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         Passing away at 27, Vineeta accomplished in the shortest time-span what others contemplate to do in decades.  Truly dedicated to the life of others, she had the opportunity to discover what public health had to offer while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small village of Congo. She wrote:

          "My existence in Zaire was raw and  surviving.  I knew hunger.  Everywhere I went I saw it in the people and felt the gnawing pangs of hunger myself.  It hid itself in many faces, looming as the driving force behind so many of the sociological and developmental problems.  Lack of motivation, dishonesty, corruption, fatigue, suffering, desperation…death.  Hunger stood alone and was fearless in power, bullying us into cowardice.  Many times I stood alone too, yet powerless to help.

            I crusaded through my villages implementing health education and family planning programs, preparing maternal and vaccination schedules, and allocating thousands of dollars in funds from OXFAM.  I worked and worked and worked with these wonderfully warm and resilient Zairian people, and every so often I would decide my efforts to be futile.  Tears would well in my eyes as I would question my place in Zaire, feeling miserably lonely and useless.  My cries of frustration echoed through the Kingandu valley and rivers before they came back to haunt me again.  I had nowhere to run but to confront my feelings of failure and reassess my ideas of success.  Western culture indoctrinated me to believe achievement was tangibly the direct result of sacrifice and exertion.  That would not hold now.

            The passing of each day brought new light to my eyes.  I began to discover life as I had never seen it before.  My self-diagnosed predicament of despair was remedied by smiles and infectious laughter.  Faceless people transformed into living, breathing, beautiful friends.  I became a constant in my familiar.  My happiness in Zaire was not dependent on how many health centers I supervised in one week, but rather, how I could bring love and trust into a person’s life; through the stomach or the heart.  It did not matter.  The beliefs I had come with to Zaire were slowly washed away to meet the real needs of the people and me.  How could I feel inept to serve them when I was constantly showered with approval and adoration?  We gave each other strength despite the snail’s pace progress.

            I have found my life’s purpose in international public health service.  To cherish the goodwill in serving others for no other benefit than knowing you have tried is one of life’s priceless lessons.  Whether my work was grueling and seemingly fruitless at times, it was worth the toil and tears.  Work teaches a personalized reality.  I know this to be my truth."

            Vineeta was vibrant enough to have been able to combine all her interests and bring them to fruition.  Unfortunately, cancer ended her life too soon.  In 1994, an overland journey, bringing her back to her native India for doctoral research on HIV/AIDS, had to be abandoned.  She was diagnosed with terminal disease.   

            In 1995, before her passing, Vineeta was able to discuss the establishment of a foundation dedicated to public health work, her very last wish.  The Vineeta Rastogi Foundation intends to keep her memory and inspiration alive and carry out the work that was so dear to her.

     
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