January 12 - tour of government housing units

 

 

Our visit to the community school and housing was the final clinical day of our trip.  How did this day sneak up on us so fast? This day was full of so many conversations and remarkable experiences, it is difficult to narrow it down to a small entry.  In an effort not to go on a full blown rant, I tried to pick out the most memorable conversations I had.

Rickshaw ride to community school: 

- On the way to the community school, I rode in the rickshaw with Marcia and one of the doctors who ran the HIV Clinic. I had the chance to ask her so many questions as we drove. We first started discussing the small impact of teaching those at the clinic the importance of  hand washing.  She said what I had been thinking.  Hand washing is not a priority to many of these people who are living in poverty and do not have any access to water let alone soap. I mentioned how we had seen many using the "public bathroom" aka going to the bathroom in the middle of the street.  When we went to the Charminar (an extremely crowded market) we saw a little three year old girl pee in the middle of a large crowd.  None of the people were phased by this and continued on with there shopping.  Public defecation is a huge cultural issue that she said stems from a cultural attitude that okays this behavior.  It is a mind set that is passed down from the parent to the child.  This cycle can be broken by proper education but to me it seemed to be an incredible challenge considering the amount of people India has. Cultural change for tackling this issue, among many other public health issues, will not be a quick fix and progress with take a lot of time and patience before results are seen. 

She then talked about caste systems that still exist in India.  To prove her point she turned to the rickshaw driver and asked his caste.  He responded right away with which one he belonged to.  Like many traditions in India she said the old tradition system is being changed by newer generations but still are present.  Caste systems are not a thing in the US, UK, etc. so moving to these places is another draw because Indian's are not judged by which caste they might have been born into.

When we reached the school, I had no idea we were actually there.  It was surrounded by a high fence and it nestled in between large housing structures.  There were auto garages and heaps of trash overflowing the dumpsters right across the street. Walking in we were greeted by an outdoor square filled with staring faces of children ranging from kindergarten to high school dressed in school uniforms. The courtyard was a tiny world that felt isolated from the outside surroundings, almost like a safe haven. The square was bursting with clapping, laughter, and cheers of the students. It was wonderful. Before I took my seat, I happened to look up and see a school aged girl on one of the porches that looked down on the school yard from one of the neighboring houses.  She was watching the kids with such a look of longing on her face.  I waved to her and she waved back.  I do not know this girl's story, but to me it seemed like she wished she could be a part of the school but potentially could not be because her family could not pay for her schooling.  Seeing that little girl watching was unsettling to me.  She was so close yet not a part, kept outside by the surrounding fences. A girl like that is a prime example of how we are born into so many of the things we have.  The kids in the school yard were born into situations such that their families could afford to send the kids to school.  She was not. My assumption for that specific girl could be incorrect but I think the scenario applies to children and people everywhere.

 

Government Housing Visits- Guest is God

We piled back into the rickshaws after we finished handing out handmade kites to the students and headed to our next destination which was a government housing community. The driver had speakers in this rickshaw so the music made the drive feel like we were in a movie. We pulled into a back lot that was littered with trash and had reached our destination. We got out and were swarmed by some of the most smiley little kids. Some were incredibly outgoing and some shied to the back of the group. We were rushed upstairs to the second floor of the housing complex. We were welcomed into the house of Mena and her mother.  Mena is a remarkable girl.  She is 21 years old (my age) and is currently going to school for her MBA for business administration. Their house was a small room, a small back room, and a kitchen big enough for one person to stand in.  The door was a sheet hanging over the door.  Their neighbors poked in and out while we were there.  The housing complex had three floors, six rooms on each floor.  Each room was home to about 4 or more people.

We all squished in and sat on the floor, just barely fitting.  One woman passed around a tray of "Thumbs Up" which is  soda common in India. I gave the drink two thumbs up. The Indian way of "Guest is God" was so accurate that moment when they offered us food and drink in their home.  Mena translated her mother's story for us next.  I worked hard to hold back tears as she spoke.  I'll do my best to summarize but I do not think I will be able to do that moment the justice it deserved as when we heard it sitting in their house.  Their father died 9 years ago from HIV. He found out his diagnosis then died 6 months later.  They then lived in a shack (Mena, her mother, and 2 other sisters) for a period of time . In this time the mother and one daughter found out they were HIV positive. The daughter passed away from her sickness. The mother had discoloration on her face/neck which was from acid that her mother-in-law had thrown at her face.  We were told she did this out of spite. Tears formed in the mother's eyes as she spoke about her daughter who passed away but besides that moment of sadness these women spoke in such an incredibly positive manner.  I gave the mother a hug before leaving.

On the way downstairs we took pictures with the children who were all truly beautiful.  I think what makes me think of "beautiful" to describe them is because of their dazzling smiles they all wore. These families are literally living on top of their neighbors with not much besides a roof, some dishes, and some clothing but they made us feel so welcomed and comfortable in their house.  The final trip of the day was to another patient at the clinic's home where we were fed lunch of rice and chicken curry.  It was a very touching thing for them to serve us lunch.

  

community visit, 1:

 

 

community visit, 2: