Diane Kirwin’s work in India for more than a decade has helped build a school, put in wells, open a medical clinic, improve nutrition, and start a sewing instruction center that  returns women to their villages able to make a living.

Diane Kirwin’s work in India for more than a decade has helped build a school, put in wells, open a medical clinic, improve nutrition, and start a sewing instruction center that  returns women to their villages able to make a living.

A Mount Shasta resident, Kirwin said one of the latest developments is a woman doctor at the medical clinic in the Bodhgaya area. “This is really huge,” she said. “It’s difficult for a woman to get treated by a male doctor because of the culture. To have a woman doctor is rare.”

Kirwin noted that one woman with a female infection had gone untreated for 10 years.

“The women are much more comfortable with a woman doctor,” Kirwin said. “We are the only community health clinic in the area.”

Claimed to be the place where Buddha became enlightened, Bodhgaya has little infrastructure, rampant malnutrition, scant medical services, few schools, and is known as one of the poorest places on earth.

Kirwin initially went there with  a few toys and books for children and a vision of improving their lives. She is now the founder and leader of the Kirwin International Relief Fund INDIA, or KIRF INDIA, a registered Indian Charitable Trust.
Improvements at the school are continuing, Kirwin said after her most recent visit.

She said the inclusion of 40 new students from a nearby village that has no educational facilities is a big step.

The school now has desks and newly installed cesspit-style toilets. “I requested no western style toilets because they don’t know how to maintain them,” Kirwin said.

After an initial period of uncertainty, she said the school has a steady teaching staff, “a set salary scale and really good teachers. The teachers are kind. I insist on kind teachers.”

Kirwin noted that a group of Australians are putting together uniforms for the school children. She sees the uniforms as being great for the students’ self-esteem.

Wool hats made by knitters from Weston’s Quilting and Crafts in Mount Shasta are important gifts for the children this year, Kirwin said.

“It is very cold in the winter and the villages have no heat. There is no wood and sometimes people burn grass,” she said. “It’s a dead cold. People die of the cold. I cannot thank the people at Weston’s enough and the generous volunteer who had them mailed.”

Kirwin spends several months each year in India, and when at home she often talks to the school children by phone.
“Are you learning?” she asks.

“Yes Madame!” they scream back with glee.

To view a video of Kirwin’s work, type in KIRF INDIA on YouTube.

To donate, make checks out to KIRF?INDIA and mail them to Diane Kirwin, 317 Merritt Ave., Mt. Shasta, CA 96067.