Monday, October 24, 2011

Checking out

Note! If this is your first time visiting my blog you may want to have a look at the previous posts before you read this one - see the navigation on the right.

Hi again!

I am sincerely sad to report that this is the final post on my IBM Corporate Service Corps experience.

On Sunday, we went to sightsee the mountain of Yercaud. It took us about a four hour drive to get there. The lunch at Hotel Grand Palace was great. I had a portion of chicken tikka masala with garlic naan bread. What was even more exciting was the fact that the clouds literally came drifting into the eating hall - before evaporating right in front of you. Fancy! The next stop was a tiny little coffee plantation that was well hidden. Thanks to Mercedes, we got invited to join a family for a cup of coffee. They could tell us that the coffee was made from the beans surrounding their house - quite cool!

The kind coffee plantation family
We are grateful for having had the wonderful opportunity of working with Sankara Eye Centre. The hospitality has been truly admirable. We have been well taken care of. To show our appreciation we wanted to treat everyone at the hospital with sweets. 

Handing out some sweets in the canteen

The paramedics students

After three weeks of focused work, we were happy to present our deliverables to the Apex team. We explained the concepts of knowledge management and how Sankara can use it to their advantage. We also provided a plan on how to successfully implement and roll out a knowledge management system throughout the organization of Sankara Eye Care Institutions, India. The Apex team seemed to be pleased with the result.

Part of the Apex team

Receiving a gift and a picture from Dr Ramani

One of our trusted drivers

After finalizing the project, a glass of beer at the Cosmo club tasted surprisingly good. 

Having a good time after all the presentations were done
The day after closing the project was dedicated to personal wellness. The full body massage felt good. The yoga session focused on detoxication. And, it was nice to jump into the water for a swim!

Relaxed after a (well deserved) massage

I am a happy little dolphin

It was tough saying good bye to everyone. I wish it could have lasted for longer. However, I hope to stay in touch with many of the friends I made, with whom I have shared this amazing experience.

The IBM Corporate Service Corps team along with the Deja Vu staff

Apparently, I got addicted to Yoga

Overview of Mumbai city
And, thank you for having followed my blog.


#ibmcsc ibmcsc india

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One more week to go.

Hi again!

I can assure you one thing, the IBM Corporate Service Corps program is anything but relaxing.

On Sunday, we attended the World Sight Day event hosted by Sankara Eye Centre. The event took place at the biggest mall in Coimbatore, Brookefields. We were specifically invited to participate in the "Experience Blindness" event - as part of a group of 20 people we got blindfolded, mixed together, and had to form a circle without using our eyes. I felt quite helpless with no sight! Check out the press coverage:
World Sight Day 2011.
Cordula, Saken, Lisa, Mercedes, Alex, and I went for an excursion to Ooty and Mudumalai on Monday and Tuesday. Ooty was beautiful. There was a wonderful rose garden that had no less than 500 different types of roses. Just walking through it took us about an hour. Thereafter, we checked out the summit at 8640 feet above sea level.
At the summit!
The Mudumalai National Park was our next stop. Unfortunately, we were not able to go for an elephant ride due to a rainfall. The good thing, however, was that there was a sightseeing bus ready to take us for a tour. Along with 30 other people - in what seemed like a former school bus - we set out for a rough ride through the jungle on a poorly conditioned gravel road. There was no way anyone could fall asleep, and if you did not have a back problem before getting on the bus, you were more or less guaranteed to have one at the end of the tour.

Our sightseeing bus.
The guest house was conveniently located in the middle of the park. It only had five rooms, and we were the only guests. The place was cozy, and there was even a watch tower for animal spotting. It was interesting how they had dug a two meter deep moat all the way around their property - a measure to keep the wild animals away. After a delightful night of sleep, we went for some more sightseeing with the bus!
The guest house where we spent the night.
Guided walk in the jungle.
The entire Corporate Service Corps team was invited to attend an event, along with the Bollywood star Vikram. The event was hosted by the NGO Siruthuli. It was impressive to hear how Vikram had encouraged people, throughout the region of Tamil Nadu, to plant more than a million trees so far this year. Afterwards, we got served a delicious dinner.

Inspecting a tea plantation.

The press conference was conducted on Wednesday. Saken, Benjamin, and I, as well as the IBM India spokesperson, Mamtha Sharma, represented the CSC India 12 team. This was my very first press conference, so I was a little nervous about it. However, it went pretty well! Here is some of the news we made:

The monsoon has just set in, more than a month delayed. One of the days it rained extremely hard, even the locals claimed so. It was emotionally moving to see how the streets and houses were flooded with a mixture of water and black water.
There was about 20 centimeters of water in the streets.
Even my room, on the 2nd floor, got flooded. So, I had to make a dam.

Yesterday, the highly respected ex-President, APJ Abdul Kalam, came to visit the Sankara Eye Center. We felt honored to get to meet a man of his caliber - as one out of 41 in the history, he has been awarded bharat ratna by the government of India. Everyone at the hospital was well prepared for his arrival, and there were police men all over the place. The ex-President addressed his speech to the youth, and how they will play a vital role in the eradication of curable blindness in the future.

Excited about the visit from the Indian ex-President.

Ex-President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr. Ramani.

Our project is moving toward its end. There is only a few days of work left. The design of the knowledge management system is about to be finalized. We have been able to identify an open source solution that will fulfill their needs. We are currently working out a detailed implementation plan for the hospital. In addition to this, we are preparing a presentation for the apex members (steering group) that will take place early next week.

Enjoying our bus ride.
Today, we went to the Town Hall area of Coimbatore to do some shopping. We decided to take the local bus which turned out well. We spent several hours exploring this area. The highlight was, without doubt, the fruit market!

Hard work.

