Kuchipudi, India: Building Hospitals for Rural Communities by Sachin Vallamkonda (A’21)

by tuftsigl
May 20

On behalf of the Tufts International Development (TID) India team, Karishma Chouhan, Mike Feng, and I received the opportunity to speak with multiple amazing NGOs in southern India. TID India had worked closely with Payir – an organization in Tamil Nadu, India which works to support rural villages in various ways from health and sanitation to sustainable farming and nutrition – for seven years. Payir’s need for our help gradually decreased and thus we decided to phaseout our partnership with them.

TID India now seeks to partner with another organization. Because of TID’s focus on sustainability and empowerment, we hoped to work with a smaller nonprofit NGO. After contacting several NGOs, TID India sent a team of three to view the nonprofits onsite and speak with the local communities in-person. One of the four NGOs we surveyed was Silicon Andhra, specifically their Jayaho Kuchipudi initiative.

Silicon Andhra is an organization that works to bolster Telugu culture and support the livelihoods of Telugu people. The town of Kuchipudi within Andhra Pradesh, India is home to the famous dance form known as Kuchipudi. While the art has spread globally, the town of Kuchipudi had been left in a dire and impoverished state. Because of this, Silicon Andhra adopted the village in 2015 in efforts to bring infrastructure to the town and support its people. Within several short years and with much support, the organization achieved an impressive amount of progress. They built roads throughout the village, independent water taps for each house, a larger and clean pond structure (which holds significance for the Kuchipudi dance form), and much more.

Alongside these renovations, there was also a great need for easier healthcare access. The nearest hospital to the village is in the city of Vijayawada, which is multiple hours away by car.  Silicon Andhra was able to create Sanjivani – the first ever fully crowd-funded, multi-specialty hospital in India. This hospital would allow easier healthcare access for Kuchipudi and more than 150 neighboring villages. The hospital is still in construction but has seen 1,800 patients via their outpatient services within its first three months.

When our team visited, we planned to see their completed projects, the hospital, and see how we could ideally help with their cause. Some of the local volunteers kindly gave us a tour around Kuchipudi to show us all their work. It was impressive. Their concrete roads spanned all throughout the six smaller colonies that constituted the Kuchipudi village. Likewise was seeing how the locals no longer had to carry buckets of water across long distances because of the new water taps in front of each home.
While this was amazing work, witnessing the hospital shocked us the most. The hospital was an enormous 200 bed facility with marble white floors and beautiful art throughout its spacious hallways. Aside from many major outside benefactors, it was incredible to hear about how everyone in the village pitched in. Hospital staff explained how everyone from children to auto-rickshaw drivers donated as much as they could. Many of the staff themselves working to build the hospital were native to this village and explained how access to professional care was very needed.

We happened to also be present during a special free medical camp day, where 40 doctors (all outside volunteers of different medical specialties) came to provide their services to the local people. During this event, we saw roughly 3,000 people flood into the hospital – a much larger turnout than expected. This strongly confirmed the need for Silicon Andhra’s work in Kuchipudi.

Through our experiences in Kuchipudi and engagements with the local people, we understood how the best way that we at TID India could help with the initiative.  As a Telugu person myself and a student passionate about global health, I will definitely continue to learn more about this project and see if there is a way I can further help alleviate the state of health in rural villages like the ones we visited. I must also note: if people from across the globe can come together to build such a large and pristine hospital like Silicon Andhra did for Kuchipudi and 156 of its neighboring villages, similar projects can definitely be replicated in rural communities elsewhere.

* Picture on the left is of the Silicon Andhra’s Sanjivani hospital – the first ever fully crowd funded hospital in India. On the right is the view of Kuchipudi in front of the hospital.