The establishment of the Chingari Nutrition Program was spearheaded by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Wisconsin Steering Committee member Dr. Ann Behrmann, a Madison pediatrician, while working with Dr. Lalita du Perron, Associate Director of the UW-Madison Center for South Asia, and field term students from the summers of 2011 and 2012 in Bhopal.
Why Bhopal, India?
The pesticide plant in Bhopal, now owned by Dow Chemical, was built by Union Carbide India, Ltd., in 1969. By the early 1980’s the plant had ceased production, but large quantities of dangerous chemicals remained on site.
On the night of December 2, 1984, a chemical tank exploded, spewing a deadly, ground-hugging cloud of toxic chemicals over much of Bhopal. An estimated 8,000 people died that night—no one will ever know exactly how many. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure.
Today, the Bhopal community continues to suffer health impacts from the contaminated factory site. Monsoon rains wash the toxic chemicals from the abandoned plant deep into the groundwater serving the surrounding communities. The affected people of Bhopal were forced to wash, bathe, and drink this toxic water until recently. As a result, the community experiences high rates of cancer and birth defects, and patients are plagued by ailments including blindness, fevers, skin diseases, extreme difficulty in breathing, and gynecological disorders.
Dow Chemical Company has repeatedly stated publicly that it bears no responsibility for the clean-up of the site or the health impacts on the surrounding community.
What is Chingari Trust?
In 2012, thanks to donors from Wisconsin, Chingari Trust began a nutrition program to provide a complete meal to every student, every day at school.
Chingari Trust provides special education, treatment (OT, PT and speech) and rehabilitation to children and grandchildren of gas victims born with birth defects, disabilities or life threatening conditions due to the ongoing pollution and contamination of their environment.
The Rehabilitation center now has more than 300 students registered. In addition to the ailments they are suffering due to the gas disaster, many also are malnourished and stunted in growth, making it more difficult for each child to receive the full benefit of treatments offered.
What do we do to help?
As part of a 2011 field term UW-Madison course, "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Health and Disease: South Asia," full physical exams and assessments were done for students attending Chingari Trust for rehabilitation and education. Although most had significant issues with physical or cognitive abilities, it became clear that all were significantly malnourished—more than could be attributed to their underlying health challenges. In response, and in collaboration with the Chingari founders and staff, a nutrition program was established to ensure all students received a healthy daily meal. For a relatively small amount of yearly funding, the nutrition program can markedly improve the children’s ability to achieve better health and reach full potential in learning and life.
Where does the money come from?
In 2013, Megan Dogra, a young student at University School in Milwaukee, visited the Chingari Rehabilitation Center.
Deeply moved by her experience, she established “Assist Bhopal” (www.facebook.com/AssistBhopal) to raise awareness and funds. As a legal non-profit entity, PSR supports this work by providing tax-exempt documentation and receipts to donors.
On the thirtieth anniversary of the Union Carbide gas disaster, Ms. Dogra and the University School of Milwaukee Global Scholars hosted an Assist Bhopal fundraising dinner at a Milwaukee Indian restaurant, raising more than $10,000 in support of the Chingari Nutrition Program.
We also host Zumbathon events and send out newsletters by mail to raise money for the program.
PSR Wisconsin, in conjunction with UW-Madison's Center for South Asia, and the University School, aim to help Chingari Trust develop it's own self-sustaining funding base and expand the center's practices to help more families in the Bhopal area. We hope to purchase farm land and some livestock to help build a sustainable system in place for families who use the center for schooling and rehabilitation to earn money and raise their economic status independently. We also hope to continue to educate young adults about this issue, and many others, through an interactive focus group on the UW-Madison campus in fall 2016.
To learn how to be a part of Chingari Trust, as a donor, sponsor, team member, etc., please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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PSR WI receives reports periodically from Chingari, detailing their use of the funds received, and these reports must meet Federal and State audit standards.