Known as ‘Mother Teresa’ in the area, Rebati has been awarded thrice by the district administration.
Rayagada: In this competitive era, when most people are least concerned about the underprivileged, an elderly woman serving as an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) has dedicated her life to the development of Lanjia Souras, a primitive tribe, living on hilltop villages under Gunupur block in Odisha’s Rayagada district.
Rebati Swain, the 60-year-old nurse, has not only sacrificed the comforts of her life in the semi-urban Raghunathpur village near Bhubaneswar, but swallowed, albeit, willingly, the pangs and miseries of life in an inaccessible tribal tract devoid of basic facilities such as electricity, roads and transportation.
She made all these sacrifices for a greater cause — to serve the tribals who she considers as “children of God” for their simplicity and honesty. After successfully convincing her husband, a senior government employee, about her mission to serve the tribals, Rebati joined in 1991 as an ANM at Jagannathpur Community Health Centre (CHC) under Gunupur block, 500 km from Bhubaneswar and 100 km from the district headquarters. There were no motorable roads at that time to reach her place of posting, let alone the hilltop villages located 4,000 feet above the sea level.
She was assigned to work in villages under Kulsingh gram panchayat under Jagannathpur CHC. Daily, she goes with a first-aid bag to reach the villagers to serve them. She convinces chronic patients to visit local hospitals for better healthcare but the tribals did not take her seriously.
To win the hearts of the tribals, most of whom converted to Christianty during the British period, she learnt their language and herself converted from Hinduism to Christianity. She adorned herself with their clothes and ornaments; spoke the local language, composed and sang songs in the same language.
Known as “Mother Teresa” in the area, Rebati has been awarded thrice by the district administration for her selfless service and made brand ambassador of “Ama Sankalpa” (our resolution), a campaign that aims at providing proper healthcare to pregnant women and infants.
“Rebati’s selfless service comes as an inspiration for all of us. Her dedication to the cause of humanity is exemplary,” said district collector Guha Poonam Tapas Kumar.
The villagers were shocked when Ms Swain retired on June 30. “We feel devastated. For us, she was more than our mother and a deity,” Nayami Renka, a tribal woman, said.
Ms Swain has promised to keep visiting the Kulsingh gram panchayat and serve them till her last breath. “This is the place where I have spent the past 27 years. I feel I was destined to serve these children of God. I will regularly come here and serve the people till my last breath,” she said.