REPORT & PHOTOS BY MAHADEV DESAI
Atlanta, GA: Dr. Sujatha Reddy has been the driving force behind 30 SAI Health Fairs-a charitable forum providing free and low cost medical services to the poor, uninsured, and the underinsured. With her contagious enthusiasm and innate compassion and resolve to help the underprivileged, she tries to help whoever she can.
And so during the harsh winter weather last year, her thoughts turned to the Bhutanese people in Atlanta. The Bhutanese refugees arrived in Georgia in 2007, under the US Resettlement program. Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy located at the Eastern end of the Himalayas separated from Nepal by the Indian State of Sikkim. Many Nepalese had migrated to Bhutan in the 1800s and settled down in Southern Bhutan. These Bhutanese were the citizens of the country. However, in the past two decades, their citizenship was revoked, properties confiscated and they were expelled from Bhutan because they were predominantly Hindus from Nepal. About 140,000 of them have lived in UN refugee camps for the past fifteen to twenty years. The US has offered to settle 60,000 of these refugees over a five year period and Atlanta is one of the resettlement centers.1.1 square mile of Clarkston in Georgia is home to refugees from over 40 countries and 54 languages. There are about 5,000 Bhutanese living here. In the past SEWA International supported by 31 leading Georgia community organizations have helped these refugees to settle down and integrate in the community at large. They have been helped with food, clothing, shelter, home appliances, toys,etc. They have been helped to find jobs, given driving lessons, English language classes etc. But lot remains to be done. Mother Teresa said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”. Firm believer in this, Dr.Reddy met with Ms.Manikala Basnet,President of the Hindu Buddhist Spiritual Center in Clarkston to ascertain how best she could help the Bhutanese community. From December 2013 onwards she loaded her car and made seven trips to the Temple with warm clothing, car seats, strollers,empty suitcases, etc. And handed this over to Manikala to distribute among the needy Bhutanese people.
Knowing that the Bhutanese who are struggling financially cannot afford prohibitive medical services, Dr.Reddy decided to organize a SAI Health Fair for the Bhutanese community, at the easily accessible Hindu Buddhist Spiritual Center in Clarkston. The Center is well attended by the Bhutanese community. Its Vice President Birendra Dhakal said that the Center celebrates major Hindu and other festivals. It also holds English language classes, Civic duties and Citizenship classes. The Health Fair was in two parts; Part one on Saturday March 8 and Part 2 on the following Saturday,March 15,
On Saturday, March 8,many Bhutanese turned up for the Blood tests provide by American Clinical Lab.,Inc. The Registration Desk and Lab.Collection Area were manned by Mrs.Geetha Raghu, Bidur Dangal;Roma Basnett,Damber Khatiwoda , Shabika Subedi and Abishkar Chhetri. Volunteers Tika Rizal and Anju Chhetri helped the patients with blood tests and consultations.Geetha Raghu is a well-known and respected figure at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Riverdale. She also conducts Chinmaya Mission Atlanta’s Bal Vihara Gita classes at the Temple. Dr.Aruna Panini, of Kirkwood Family medicine-Grady Health System, provided free consultancy services. Complimentary breakfast was provided on both Saturdays by Dr.Reddy.
On Saturday, March 15,the results of the Blood Tests were delivered. Dr.Reddy requested the attendees to go to GAPI Volunteers Clinic on first and third week of the month for any follow-up work needed. Dr.Nimisha Trivedi (Family Medicine)from McDonough gave voluntary consultancy services. Dr.Supriti Balyan provided dentistry consultation. The attendees enjoyed doing basic yoga exercises with yoga expert Dr.Tulasi Vanapalli known for her enthusiasm, dedication and love for yoga. She also provided consultancy services in Internal Medicine.
This Health Fair was made possible by Sangisetty Charitable Organization,professionals and volunteers. Dr.Reddy is already planning to do more to help the Bhutanese. “Service to humanity is service to God” has been the guiding mantra for Reddy who feels she is doing God’s work.