Solaris: Wings of Determination

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

Last Saturday Solaris, an NGO, held a cocktail dinner at Grand Bay on the occasion of their 2nd anniversary. They seized the opportunity to express their thanks to the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life for having accepted their offer of accommodating space in two wards at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam National Hospital, one male and one female, for the purpose of administering chemotherapy to cancer patients who are in the catchment and adjoining areas (eventually) of the hospital.

This service will be operational shortly, and will be a great relief to those patients who till now have to travel to Victoria Hospital, which so far is the only place where chemotherapy treatment is carried out. This is mostly done on a day care basis, that is, patients attend the hospital and are given injections through the intravenous route over a period of a few hours. When this is done, and after they have been examined thoroughly, they are sent home on the same day. The treatment is given over an average of three consecutive days, and each such period of treatment constitutes a cycle. Usually about 6 cycles are required for each case, given at intervals of three weeks.

The implication is that patients have to attend the hospital for several weeks and, as they are already in a state of distress, everything that can be done to minimize the collateral ones — such as having to travel long distances – is a great help to them. This is one of the reasons for setting up a decentralized facility for their chemotherapy, but understandably how many such points can be serviced depends on factors other than just infrastructure, for example technical capacity and human resource. These were considered carefully prior to giving the green light to Solaris, but their idea and offer of help were welcomed.

A brief overview of the activities of Solaris was presented before its President, Avinash Teeluck (who is a lawyer) took the floor. He explained the genesis of Solaris as a group of young professionals from the north of the island who had got together to perform social service, and that it would abide by the highest ethical principles of integrity. He went on to say how they had grown ‘wings of determination’ – an expression which immediately caught my imagination – and led to their progressive involvement in social work.

It is nearly a year ago that Avinash Teeluck met me in my office at short notice to present himself and his group’s project. There was evident enthusiasm, and this has today taken material form at SSRN Hospital. At that time he had told me that Solaris has about Rs 300 000 in the kitty, which would be used for the funding of the project. At the dinner evening, we were given to understand that in fact it was nearly Rs 1 million that had been spent, all of which was raised by Solaris. Not only that, but we were also shown a clip of how the members had engaged themselves hands-on in the works of refurbishment of the day rooms that were to be converted.

The point here is that it is gratifying to find that young people are imbued with the spirit of serving their fellow humans who are in need. I am not aware of what led Solaris specifically to the chemotherapy project, but that is of less importance from the patients’ perspective than the fact here were people willing to help them selflessly. That is indeed highly commendable, especially at these times when we tend to have a negative perception about our youth. Clearly, the members of Solaris, who were all present that evening, have a different mindset and outlook, and a degree of maturity that can only add to their professional standing. They seem prepared to take up many more challenges, and I can only wish them well for the future. On behalf of the patients who will benefit from their efforts, I thank them heartily.

* * *

And younger still: Ramayana Chanting Competition

On a different note, another event in which youth participation has been encouraged is the Ramayana Chanting Competition which has been organized by the Ramayana Centre, Union Park. This is being done as part of the activities in connection with the celebrations of Tulsi Jayanti annually. On this occasion, every time Ramayana Centre tries to introduce a new item, and following upon the success of the Drawing/Painting Competition that took place last year, the idea of a chanting competition was put up for this year. As a matter of ‘policy’, RC decided to limit the participation to youngsters, deliberately excluding groups with older participants, except as instrumentalists (tabla, harmonium, etc.,) to accompany the singers.

The preliminaries have already been held, and the finalists selected who will show their talents at the finals to be held on next Sunday 22nd July at the seat of the Ramayana Centre. There were some very pleasant surprises during the rehearsals, such as the rendering of a little girl barely 5 years old. It was sheer joy to watch her sing with such devotion, and that too mostly from memory.

Ramayana Centre lays a lot of emphasis on forming complete individuals, that is, persons who will not only develop their intellects and intelligence, but who will also be of good character, charitra. In fact, the title of Goswami Tulsidas’s narrative is Sri Ramacharitmanas, and as the story unfolds it becomes only too evident that the human condition revolves around the sum total of the characters of individuals. Intuitively, each of us knows what is good character – which earns our respect and admiration – and bad character, which puts us off the person, who is ultimately a loser whatever be the material success that he may achieve. And character formation is based on human values. Thus the Bala Sanskar classes that are conducted at RC, where children aged 7-11 years are imparted these values through a variety of pedagogical means so as to make them rounded individuals who will later become worthy citizens wherever they are.

Putting children on the right path from the very beginning is indeed a most noble task, and one in which all adults should be concerned and give unconditional support, as is done at Ramayana Centre.

* Published in print edition on 20 July 2012

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