When a cholera epidemic ravaged a South Delhi slum in 1988, paediatrician Dr Kiran Martin realised she had to do something to help.
She set up a table underneath a tree in the slum and began attending to patients.
As of 2017, Dr Martin has helped almost 5 lakh slum dwellers in around 60 areas across the National Capital Region.
“When I first entered the slum, I was shocked. I had never seen a slum from inside before. There wasn’t a proper entrance. There were piles of stinking garbage everywhere. Children were playing with the excrement, people were defecating in the open. There was so much illness there and immediate help was required. This is when I immediately started my work under a tree to help the cholera patients,” Martin told Better India.
Dr Martin founded an organisation, the Asha Society, to help those in need. The society offers training courses to help women living in the slums become community health workers.
Asha Society provides these women with a six-month training session and also equips them with medical kits to treat basic diseases and infections.
“I began to understand that women were more open to change and they were a much stronger group. I believed that I had to contact them if I wanted to bring about a change,” she said.
All Asha slum areas now have a health centre – with the areas reporting improved nutrition levels and reduced child mortality rates. The initiative also includes programmes for children, financial independence schemes for women and a mentorship programme to help college goers.