By Alexis Barab

1116205_10200461990735518_173870223_o (1)Shaila Deshpande has been working with CRHP since 1984 and her dedication and advocacy of CRHP’s mission and vision exemplifies what it means to work at CRHP.

Shaila grew up as the youngest in a middle-class family with five brothers and one sister in a city about four hours drive from Jamkhed. In a time when few women received advanced degrees or worked outside their homes, Shaila received a Masters in Mathematics and went on to become a tutor and professor at the National Defense Academy in Pune.

Shaila was introduced to Dr. Raj Arole in 1984. Although nervous she would not be able to translate her skill set into meaningful work at CRHP, Shaila decided to take a chance and talk with Dr. Arole about a position at CRHP. To her surprise, he invited her to come and experience life in Jamkhed. After two days, Shaila was offered a permanent position at CRHP.

Shaila immediately began working with Drs. Raj and Mabelle Arole doing secretarial work, writing reports, organizing statistics, preparing materials for Village Health Worker (VHW) trainings, and translating for visitors. Doing this work significantly increased her health knowledge and literacy, and exposed her to CRHP’s various programs. Shaila has worked as the head of the administration department, overseeing finances, the library, mess halls, and training, and in 1998, Shaila joined students from around the world in the Diploma Course.

Since 2000, Shaila has been the Senior Training Manager, training thousands of government health workers from Andhra Pradesh and hundreds of international students in diploma and certificate courses. When she is not teaching, Shaila goes to her mother’s village where she disperses health knowledge to her friends and neighbors.

“The most valuable thing my work at CRHP has taught me is that you don’t have to be a trained medical doctor to improve the health and quality of life for people in poor, rural areas. Instead, you need to learn to disseminate simple health knowledge in a compassionate, culturally appropriate way,” Shaila says. In addition to conducting training on campus, Shaila has shared this powerful message while leading conferences in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Nepal, and Thailand.

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