Finding Community in Healthcare Activism

I am lying on my bed with my eyes open, trying to push myself out of the warm blanket. It’s zero degree Celsius outside as well as in my room, yet somehow I finally push myself to get up and start with my daily exercise. After an hour of exercise and another hour of preparing myself for the day, I step outside the house, with some vegetable and bread in my hand. Waiting outside my house is small family of cows, looking for their daily meal. I try to be regular but sometimes when I don’t have anything to offer, I just walk out empty-handed, offering an innocent expression and hope that they understand. Or so I assume, since I don’t speak their language.

And thus starts my work day. Most of the times, I am in the field and not in the office. The journey to the field office is very exciting and scary at the same time: riding the bus with a view on the Himalayas sort of makes you forget the rash driving of the driver, although sometimes a sudden jerk might bring your fear back. The first time I met the Jagori health team, I was bit scared; I didn’t know how am I going to work with all these far more experienced, middle-aged women, all the while being the only boy in the team. The first few months, it has been a challenge for me to not just work but also communicate with them. Over my Fellowship journey, I think I have managed it somehow. I’ve taken all the teasing and jokes that they throw my way, obviously being much junior to them, with an innocent smile.

In the past ten months, I have learnt to lead myself; I have never felt more responsible before. The entire health team relies on me to run a health project that was at risk of being discontinued due to lack of data. Asha Didi has been an amazing friend and mentor. She has supported every initiative I have tried to take for the health team and so our project moved on. Without her I could not have gone through with anything. My project supervisor is an amazing friend of mine now. Even though our first encounter was a bit tense, over time our relation improved a lot. He has given me freedom to do anything I want in terms of developing the project. Sometimes he comes to me and asks me to take a day off and relax, worried that I may be working too much. Even though we’ve had little interaction in person, we came to understand each other well.

Mahir, Austin and Aliya
With Aliya and Austin from Oberlin Shansi’s Fellowship program from Oberlin College in Ohio.

Along with Asha Didi, I met three amazing individuals who were at Jagori for another fellowship program. We supported and helped each other all the time. Being from all different parts of the world made our group very diverse and interesting. We had our weekend gatherings, where we discussed our week at work and occasionally had good laugh pulling each other’s legs. During the second half of my Fellowship, I came to realize that I am no longer bothered by things that use to bother me before. With the responsibility of the health project, I came to realize that I want to build my career working in healthcare. As I’ve completed my Fellowship journey, I hope that I produced some tangible results that can help my host organization in their future work.

Mahir finished his Bachelors in Civil Engineering in 2015. During this time, he volunteered with an international not-for-profit organization for three and a half years and took up several leadership roles in the organization. He worked full time as national vice president of AIESEC in Nepal for a period of one year post his Bachelors. He is currently working with Swasthya Swaraj Society, an NGO based in Kalahandi, Odisha. He has been working to strengthen government schools in remote tribal villages of Thuamul Rampur block. In the coming years, he wants to understand and work on framing evidence-based public policy. Mahir is passionate about personal development, and he loves travelling and reading.

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