To Dignify and Empower the Ailing and Needy

Deepa Muthaiya

When Deepa Muthaiya was given  The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by a friend in India in 1994, she was struck by its philosophy of compassion, love and care for the dying. It brought home to her, she said, the extent to which we are neither prepared for, nor taught anything positive about, something which for all of us will be a certainty.

She saw too how so many people need help with dying, and she yearned to do something about it. With two friends, in March 1998, she founded the Dean Foundation, in Chennai (formerly Madras), India, its name Dean standing for their aim: to Dignify and Empower the Ailing and Needy.

In the last 14 years the Deepa and the DEAN Foundation have worked to:

—offer free palliative care on an put-patient and home care basis to the poor and homeless,

—provide care to the children and the elderly keeping in mind their special needs, —create an environment of caring, acceptance, peace, and unconditional love,

—extend information to those suffering from life threatening diseases about choices between or combining western, eastern and alternative therapies and thereby achieving the best end-of-life quality,

an elderly woman in Chennai

—to support and comfort those experiencing grief, bereavement and loss through counseling or befriending, thereby helping them to heal and grow, and

—to provide a database on allied health services in the city through networking and referrals.

The foundation is playing a major role in promoting the concepts of hospice and palliative care in India. To date they have cared for well over 1000 patients, many of whom are elderly and suffering from terminal illness such as cancer. Operating on donations only, the foundation has a current staff of around 30 volunteers who work together with a handful of doctors who offer their free consultation.

A patient at the DEAN foundation facility

Not only does the foundation serve people inside the city of Chennai, but they have extended their care and support to outlying areas as well. In 2002 Deepa wrote: “It is my dream to let Sogyal Rinpoche know what his book is indirectly doing for so many dying people in Chennai. It is solely because of his book that I started this medical foundation for the terminally ill.” In 2003, Rinpoche gave Deepa a signed copy of his book thanking her for all her work. (See Photo)

That same year, the DEAN foundation became the first Indian Organization to be awarded the Children’s Hospice International’s Elisabeth Kubler Ross award for outstanding contribution. Currently the foundation is looking to expand its services to more than 125 villages in the region outside of Chennai and continue their mission of providing free care and support to those in need.

A personal message to Deepa from Rinpoche

At the top of the their homepage is a quote from the great Buddhist saint Shantideva taken from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying page 225, which reads:

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.

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