Raamis in India

Raamis is a sophomore President’s Scholar and member of the University Honors Program who is majoring in biology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. During summer 2012, he is traveling to Aligahr, India, as a Richter Fellow to conduct research on water contamination, child psychology and public health in a slum.

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A Richter project in three parts

I’m like to first spell out what the aims of this Richter project really are. You can read about my previous experiences in the same north Indian slum in an article I published in the Journal of Global Health. I’m also blogging about my experiences on a personal blog called The Intimate.

First, some exciting stuff!  The following pictures are taken from in and around my grandparents’ house and I thought would illustrate a quick few points.

The view from the roof of my maternal grandparents' home

There was some land available close by where I am staying. Squatters saw that no one was using it, and set up a shanty house. Land is a major problem.

I like to pretend that I’m actually of some help to my grandparents.

So, on to the Richter project! My project has three main components: water contamination, child psychology, and public health.

First, and most important, water contamination.  This is the engineering part of the project.  I am working with Professor Quicksall and his lab at SMU to perform field testing on water samples in the slum areas to determine the quality of water.  What are these field tests?  The only microbial test I will be performing is presence of E. Coli, to evaluate my hypothesis that sewage water mixes with government drinking water.  The other tests are for pH, temperature, and salinity.  Some water samples will also be shipped back to Dallas to undergo further laboratory testing.  The goal is to place these water sites on a GPS map and then color in the areas with the most polluted water.  That way, I will be able to identify where the greatest threat of water contamination is.

Second is the child psychology.  The procedure for this is very simple.  I will be working with a school in the slum and ask the students to draw something, anything they like, and give that drawing to me.  Once I have a collection of these drawings, I will select a number and ask the students to write down why they chose to draw that particular picture.  Finally, I will compile these drawings and descriptions into a book and call it “Hamari Awaz,” meaning “Our Voice,” and give it back to the students.

The third is public health.  For this part, I will be working with a nearby emergency medical ward to note down my observations on how slum residents view the hospital facility and what challenges are present in the future.  My goal is to give a questionnaire to the local doctors to figure out what strategies should be in place to facilitate a greater level of cooperation between the slum residents and the doctors.  From my past experiences, many of the slum residents are fearful of the hospital and many of the doctors have trouble dealing with the patients.

I should also note that I am going to be looking at multiple neighborhoods and slum areas within the city of Aligarh, India.  Aligarh is relatively small by Indian population standards, but it still boasts over a 3.5 million population mark according to the latest Indian census.

All aspects of this blog, from the research to the travels, to the culture, is a look into the “intimate.”  In other words, I want to look at the how and the why, to truly understand the slum world apart from my own bias.

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