Project Deaf India (PDI) was started in 1998 by Dr. Raj Desai in conjunction with Rotary Clubs of Newport -Balboa and Mysore, India. The goal of Project Deaf India is to improve the lives of poor deaf children in India and prevent high incidences of deafness. An overview of the project can be viewed on the web at www.projectdeafindia.org.
1998-PDI in collaboration with Gallaudet University and a matching grant from Rotary International, sent 2 teachers of the deaf to Mysore, India for a 3 month stay. They taught sign language to 350 students and parents and other interested public. In addition they taught basic computer skills to the children.
1999-Started an EHDI (early hearing detection & intervention program) in the city of Mysore and its outlying villages with a matching grant from Rotary International. A van with a soundproof cell and equipment to test for deafness in newborns was sent throughout the area, as 30% of births occur at home. Testing was done in conjunction with the ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF SPEECH AND HEARING. Approximately 50,000 newborns have been tested in this ongoing project.
2000-2001-Fellow Rotarians told of “villages of the deaf.” Took a team of researchers from NIH (USA) and All India Medical Institute, Delhi to these villages where we confirmed a high incidence of hearing impairment. The villagers were given hearing aids and a health clinic was established to treat causes of the deafness. There was only one well for 500 villagers it was contaminated, as it was used for bathing, washing clothes and drinking the same recycled water. Other causes of deafness included, lack of rubella-measles vaccination, acute and chronic ear infections, due to religious customs of putting daily coconut oil in the ears of the children, and consanguinity. Additional factors were low birth weight, malnutrition, lack of perinatal care and premature births. A 10 minute documentary was made called “Silent Village,” a short version can be viewed on the PDI website.
2003-4 The “Silent Village” visit brought to the fore the need for vaccinations. This has lead PDI to the goal of vaccinating preadolescent girls with MR (measles, rubella) vaccine. At the encouragement of CDC-Atlanta and Dr. Lou Cooper, I went to India to pursue an MR vaccination program. I learned that the SERUM INSTITUTE OF INDIA in Pune city was one of the major suppliers of vaccines in the world. They agreed to supply vaccine at half cost to use in a pilot program in Pune for the vaccination of preadolescent girls. It was determined that this included 200,000 girls and the cost would amount to US$200,000 including the cost of nurses, syringes, database management etc., which far exceeded the funds available from of Rotary International. With the help of Dr. Cooper, I approached UNICEF, WHO, RED CROSS and other agencies with counterparts in India with no success for funding. I realize that funding has to come from the government of India or a major charitable source such as the Gates Foundation who has recently donated $750 million for vaccination of children in developing nations.
I am in a hurry to achieve this goal, as at the age of 82 my crackling bones cannot manage the 25 hour trip to India as they used to!