The mother and child medical camps are at the heart of the Sri Sathya Sai Easwaramma Women's Welfare Trust. Inaugurated on July 19, 2005, each month for the past five years volunteers have gone out to the villages all around and beyond Puttaparthi (the Sathya Sai Mandal) for these mother and child care medical camps, which target women and children for pre and postnatal care. Mothers are seen and treated during their pregnancies, and their infants are seen up to age five. Care is also extended to any other young children coming to the camps.
Before these camps, the mothers and children were not healthy and many infants died due to poor nutrition and hygiene, and the inaccessibility of medical care. The birth weights and hemoglobin levels were so low, for example, that the camp doctors felt it was a miracle that so many mothers and babies did survive. Now, with treatment brought right to their villages, more mothers and children are healthy and thriving. The Mother and Child Care Project started with 28 prenatal mothers and 42 infants, in two villages. As of September, 2010, this loving service has grown to 16 camps per month serving all 45 villages and thandas of the Sathya Sai Mandal. By September, 2010, the Trust had conducted 860 medical camps and performed a total of 17,841 mother checkups and 35, 397 infant checkups.
Early in the morning every day for over a week per month, volunteer doctors, paramedical assistants and Easwaramma Trust staff meet at the van and drive out to the day's set of villages, some of which are nearly inaccessible. Medical camps are conducted at two sites per day. 125 doctors (ob/gyn's and pediatricians) volunteer with the camps, and take turns coming to Prasanthi to participate in these camps.
Pregnant women are then seen in turn by the ob/gyn specialists, and infants and children are checked by the pediatricians. Underweight mothers have trouble carrying babies to term, and if they do, the infants are often still-born or have health problems. Underweight infants have trouble with normal physical and intellectual development, and their immune systems are weak. So, both mothers and children are weighed in the camps, and head circumference of the children is recorded to double-check for normal development. Vitamin and mineral supplements are distributed to both mothers and infants. Immunizations are also provided for the infants. For two years this was done in the camps, and now this is done by the Public Health Service in a coordinated effort with the camps. Minor medical problems are treated in the camps, and more serious problems are referred for treatment at the Sri Sathya Sai General or Super Specialty Hospitals in Puttaparthi or Whitefield.
Simple and effective classes in hygiene and nutrition, using charts, diagrams and pictures, were held at each camp for the first few years. Women learned to cook new dishes with an emphasis on dark, leafy greens, using affordable and easily available ingredients, and then got to sample the dishes prepared that day. In fact, the doctors who conducted the training themselves served lunch to the mothers! The mothers were taught how to make Sai protein from local ingredients, and they (as well as any underweight babies) are also given bags of it already prepared every month, to help them to add protein to their diets. They learned about the stages of healthy pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care, as well as personal cleanliness and hygiene in the home.
Irrespective of caste, creed, or any other affiliation, all villagers are welcomed to these camps and benefit from them in the Name of Bhagawan. And as any visitor to these camps can see, love for Swami and gratitude for this opportunity glows in the faces of both staff and mothers.