What a lovely cat!

The fruit market.

The pool, again.
Stay tuned for next week's update!


#ibmcsc India

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Incredible India!

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Another amazing week has just come to its end, and it is time for an update!

Waiting for the park to open.

The day at the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve was a rather good one. Early in the morning, we set off from Coimbatore and made it up in the mountains so that we had plenty of time to explore the park. We were taken around the park in a mini bus, and it was beyond any doubt that the driver was a former race car driver! We were astonished to see all the wild animals in the park - there was really quite a lot of them. To name a few: we saw elephants, deer, alligators, bears, monkeys, and buffalos. Check out the footage below. We also got to see a government-funded elementary school for children from rural poor families. 

An elephant mom, along with her baby.

Guess the weight of this buffalo! -it is about 1000 kg!
The founder of Sankara Eye Care Institutions, Dr. Ramani, invited all the Corporate Service Corps participants to join him in a cultural function at his house. We were all grateful to watch traditional Indian dancing and enjoy some appropriate snacks. We even got to wear our new outfits! In addition to us, there appeared to be more than a hundred other guests.

Dr. Ramani was talking to us.

Traditional Indian dancing.
I have always considered Yoga to be a sport for "girls" only. But I was wrong! I can tell you it is anything but easy! We have had another three sessions this week, and my muscles and joints have been pushed to the limit of breakdown. I have learned that, by accepting a certain level of pain, it is possible to get your body into some rather interesting positions.

Position #1
Position #2
I have gotten into a good eating pattern over here. For breakfast, a three-egg omelet provides for a powerful start of the day. At the hospital, we are regularly served everything from coconut milk to tea and coffee throughout the day. At one o’clock, we have a vegetarian meal for lunch. We typically go out for dinner at night, checking out many of Coimbatore’s great restaurants.
Some elders relaxing outdoors.
After reading all of the above, I imagine you must be thinking: “Is Sverre doing any work at all in India?" The answer is yes, indeed. We have had six full days this week. Our assignment is definitely on track. The nature of our work requires us to talk with and interview more or less everyone that works at the hospital. It has been some great learning so far.

Having a look at the archive.
 Yesterday, we got to observe one of Sankara’s outreach camps – a great experience. This camp took place about a two-hour drive outside Coimbatore, in a tiny little village. A total of 80 patients were expected to come by to have their eyes screened. The camp itself was situated in a run-down elementary school. A group of doctors, paramedics, and staff from Sankara ran the operation, with assistance from local coordinators. About 20 patients were identified to have surgery, and they were all brought to the Sankara Eye Care hospital on the same day. Over the next three or four days, they will all be given free comprehensive surgeries to have their vision fixed. As of today, more than 10 000 camps have been arranged, and more than 700 000 surgeries have been performed. Impressive!
Outside the elementary school where the patients were screened.

A group of patients is waiting for transport to the hospital.

Kids swimming in a stream.

They were quite excited to have some spectators.
Oh... I almost forgot about one of the highlights of the week... There is a pool at the hotel. However, when we arrived two weeks ago, the water was all green! Going for a swim in that water, would constitute a major health risk. The good news, though, is that they scrubbed down the whole pool, and filled it with fresh chlorine water. Even better is that it is deep enough to do some serious diving! I am excited!

The pool is all shiny now :-)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Checking in with you from Coimbatore

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The course over the last week has been extremely packed! Let me give you a brief summary.

Our plane from Mumbai to Coimbatore.
My plane took off from Oslo, Norway early in the morning on Friday, September 23rd. After about 13 hours of travelling, with a layover in Vienna, I finally made it to Mumbai, India late in the evening the same day. I spent the night at a hotel near the airport, before catching a plane heading for Coimbatore.   
The India 12 team outside our hotel, Deja Vu, Coimbatore.
It was extremely exciting to meet the team face-to-face, after having had weekly calls since the beginning of July. We spend a lot of the time together - eating dinner, checking out the city, and doing other activities - and have started to know each other well. We have even hired a Yoga teacher to come over to our hotel two-to-three times a week. Today, we had our first session, and I must admit it was surprisingly hard to do some of the exercises.
Guess what? I know how to iron my own shirts!
My lodging has been great, though a little bit cold. Until recently, my air conditioning system was stuck at maximum cooling! Imagine this powerful machine pumping ice cold air into your room all night – it was just like sleeping in an igloo. I was all bundled up in clothes, including a hat and gloves, in India!
Celebrating Amanda's Birthday.
Food-wise we have done quite well, so far. There has been a good variety of Southern Indian cuisine, where we mainly have enjoyed vegetarian dishes. However, I had a major incident two days ago; by mistake, I put a whole red chili in my mouth, and started chewing.... ouch!!
Check out those red bananas in the back.
On Monday, we had the Corporate Service Corps-kickoff where all the NGO partners, the CDS representatives, and the IBMers met in the conference room on the hotel premises. We introduced ourselves to each other and had some delicious Indian lunch before the Corporate Service Corps-teams started discussing their assignments with their NGO partners.  
The Corporate Service Corps kickoff.
I have great respect for the work that is being done at Sankara Eye Care Hospital, and I am very humble about the opportunity to volunteer at this institution. I recommend everyone to read about their Gift of Vision-program that is all about helping the rural poor people of India, through providing them with completely free eye surgeries. 
Information meeting for the employees at the hospital.
The rest of the week we have spent most of the time at the hospital. Our statement of work has just been settled. One of our main tasks is to help the hospital identify, map, and to put all their processes into a structure. Right now, we feel a little overwhelmed. However, we have put a realistic plan in place, and we are moving at full speed ahead!
The hospital is self-sufficient when it comes to milk - a total of 70 liters are produced every day!
#ibmcsc India