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For many people, traveling eight hours into the slums of India to help the impoverished is something only possible in a movie, but not for College sophomore Turja Chakrabarti.

In June 2007, Chakrabarti, a Kolkata, India native, helped found Pratit, an international non-profit that works to create solutions to poverty in the slums of Kolkata and villages in West Bengal.

For the past two years, Pratit has focused on improving the lives of slum dwellers with medical care, educational programs and secure food options.

Since its founding, Pratit has sent two missions to the slums of Kolkata — one in May 2008 and the second in May 2009 to help relieve the trauma caused by Cyclone Alia.

Civic House’s Urban Poverty liaison and College sophomore Katie McCabe praised the organization for its work in the region.

“There is no other group that you can travel to Kolkata with as an undergraduate and perform either the kinds of different hands-on medical tasks that they will be doing or the type of educational awareness that they will be spreading,” she said.

Chakrabarti, a certified EMT, established the Penn branch of Pratit in May 2009 and has since recruited 15 students to the organization.

Along with fellow EMT and College sophomore Sandeep Jain, Chakrabarti has trained eight Penn students in basic clinical questioning and physical exams. They will travel to Kolkata in December.

“It will be an eye-opening experience for all of us coming from Penn,” Chakrabarti said of the upcoming trip. “We have been spending almost the whole last year designing these programs.”

Thanks to fundraising efforts and individual donations, Pratit has hired four local physicians to aid them in their December mission. The physicians will be under the direction of chief physician and Pratit member Aloke Chakraborty.

In addition to medical clinics, Pratit also plans to implement an educational program to teach about proper hygiene and disease prevention. Specifically, the program will cover issues like proper hand hygiene, oral hygiene, nutritional needs and disease theory.

The educational program will be “much more hands on” than traditional schooling and will be conducted by a translator and a Pratit counterpart.

Chakrabarti said the trip is intended to “provide aid and collect data.” Pratit will use the data when the group returns in the summer for a 10-week mission.

“It will be a once in a lifetime experience for these children,” Chakrabarti said of the Pratit missions. “It’s not something that they get in the schools they go to.”

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