Agni Raksha was founded in 1999 by two sisters, Dr. Prema Dhanraj and Chitra Dhananjay. At the age of 8, Dr. Prema was severely burned by a kitchen fire in her home – an event that changed the course of her life, as well as for the rest of her family. Fifty percent of her body was burned and the surgeon had to reconstruct her entire face. Her mother, Rosie, offered this prayer: “If you will heal my child, I will dedicate her to your service.” Prema endured multiple surgeries and her treatment spared her life. Years later, she went on to build a successful career as one of India’s top plastic surgeons and Head of the Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery Department at a prominent hospital in southern India. She is an internationally recognized and respected consultant for the establishment of multiple burn treatment centers around the world.
Agni Raksha literally means ‘protection from fire,’ and the mission is to ensure that no burn victim be deprived of medical treatment because of poverty. A medically trained field mobilizer team travels to small villages regularly to identify burn victims, the majority of whom are women. The cause of injury is primarily domestic violence, but also includes accidents and suicide attempts.
Their modest and small clinic space is consistently busy with a frequent lineup of patients waiting for wounds to be cleaned and bandaged, physical therapy, or scheduled reconstructive surgeries. All services are provided free of cost to patients. The medical need met is vital to healing and to enable patients to be able move forward in life at home and in work. But patients describe a deep sense of love and belonging encountered in a philosophy of treatment that addresses the mind, body, and spirit, believing wellness and healing ought to meaningfully treat the whole person. A patient once shared with us, “When I come to Agni Raksha, I am seen. When I go back home, I am unseen, and it might be days before someone speaks to me. But when I am here, I matter.”
Their holistic approach includes:
- Identification of burn victims
- Timely medical care including acute care and surgeries, burns dressings, physiotherapy, and home-based care
- Socioeconomic rehabilitation through vocational trainings and financial stewardship training
- Addiction counseling and referrals
- Awareness programs in schools, colleges, and rural communities
- Advocacy and networking with key stakeholders
Since the conception of Agni Raksha, they have assisted over 12,000 burn victims.