‘Paropakarartham Idam Shareeram‘ (This body is to serve others.) This is the motto of the Hindu Mission Hospital, founded in 1976 by a group of disciples of His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati Sankaracharya of Kanchi Peetham to provide quality medical care to the poor, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or social status.
Though Hinduism, no less than other religions, preaches service to humanity as a form of charity, the concept of a ‘mission’ or organized effort to serve the poor and needy is less common among Hindus than among Christians. The Shankaracharya, the present incumbent of one of the oldest and most venerated of Hindu religious orders, is one of the first of his lineage to emphasize the importance of a ‘mission’ to serve God through service to the poor.
The hospital was registered as a society in 1976 and started operations in a small shed in 1982 on land given by the Shankaracharya. Today it is a large multidisciplinary hospital with 160 beds, over 18 departments and five operating theatres. Sixty dedicated doctors and 225 paramedical staff treat over 700 patients daily, mostly from the lower and middle-income groups living in and around Tambram.
It has also become the main base hospital for the 110 villages round Tambram. The rural population is treated both at the hospital and through mobile units. Its outreach programmes include:
- an annual integrated school medical checkup in over 200 schools in the surrounding 110 villages, covering over 90,000 children;
- Bakth Jana Seva: a daily free rural mobile clinic covering 60 villages;
- Narayan Seva: an intensive free rural medical camp held every Sunday in a different village;
- Annalakshmi: a scheme providing daily free nutritious meals for poor in-patients.
The names of the various services reflect familiar Hindu religious concepts and terms. These services are supported from the income from three separate endowment funds.
The hospital is managed by a board of nine, all nominated by the Shankaracharya. The chief executive, Mr D K Srinivasan, has been the moving spirit behind the development of the hospital and the massive fundraising effort that it has required. Formerly a businessman who ran the hospital on a purely voluntary basis along with his business, he now devotes himself full time to the hospital, still working entirely in a voluntary capacity.
From the very beginning the hospital has followed a policy of reliance on indigenous funding, mainly voluntary contributions from donors in India and abroad and fees for hospital services. It receives minimal funds from government. The belief is that the community has sufficient resources to support a worthwhile venture. Nothing is provided entirely free on the grounds that the community as a whole must be prepared to pay for services. Shram daan or donation of labour or physical service, a traditional form of donation, is also welcomed.
Pushpa Sundar is Director of Sampradaan – the Indian Centre for Philanthropy. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org