idea of treating what ailed them due to the restrictions of the exclusive system provided by the government. Delighted with this breakthrough, Arun and I were then faced with the challenge of sustaining what we had started. Our newfound sense of fulfillment wouldn’t be enough to keep everything afloat, and before long we were running up a bill of Rs. 150,000 per month. Knowing that we could not finance this initiative indefinitely, we set about developing a business model that would allow the clinic to pay for it’s self. This is where a sound education and twenty years of experience running a business carried us forward. We put our heads together and formed a number of ideas. The initial Rs. 5 for intitial checkup, a follow-up checkup after 7 days, and 7 days worth of medication was deemed too low to be sustainable, and was therefore increased to Rs. 10. When it came to medicine we began by sourcing generic medicine’s straight from the supplier, rather than the more convenient and readily available branded medicines from 3rd party distributers, and also sourced close to expiry medicines. These measures allowed us to buy medicine at 2-10% of the original price. Positive steps were being made. A rigorous attitude of austerity along with further innovations in staffing, administration, and wherever else we could think of, soon saw the overheads steadily diminish. Within 36 months of operation the Mayapur clinic crossed it’s breakeven point of 5,000 patients in one month, a triumphant moment for all involved. Inspired by his success and unrelenting ambition, many of Arun’s acquaintances realised the potential of what had begun. In 2009, aided by the support of many enthusiastic benefactors, Arun founded “The Rural Health Care Foundation”. And to this day, the constant energy and devotion that Arun and everyone by his side applied to this public trust as bolstered The Rural Health Care Foundation through times of adversity, and has given it the momentum needed to tackle all obstacles. Currently we have six clinics in operation, four in isolated rural areas, and two in densely populated urban areas. Over 725,000 lives have been changed by Arun’s foundation, and patient numbers are continually on the rise. Our clinics supply and distribute close to 200 different types of medication, along with wheelchairs, artificial limbs, blankets and spectacles. In conjunction with the Rotary Eye Hospital and The Smile Train Foundation we have arranged over 5000 cataract surgeries, and 150 cleft lip/palate operations. Arun was well known for his belief that “Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself, it’s what you do for others.” Throughout the last years of his life Arun lived and breathed by this principle, and I feel that this is evident in the foundation that he built.

ISSUE 2013/7, July/August 2013


Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

Unfortunately, while the foundation grew from strength to strength, the same could not be said for my younger brother’s health. Parallel to the progress, growth, and accomplishment that the foundation enjoyed, Arun’s wellbeing faced increasingly difficult hurdles and complications. On the 22nd June 2013, Arun passed away. Almost four decades after his childhood diagnosis, and five years since doctors delivered the news that he had six months to live, my brother lost his life long battle with cancer. Two days before he left us Arun recounted a dream to my son and his nephew, Shreyas. He described himself standing in a large crowd of people. An unknown face addresses the crowd and asks “Who here wants to die?”, to which Arun recalls he was the only person to raise their hand. On the morning of the 21st he confided in me that he saw doubt in others. After 38 years of suffering this disease, he said, I know people think that this cannot continue forever, they think I am living a lie. That evening, the night before his departure, he told me that “You are the only person who cares for me”, to which I responded “it took you 38 years to realize”. The following morning he died of sudden cardiac arrest in very early hours of 22 nd. As per his friend's version this is the most auspicious day to die. Even Bhismapitamha waited for this day to die in Mahabarata, and all great saints who take Samadhi also wait for this day. This is the day when the sun shifts from "Utarayan" to "Dakshinayan". Arun’s accomplishments did not go without recognition. For his efforts he received the Salaam Bengal Award 2011 initiated by Anandabazar Patrika (ABP) Group, and the Indian Volunteer Award 2011 by Apeejay Group. He is also one of the winners of the Challenge 3rdiDiya 2011 competition conducted by the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Currently Arun is posthumously in the running for the prestigious Indian Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013. Further to these, UNICEF and the UN are among the many organisations that have praised his work and expressed enthusiasm to work alongside him. The Rural Health Care Foundation continues to be held in the highest regard among the national non-profit sector, and has been received multiple awards throughout it’s years of operation. I know I speak for everyone here who succeeds Arun at the foundation when I say that we will continue to uphold his legacy through thick and thin, and we will strive to accomplish his dream of providing heath care to those who cannot provide it for themselves.

