We need help

Dr Colin Yarham

By Neena Badhwar

When you meet Dr Colin Yarham you do not realize that he is 80 years old with an extended family, wife, children, grandkids in Australia and a life full of good times and bad times. Yet he leaves it all and goes and spends ten months out of the year in India in Tamilnadu. Says he as he visiting Sydney in winter, “I have gotten used to the hot weather there.   Though I understand the Tamil language but can’t speak beyond a few words.”

Talking of good and bad times, “There was a very sad time when I sat next to my son who died of pancreatic cancer. I still shed a tear or two,” he pauses for a second and then says, “Oh, I love visiting my grandkids in Perth and spending some quality time with them and in Sydney with my wife and daughter.”

Dr. Yarham has spent last 16 years in India in Tamilnadu promoting health education and safety in schools through HEPI, a Health Education & Promotion International Inc., a non-profit association dedicated to the development of the health and well being of all children.

“Our aim is to work in a practical manner and in a spirit of love and care to promote the health and welfare of children, wherever they may be.”

Health Education & Promotion International has been working since 1985 to empower children regarding their total health and life skills. In Tamilnadu state HEPI works in close cooperation with administration at all levels and the initiative reaches to some 14 million children.

Says Dr. Yarham, who has spent his lifetime as an educator in Australia and has a great network of academic friends and contacts, says, “Our challenge is to combat the horrendous erosion of the well-being of school age child and youth due to ignorance, substance abuse, starvation, disease, HIV/AIDS, abuse and neglect.”

Not only has Dr Yarham spent years working in India, he has used his knowledge and network of university friends and academics to design a full curriculum with detailed Scope & Sequence Chart from year 1 to year 12 and getting them to design lessons compiled into books for each year. Not only that, he says, “Since I realized that teachers can be mothers with a family to look after they do not have time to research to conduct lessons. So we designed teachers manual and resource books for each year.” He proudly shows all the books, charts, resource manuals and teacher manuals – years of work that has gone into designing all the course material, thoughtfully done for India’s children with topics that range from Indian homes, cooking, hygiene and lifestyle as such.

“When I approached the Indian government they put me on to NCERT department and when I got in touch with them they gave me the name of the publisher – Vikas Publishing – but it was all mine and my team’s effort to get the books published the way we had visualized complete Health Program for school kids.”

“If you want to change a life you capture young children who not only carry childhood impressions deep in them they even educate the people around them.” Dr Yarham shows a picture of a school, all the litter around and pointing to the stairs which he says is the only exit for children studying in rooms upstairs. “Once there was a fire and it gutted the rooms upstairs and around 130 children perished due to an ill-thought out exit. We tried to impress on school authorities to think of safety and other measures for the sake of children.”

“HEPI program has been so successful that it is now running through 54,000 schools with 400,000 teachers and reaches 14 million children. We have thought of every aspect of health education and I have made friends in high offices of the government as it is possible for me to walk in and talk to people in administration who know that we have achieved tremendous results and health awareness in Tamilnadu. They always welcome me when I come asking.”

Dr Yarham quite humbly says, “Not only school kids but we thought of homeless children too who live on footpaths with least sense of hygiene or basic education. We said they need education too. So we designed simple books with pictures and distributed them through organizations that work and help children of the slums. The volunteers distribute our books to street kids. It is important as there’s no hope for children living on the streets yet given the chance they may make something out of themselves.”

“For schools HEPI trains not only the teachers, we prepare trainers as well as master trainers.” Says Yarham, a visionary educator who thought out health education program in minute details with the help of over 32 educators, academics and friends sourced from Australia and India and worked for years criss-crossing countries for more than a decade.

Health education, safety, risk management, education of the girl child, pit toilets for girls, substance abuse, physical and emotional abuse all have been considered in the program.

“So impressed are the people with this curriculum that the government of Malawi has asked me to institute it in schools over there. And I have been approached by Indian states of Bihar, UP and Rajasthan in the north to chalk out health education there for which I will have to draw up plans and get the books done in Hindi. In Tamilnadu the books are in Tamil language,” said Dr Yarham as he is visiting Sydney in July for a month.

“Up until now we have been funded by some bodies such as World Aid, AusAid but they have tightened the funds and that is why I am asking the Indian community here   to get involved in this worthwhile project as it is promising to see the change through this program in health education of school children.”

“I do not ask for a salary for myself as I have worked without it for the last sixteen years. Its such a good cause and that’s what India badly needs – health and hygiene and that children study and learn in a safe and healthy environment.”

When asked what does his family think about his work and him staying away in India for long stretches of time, “Oh my wife has gotten used to it. The family has given up on me in the sense that they know that that’s what is my life. I will spend every moment of it for the betterment of children.” Says Yarham with a determination stressing the motto of HEPI on its flyer – ‘for the love and care of children’.

Dr Yarham looks up and sums up in three words, “We Need Help!”

We are lucky that we have a person like Dr Colin Yarham who is a true karmic and works for humanity with no personal reward. Not only does he inspire others around him he invites them along to India as many of his colleagues, friends, family have gone and met him there and have volunteered and worked for him in India. His vision of India can only be visualized when one meets him. Not just a vision but he is actually doing it for the future of India and for the future of Indian children.

To discuss, help and donate contact:

Health Education & Promotion International Inc. P.O. Box 78,

Roseville, NSW     2069

Ph. 02 9416 2771 yarham@rocketmail.com Web: www.hepi.net

Short URL: https://indiandownunder.com.au/?p=815