Since 1989, with the onset of the civil war in Kashmir, from time to time KOA started getting letters from Kashmiri Pandits (KPs), mostly from Jammu refugee camps, asking for financial help to treat their seriously ill relatives. The illnesses ranged from the damaged kidneys needing replacement, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma to severe depression. In most of the cases the treatment was going to be provided outside Jammu, as the illnesses could not get appropriate treatment by the Jammu medical establishment. Also, often the letters were like S.O.S’s., as the patients in question had reached a serious phase in their illnesses, and therefore required the financial help urgently.
Up to 2003, KOA did not have an established program for the medical help of the seriously ill KPs in India. People would send letters asking help for medical calamities to their relatives or friends in US. Some of them would send those letters to KOA. As KOA’a Sponsor-A-Child and Educational Assistance Programs became known to Jammu KPs through Jammu Sabha, people became aware that there was a KP organization outside India, which was helping the KP victims of the civil war. Then, most of the letters started coming to KOA directly. As the letters of help came, KOA would publish their messages in its internet organ KPNET (no longer run by KOA) and through its publications, and even through telephone campaigns, and raise the money. If the money fell short of the target, it would take the shortfall money from the other allocated budgets, and send it to the patients as soon as possible. Up to the year 1999, we can guess, something to the tune of $4K was spent at an average per year for this cause. Then from the year 2000 onward the magnitude of the medical aid increased and by 2001 it was about $6K and in 2002 it was $7K.
In 2002, then KOA President Sanjay Kaul thought that a better way to run this program was to have a dedicated committee run it in an organized way. He got this committee approved by the Board in 2002. In 2003, the KOA Medical Fund, as the committee was called, was established. Its members were: Late Hari Krishen Tikku, Chand Bhan, Ravi Raina, Anita Kaul, Jyoti Chaku, and Maharaj Kaul. Maharaj Kaul was also its Director. A fund solicitation campaign was launched on April 2, 2003. About $8.5K was raised and disbursed to the needy KPs. In 2004 about $11K was disbursed. In Sept–Oct. 2005, $4.1K.
1. An applicant asking for the Medical Fund assistance, or someone filling the application on his behalf (for some stated reason), has to complete and sign the first page of a two page KOA Medical Fund Application form. The second page has to be filled up and signed up by the physician treating the patient. The first has nineteen questions, the second eighteen. Both these have to be verified by the KOA Liaison Officer in Jammu. (KOA retains a person in Jammu on a part-time basis to provide help in its various programs in Jammu). The Liaison Officer meets the patient and his family to get a feel of the authenticity of the patient’s information in the application form. He also reviews the page 2 of the application filled by the physician. He signs both the pages and makes his assessment on the application, and sends it by internet to KOA Medical Program Director in US. If the Director needs some more facts ascertained, he gets back to the Liaison Officer. If the application is finally approved by him, and if there are funds in Medical Fund Budget, he writes a letter to KOA President, copying KOA Treasurer, informing them of his decision of approval and the amount to be donated to the applicant. If the President and the Treasurer see no problems, the latter sends a check in the name of the patient to KOA Liaison Officer in Jammu. The latter hand-carries the check to the patient and gets him to fill KOA Medical Fund Receipt Verification form, with his signature, and signs it himself and returns it by internet to the Treasurer and the Director for records. (The form asks the patient to give the name of the bank and his account number where the check is going to be deposited)
2. KOA does not question an Indian physician’s diagnosis of the patient’s illness or the treatment he prescribes for him. The reason for this is that you can not treat a patient from 10,000 miles. Also, the American insurance companies would not support a doctor, if he is sued by a patient who was living in India during the treatment. Furthermore, American medical treatments and medicines are different in many cases than what is available in India, and the distance between US and India would hamper in the examination of the patient and the tests.
3. When new Medical Fund applications start coming, and its budget balance is dwindling, the Director lists all the significant applications (because of the money needed by the applications always exceeds the resources available to Fund, it only selects seriously ill patients for help) and publishes it in the KOA Zonal e-Mail system. The listing gives the patient’s name, his diagnosed illness, and amount of money needed to help him, and any other significant information. So the potential donors know the selected applicant’s problems and financial needs. A donor can select the patient he wishes to donate the money to. He can also help the patient directly, without the involvement of KOA, but he must inform KOA about it, so that no duplication of funds is made.
Appeal For Donations
Nothing is more real to man than a serious illness. When a man’s health flounders, his whole existence starts to crumble. Since 1989 unrest in Kashmir, thousands of KPs have become prematurely ill due to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, severe depression, all illnesses well established to be made worse by psychological stress. Refugees have a high load of stress due to having to lose their homes and hearths, cultural and environmental milieu , economic security, and self esteem. Anxiety and depression, blood pressure, and insomnia medications are best sellers in Jammu pharmacies. And these stresses coalesce over time to give birth to the severe illnesses.
KOA members’ help toward the seriously ill KPs from Jammu is an act as noble as it can be – it is the epitome of compassion. And compassion is the greatest offering of a man. I believe charity begins at home. We have a special obligation to help our community first, before helping others, because we owe something to it by virtue of association, culture, history, geography, and humanity.
No one ever became poor by giving. Open your heart today, it is the highest striving of humankind.
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