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Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

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July/August 2013

Serve2Gether

We are delighted to announce that out of a potential 144 applicants to win Serve2Gether’s consultancy competition, The Rural Health Care Foundation was one of the ten organisations chosen! This program, organised by American Express, means that RHCF will have the benefit of expert consultants who will work alongside us, providing valuable information and guidance on how to improve our numerous aspects of our foundation. “Launched in 2012, Serve2Gether Consulting matches selected nonprofits and social enterprises with employees on short-term consulting project in order to address a specific organizational challenge or opportunity identified by the non-profit client.”

Over a ten-week period we will all be working overtime together on ambitious plans to make the Rural Health Care Foundation more effective than ever. Yet another promising and encouraging step in our on-going mission to eradicate sub-standard health care in India!

Social Entrepreneur of the Year Amidst difficult times when everyone was still coming to terms with the recent passing of our beloved founder Arun Nevatia, we received some comforting news. Arun has progressed to the second round of the highly regarded Indian Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013. The Jubilant Bhartia Foundation and the Schwab Foundation who are hosting this award were quick to agree that Arun’s death should not deprive him of the recognition he deserved for devoting his life to helping others, and that he should remain in the running for this esteemed bestowal. Here at RHCF we feel that this prestigious award would be a befitting tribute to a person symbolic of perpetual perseverance for service to society. We wish Arun the very best of luck in this competition.

IMC Inclusive Innovation Awards

RHCF is glad to announce that we are in the running for the Indian Merchants’ Chamber Inclusive Innovation Award, 2013. This competition recognises product or service innovations that are inclusive, sustainable, scalable, and capable of commercial exploitation. We will be competing in the Non-Governmental, Non-Profit section of this event. Many people have contributed a great deal of hard work to build an innovative and self-sustaining operational model here at RHCF, which we are very proud of. This award would be a refreshing recognition of the effort that our members have spent building this model, and would provide ever-welcome attention to our cause.


Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

June and July have been eventful and busy months for us here at the Rural Health Care Foundation. Our patient numbers continue to grow and demand is ever on the rise. With this reassurance firmly in mind we have been working hard to expand the capabilities of our current centers, and to put the wheels in motion to open new clinics. We hope to bring you positive news regarding growth in the organization in the very near future.


Rural Health Care Foundation NEWSLETTER

July/August 2013

A Study of Change Pictured here is 55-year-old Sri Manas Bera. In July, Manas was one of nearly 5000 patients who paid the Rs. 50 fee to be treated by one of our physicians at the Namkhana clinic. As word is always spreading about the RHCF facilities, an increasingly significant proportion of our benefactors are making lengthy journeys from distant areas to queue up and be seen. Coming from his home on an island three hours away from Namkhana, Manas was one example of how big an impression this particular center has made on the surrounding area. Manas had embarked on such a long journey as a last resort. Three months prior he had sustained a flesh wound to his right leg. Being the most convenient option to all who live in Manas’s area, he went to a local quack for medical treatment. This is an extremely serious issue in Indian healthcare today. Thousands of quacks with little to no medical authority, credentials, or training are posing as competent doctors. They offer erroneous advice and ineffective treatment to people who either have no alternative, or don’t know any better than to trust them. In essence, countless people across the country endure prolonged suffering due to exploitation. Despite repeated visits and approximately Rs. 1000 in fees paid, Manas’s leg showed no substantial signs of recovery. When examined by a doctor, it was found not only that his wound had been seriously neglected, but also that Sri Bera had been suffering from diabetes. After one month of treatment his wound has completely healed, and thanks to effective medication at a fraction of the cost that he had previously paid to quacks, his diabetes is under control and his health has dramatically improved. Had he delayed much longer, the onset of Gagarin would surely have resulted in amputation of the leg. This widespread practice of offering ineffective and detrimental healthcare to poverty stricken people at an unaffordable cost is playing a serious role in keeping India’s poor below the poverty line. This is exactly the type of social issue that we here at The Rural Health Care Foundation endeavor to eradicate, and we urge all of you to join us in this fight in any way possible. Any steps that can be made to prevent the exploitation of honest people will make a real difference.

CONTACT US

OUR DIFFERENCE MAKERS FOR JUNE/JULY 2013 1. Give India

Rural Health Care Foundation 33 Alexandra Court 63 Chowringhee Road

2. Mr. Arun Kumar Sharma

Kolkata, West Bengal, India

3. A.S.P Pvt. Ltd.

Phone: 03322902981

4. Tarakumari Harakchand Kankaria Nidhi

email: rhcf2009@gmail.com www.ruralhealthcarefoundation.com

ISSUE 2013/7, July/August 2013

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