Inspired by his mother, Bhandari started treating Kasewadi residents in 1978 when he was only 25. He soon realised that patients steeped in poverty, squalor and superstition needed to be educated in hygiene as well as learn certain other basics if their lot was to be bettered.
Bhandari, who does his work without much publicity, started off by launching cleanliness campaigns. Subsequently, the French organisation Inter Aide funded his activities. Now, with additional help from other quarters, his team of devoted teachers, social workers and volunteers has provided free tuberculosis treatment to hundreds. To arrest malnutrition among slum children, it has developed inexpensive protein supplements using groundnut, jaggery, gram and soya, which helped bring down malnutrition in Pune’s worst slums from 15 per cent to 2 per cent. A team of 25 slum women has been delivering door-to-door healthcare since 1980. SJF also focuses on ante-natal and post-natal care, immunisation and birth control. Counselling by SJF for alcoholism, mental health and HIV/AIDS has been well received.
On the educational front, SJF runs 10 balwadis or nursery schools, 25 study guidance centres and five centres for school dropouts who wish to continue their education. It also sponsors students and supports some municipal schools hit by high dropout rates. Its day-care centres ensure that girls don’t absent themselves from school and its library engages children in reading and storytelling.
SJF also helps community members obtain birth certificates and ration cards, and avail government benefits. To help slum-dwellers start businesses or secure jobs, the organisation helps them with interest-free loans, vocational training and personality development programmes. "More than services, we provide skills," says Bhandari. "Our work has expanded to five more slums in Pune covering over one lakh people."
Contact Seva Clinic, Memzade Building, 545, Bhavani Peth, Katarkhana, Pune-411042 Tel: (020)26457105/26447744/9823239229