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OU Students Travel to India

By Jon Painter
On September 5, 2016


On July 26, three students from Ottawa University embarked on a journey to India. The trio was led by Russ McCullough, PhD, who coordinated the trip with NJ Varughese, founder and president of the All India Mission in Lenexa, KS.

For students Michael Emmering, an addiction-counseling major, and Brooklyn Davis, a psychology and human services OU graduate, it was their first experience going overseas. It did not take long for our group to get tossed into the bustling sea of humanity that are the streets and alleyways of New Delhi.

Fortunately, Professor McCullough has international connections and was able to arrange for his former foreign exchange student, Dwij Hirpara, of Gujarat, India, to meet us in New Delhi and tour the city with us.

Whether on foot, auto rickshaw or jammed in like sardines on the New Delhi metro, we were able to see many historical attractions in our three days in the Indian capital. Our group was intrigued by the massive instruments like the Jantar Mantar and fascinated by the similarities between the Indian Parliament and our own Capitol Mall; it was all truly a remarkable sight.

Later we visited one of New Delhi’s most prized possessions: the massive Red Fort. Not far from Red Fort was Jama Masjid of Delhi, a massive mosque made from red sandstone. Here, McCullough and Davis were able to climb a narrow spiral staircase and ascend to the top of a minaret for a breathtaking view of the city.

We then took the metro and went to Lotus Temple, also known as the modern wonder. A quick jaunt from there led us to the architectural extravagance of Humayun’s Tomb. The next day it was time for a road trip to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri.

The adventure continued the next day as we said farewell to Dwij and New Delhi, while proceeding to rural eastern India. For the next nine days, Shanti Bhavan Medical Center in Simdega would be our home.

The state of the art medical facilities stood out like an oasis in a dry desert. Yet we were not in a desert, as it rained at some point every day. Staying at this hospital gave us the opportunity to observe in the operating theater how Dr. Prishm Mintz performed leg surgery on a broken femur.

On Aug. 6, we visited a small orphanage run by the All India Mission. The young children were delighted to see us, and we were delighted to see them. If there ever was an emotional climax during our trip to India, this was it. Their perseverance through tragedy and effervescent personality was striking.

During our stay at Shanti Bhavan, the hospital’s leadership team asked us to present ideas and workshops on various subjects of our particular expertise. Professor McCullough with Pastor NJ presented a spirited workshop on various “communication styles” to local pastors, where they translated the message from English to Hindi.

Our group was also asked to give ideas on ways to improve communication processes and customer service at the hospital. With a modern hospital located in an underdeveloped area, hospital staff had found that locals had become hesitant to come to the hospital in spite of their potentially dire needs.

In our meeting with the staff, we reiterated the importance of using considerate communication techniques while presenting customers with ways to use surveys in order to instill a patient-friendly environment at the hospital.

Local doctors practicing at the hospital told us that addiction, particularly alcohol, was prevalent amongst the local population, and problem avenues for help were non-existent. One of our students was able to provide the needed expertise.

Emmering, a Chicago addiction counseling major and recovering alcoholic himself, compiled and presented a workshop on addiction treatment to doctors and nurses of Shanti Bhavan Medical Center, along with the methods to start AA meetings.

On the final day of our trip, one of the doctors was able to bring in three local individuals who were seeking assistance for their addiction. Emmering, Davis and Nurse Phoebe, with efforts to translate and guide through the steps, were able to lead the first-ever AA meeting in the area.

It was a trip filled with many emotions, beautiful sights, diverse sounds and delicious smells. Our goodbyes were short, but our journey home was not! With a crawl through immigration and a sprint across the airport terminal, we came home. 

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