I started the Milana Foundation in the summer of 2009 after seeing the utter need for healthcare in a group of rural villages about eighty kilometers outside of Hyderabad, where I was staying. I felt it was almost a moral responsibility for me and for society at large to help these people. I began interviewing villagers and formulating project plans for what I thought would be the most effective way to help these people for the resources invested. Throughout this entire time though, I was facing a great struggle with myself because I knew that I in fact knew very little. I was not in any way an expert on global health, and I was not even sure if this was the appropriate thing to be doing. Maybe there was another group of villages somewhere in India that had a greater need for a healthcare clinic. Perhaps a healthcare clinic was not the best solution for this. I was just a college student; what did I know?
The situation was not an ideal one; but I also realized that these villagers could not wait for me to get my PhD before they received accessible healthcare. The utter need that these people showed drove me to forge ahead on an unfamiliar path towards building a clinic. I managed to get a land lease and funding from a local agricultural company with the theory that healthcare would improve their workers’ productivity and reliability and thus generate economic returns for the company. I drew out the floor plans, and dug the foundation and laid the first stones along with local laborers.
What I was doing was something positive and a move in the right direction, despite the less than ideal amount of experience I had and the uncertainty inherent in such a project. And looking back, I would not have gained the knowledge I have and I would not have felt as empowered to continue working towards improving health outcomes in rural India if I did not start Milana. This project has begun to align people’s interests and it has begun a mobilization of people and resources towards fixing something that is severely flawed. So despite the less than ideal circumstances, this project is becoming something that can help countless people. There is still an incredible amount to learn and an incredible amount to do, and I am elated to be heading back to India this summer to continue work with Milana.