This January, the STREAM Community Advisory Board (CAB) in Chennai, India, took part in a community outreach activity at the Vel Tech Ranga Sanku Arts and Science College in Avadi, Chennai. Over 500 professors and students took part in the day’s events, which sought to raise awareness about tuberculosis (TB) and air pollution.

Opening the event, Sr. Mary Josephinal, a CAB Coordinator at the STREAM NIRT site, introduced the STREAM Trial and the important work carried out by CABs. Following the opening speech, a short film on tuberculosis was shown. The film told the story of a young boy named Ravi who contracts TB. It highlighted the causes and symptoms of the disease, and explained how it is spread and treated.

Ms. Nalini, Project Manager of TB Free Chennai, explained the role of civil society and, in particular, the role of educational institutions in eliminating TB. She congratulated the participants, saying, “By taking part in today’s event, you are contributing towards making India TB free by 2025.”

Later in the day, participants took part in a seminar led by Managing Trustee of the LEED Trust, Mr. Mathew. During the session, he discussed the spread of TB and then focused on the problem of air pollution. He talked about air pollutants and gave the example of ‘Bhogi Pongal’, a festival of harvest during which people discard old belongings and burn them.

“At dawn, people light a bonfire with logs and wooden furniture that is no longer useful,” he explained. “The belief is that by disposing of old, unused things, we purify the soul. The reality is that by burning these products in the open, people are polluting the air.” During Bhogi Pongal, the level of air pollution rises, potentially causing significant health problems for all, but particularly TB patients. 

Speaker at the event addresses the attendees

To end the day, Mr. Ravi, Principal of the College, gave a closing speech in which he explained “TB and pollution are interlinked. Neither can be overcome unless we work together”. He also stressed the importance of remaining vigilant about the symptoms of TB, and urged people to go to the doctor if they had any concerns. Finally, Mr. Ravi led the participants in taking an oath to refrain from burning rubbish and celebrating a smoke-free Bhogi Pongal festival.

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