The Friends of Max in Bombay

Mar 26 2006

{mosimage} One of the greatest challenges for The Friends of Max in Bombay is to find time and a place to get together. Bombay is a city where these resources are scarce, only available at a great premium; given the busy life the Bombayite leads; the long working hours, the harsh working conditions, the distance he has to commute from home to work. It is laughingly but very accurately said that the average Bombayite bathes and sleeps in his house but the rest of his living he does on his way to and at his place of work. One thing he does not lack is heart and when asked to give of that heart, he is there when and where he is needed. So with some effort, time and place have been made for support group meetings as regularly as needed. At these group meetings sharing and learning from each other have become the hall mark of the group.
There were close to 200 people attending the latest meeting on Sunday last. Patients and their families began to gather at 10:30 am, stayed on to lunch with each other and then to talk and share well past 4:00 pm.

The Venue was a school auditorium, courtesy of the Headmistress, who was herself a GIPAP recipient. The lunch was paid for with voluntary contributions of all participants. All workshop materials came from the Max India office supplies. Volunteers took charge of the little ones who were kept busy with coloring books and building blocks and games.

This meeting was planned with the specific objective of creating opportunities for patients and families to form smaller, localized neighborhood specific groups. This was recognized as one way to overcome the challenges presented by meeting in one large group, not only those of time and space but also assuring each voice is heard. With this family of patients, friends and families growing day by day, these challenges were growing as well.

It was decided to breakdown participants according to the areas they lived in with team leaders deputed to take the initiative from there. At the registration counter, everyone was given a name card in a color denoting the area they lived in, with Bombay divided into four representative areas.

As the day progressed the experiment seemed to work. There was great and immediate bonding and the sharing and discussions continued well past the stipulated time. Even the delicious aromas from the lunch counter went unheeded, so involved and lost was everyone in listening to individual testimonials and answering each others’ questions.

By 3:00 pm, we finally managed to tear away the team leaders so that they could share the outcomes of the discussions with the whole group. There were some very moving and motivating individual testimonials. Newly diagnosed patients and their family members were able to see and hear for themselves how others before them have coped and were able to gain much confidence in hearing from others. Patients and their families who have been on medication for a longer period of time were able to see themselves as survivors and leaders imparted so much more than just information – they were shining role models of courage and strength .

• Each group discussion had a similar outcome. Discussion of the need and practicality of meeting frequently in their own neighborhoods
• Exchanging of phone numbers and e mail ids within the groups
• Exchanging information about alternative healing programs like Yoga
• Exchanging tips about healthy eating
• Working out possibilities of offering voluntary services in their respective neighborhoods and physicians’ clinics

Follow up

The core volunteer group that met ahead of this meeting and planned it will meet within the next fortnight to translate outcome into effective action i.e. determine place and designated day on which periodic “drop in “ meetings will be organized. All further activities will be taken forward via these meetings.