Spartanburg students raise funds to help cover medical care for poor in India

2017-08-13 | Herald-Journal

Aug. 13--After seeing dozens of people who had waited in line outside an Indian hospital go untreated, three Spartanburg students decided to get involved.

Arpit Rana, a Centre College freshman and Spartanburg High School graduate, along with Nan Miles and Ashley Wade, Spartanburg High seniors, visited Rana's family in Delhi last December. Rana's family owns and runs Jeewan Hospital Gate 2 in the Indian capital.

Because of extreme poverty, many there can't afford medical care. That inspired the group to form Project AID (Assistance in Delhi). The fund is raising money to help pay for care and treatments for those in the most dire need.

"They still have the cheapest health care in the world, but 99 percent of the population (still) can't afford the health care there," Rana said. "There's only a certain amount of people and a certain amount of appointments. A lot of people die waiting to get care."

During the trip, the trio saw people line up early in the morning outside of hospitals hours before the doors opened. Many were turned away or referred to other hospitals either because they couldn't afford treatment or because the hospital simply couldn't handle the patient load.

Rana said the Indian government provides free aid to patients in need, but government hospitals can only treat a fraction of the patients that need it because of the country's swelling population. That shifts the burden of treatment to private and corporate-owned hospitals, he said.

"It's not like here where they get accepted and then figure out how to pay later," Wade said.

The poverty many Indian citizens live in was shocking to the group. Just paying for treatments or medications for children could cost people their life savings, which might amount to only about $200, Rana said. He said his mother saw people sell bicycles, cars, even clothes literally off their back just to gather enough money to afford children's medications.

"The poverty, unless you've really seen it and experienced it, it's hard to imagine," Wade said.

Medical care is especially hard to afford, even with prices that sound cheap in American currency.

A round of malaria medication costs about $15. A six-month treatment for tuberculosis is about $60. About $200 can pay for a baby's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

"If you donate like, $10, that will actually make a crazy difference," Miles said.

Before the trip, the trio packed bags of old clothes and donated them to local families and facilities in India.

The December trip was the first time Rana had been back to India as an adult. The experience left a bigger impression on him than when he was a child because he understood what he was seeing, he said.

"There was a child that came to our hospital and had a very low white blood cell count. We didn't have the necessary equipment to treat someone so young with his disease, so we referred him to another hospital," Rana said. "The father took the child to another hospital, but he died on the way. It became a big story in India. There was a lot of uproar about that, but nothing happened after that. There was no change, no implementations, no bill passed."

Since starting Project AID, the group has raised $5,340, with a goal of raising $10,000 by October. Rana, Miles and Wade are organizing meetings with local business representatives and community organizations in the hopes of meeting their goal.

"With $10,000, we won't be able to save one life or two lives," Rana said. "Malaria medicine is not expensive, but people can't afford it. We have an opportunity to save people's lives. It's not something you always have the opportunity to do here."

The organization has a GoFundMe page where donations can be accepted at www.gofundme.com/projectaid. The three can be contacted at projectAIDindia@outlook.com.