Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Picture Of India: Day 2

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook, President of Children International.

As I look over my notes, I recall with sadness the mother who was holding a child obviously very young and very malnourished...or worse.

I really didn’t need my notes to recall this situation. It’s hard to put it out of my mind.

I entered what she called a home. It was a tiny, dark place with plastic sheets for walls and not much more for a roof. Grim. On a small mat in the center of this “room” was another child…impossibly small, especially considering the one she was holding.

I turned to the field worker with me who was familiar with the mother and she informed me the mom had been told to take the baby to the doctor earlier in the month. When we asked what the doctor said, her unintelligible, illogical answer masked the real story…and at the same time revealed it. She really didn’t believe in, or understand, or could afford it if she did, modern medicine. And she had taken the child to what is referred to, appropriately, as a “quack.”

We made a note to follow up very soon with a more “hands on” intervention. It’s a matter of life and death. Literally.

This sad tale illustrates something that is a frustration yet underscores the value of child sponsorship...that mother is doing the best she knows how to do. She needs to learn how to care for her child. She has never had the luxury of education about how.

Over the years, through our sustained presence, I’ve seen sponsorship change the way individuals in entire communities approach the their own health care and that of their families.

I look forward to seeing that happen here…and the sooner the better! I will be anxiously following this child’s situation. And I’ll keep you posted. But we may have not gotten to her in time, and I’m not sure there will be a happy ending.

As bad as it sounds, it actually gets worse. The father is a rickshaw puller…or more accurately, a rickshaw driver as he uses a bicycle rickshaw. Unfortunately he was pedaling his rickshaw in a part of the city that had banned rickshaws and was summarily arrested and jailed. This clear and present “threat to society” was in jail awaiting his fate while his wife and family slowly starved.

This family was also a product of the relocation group I mentioned yesterday. The lack of wisdom and basic human compassion of both the relocation and the jailing of this “lawbreaker” is appalling. Pedaling a rickshaw. Trying to earn a living in a manner that is so hard its incomprehensible to me. Yet he’s jailed for it!

Oh, and one more thing. The woman and her jailed husband are behind on their $10 per month rent and are being threatened by the “landlord” with eviction.

So, the next time you’re thinking you’re having a bad day, consider this poor woman’s plight...a child in her arms on the brink of death, a toddler badly underweight with not a lot of hope for good nutrition, a husband in jail and a landlord trying to throw you out of what is generously described as a hovel.

We’ll do what we can for this family. I will. But we haven’t yet raised a dime that would enable us to help. Their case underscores the need for a vibrant sponsorship effort in this area. Join me in helping if you can. Call a friend. Let’s make a difference.

Update from the field...In a recent email sent to me from Neeta Goel, who is helping keep an eye on this family, she reported that our staff on the ground has been assisting them with food and medical assistance. Here are some excerpts the note she just sent to me: We began giving the mother and child some small quantities of food each day – milk, bananas, bread etc, and monitored her daily to make sure that the mother was actually eating the food, since she wouldn’t be able to nurse the baby otherwise. We monitored quantities too, knowing she would share the food with all her other kids, who were hungry too. There are no doctors in Bawana, except for homeopathic ones, and although we took the baby to these ones too, they refused to treat the child since they thought he was too sick. We then took the child to a hospital that is about six miles away from Bawana. The pediatrician confirmed that the child was severely malnourished and gave some medications that would help him put on weight. Although he still looks skinny to me, Shweta (a qualified nutritionist) confirms he is gaining weight slowly. The biggest change I saw was that he was smiling, and not screaming non-stop as I had seen him do previously. Anyway, that’s the progress within the last 2 weeks. We just completed the baseline survey and the medical exams today for all kids. Once we encode all the data, we will be able to share those reports with you too.

Tomorrow on the blog, Jim shares more thoughts from his recent trip to India. For more photos and to read his journal entries, visit Jim's Journal: At the Heart of Calcutta.


Anonymous said...

Wow - What a moving story! Thanks for posting it and also the follow-up so far. I am glad Children International can make a difference. When I sponsored my second child, I picked a little girl from India because of what I've seen about the great gap between rich and poor in India. My sponsored child is also from Calcutta.

evergreen3 said...

I'm willing to pay for six months rent and provide food if someone can contact me. Also, what would it take to get the father out of jail?