They read this correctly: as a stark sign that medical facilities were totally absent in the area. And they responded: by setting up the ADOPT Foundation. "We started with trying to set up a medical aid centre with a doctor in Chhabra village, where we had our farm," says Madhulika, Kedarnath’s wife. Several such "attempts" later, the Banerjees began to give some shape to their ideas. "While our wish to have a permanent doctor in the village fizzled out, since most doctors weren’t willing to go and stay in the village, we started organising regular medical camps. We had already built a permanent medical establishment, so the doctors found it convenient to set up camps and give free medical aid," says Kedarnath.
First there were cataract operations that till now have benefited nearly 1,000 patients, followed by young children brought to Delhi to be treated for heart ailments. The Banerjees made arrangements with Escorts and Max hospitals to treat these children, who got the best medical facilities free of cost.
The other significant contribution the Banerjees have made in the region is the setting up of toilets. "We realised that people did not have access to basic facilities and it was particularly tough on women." At last count, the Banerjees had built nearly 7,000 toilets and were planning at least a couple of thousand more in the area. They also managed to successfully tap the social commitment schemes of several corporate houses.
With the toilet project firmly in place, the Banerjees are now setting up rainwater harvesting facilities on all government buildings in the area. "It is difficult to retain water in the hills, but with rainwater harvesting we could do something," says Kedarnath. Helped by Sushil Maity and Alpana Mukherjee, the Banerjees frequently oversee their projects. "The Uttarakhand government helped us generously. Our projects create employment for villagers. We trained locals in masonry work for the toilets project and now these very people will continue the work. It means more jobs for the people, resulting in a significant increase in their wages," concludes Kedarnath.
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