Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reflections and updates

It’s been several weeks since I returned from Haiti and India, and the thoughts keep coming, the visions becoming more blurred, the memories still clearly present. And I reflect on the purpose, the intent, the meaning of that time. I learn little from my successes, but much from my failures. When I think of what we were able to accomplish in Haiti and what we left behind, I struggle to sit still and not get going again, back to where life remains dismal and people are perhaps being forgotten. It is just not in Haiti and India. It’s in all the countries we go to, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Swaziland, Egypt, and on and on. But, when the experience is fresh in one’s mind, like that of Haiti, and the slums of India, we tend to focus on that and use the older experiences as a way to feel like we will one day be okay with what we did. But the fact remains that there is much to be done yet in Haiti. There is much to be done really, everywhere. So we are looking to make a trip or 2 back to Haiti soon, sometime by the end of March and perhaps in July. I need to make sure that plans are solid, and that the implementation of those plans are assured and successful. That takes time. I’ll use our experience in Haiti from a few weeks ago and new information that is coming in daily, to make that happen For me, every time I glance behind me, I look twice to the future. That way, I hope to never forget.

In all things give thanks,


Thursday, February 04, 2010


I'm on my way back from India after doing an assessment trip for the medical mission we'll be doing here the end of April. Slums and poverty were the mainstay of the assessment, with medical needs noted not too drastically different than what we see in many other countries: malnutrition, worms, rashes, chronic pneumonias, TB and vitamin deficiency. One thinks that after all the countries that we've been too that even though the disease are the same, the living environments are not that much different from place to place, that we would find this quite easy to do. What is different. From country to country is the people. Who they are and how they cope. Why they live the way they do and how they try to find a better way of life. The medicine aside, it's the interaction that we have with those to whom we are entrusted to serve. Each culture, each person, each community is different. The antibiotics we give are the same regardless of where we are. It's how we interact with those who come to us for the antibiotics that is uniquely different. And you may ask why. Shouldn't we be gracious to all regardless? Does compassion change from one culture to the next? No, it shouldn't. But what does is out understanding of the reasons why people live the way they do. Without that understanding, we have a tendency to miss the most important part of a covenant relationship with those who come to us: understanding, acceptance, trust and honesty. We can find it easily to take for granted that we know what is best for those who are less fortunate. We are very often far from being right. Like it or not, we put our own value systems into place, based on our own lives and our own circumstances and find ourselves sometimes making decisions for others that may leave them worse off than they6 are now. I come to this simply because of what I've seen: trying to make lives better for those who are less fortunate, when really they are very happy with what they have, and to put them in a different place than where they are accustomed, can cause them angst and confusion.

My parents and their parents, and their parents were all from Egypt and Syria. My parents immigrated to the US and I remember vividly traveling to Egypt with my father to get the extended family out of Egypt to the US to a better life. My great uncle, my grandfather's brother, was 80 years old when we got him to the US. He lived in San Francisco for the remaining few years of his life, living on Egypt time: he kept his watch on Cairo time. He was heart broken and missed his life and his country. He may have been less fortunate, but I believe we compromised the last few years of his life by trying to give him a better life than what he had. Less fortunate. By whose standards. I make not pretense in suggesting that those who live in the slums should be allowed to stay there and that it is not up to us to move them and give them something better. I am suggesting that we need to begin to understand that the life they have, even though it is hard and difficult, is in fact their life. We can make it better by helping them within their own community and make their lives where they live a little better. Displacement, moving, and suggesting that a better way of life is what they need, may be pretentious. It may be t he simply things that may make all the difference in the world for them: clean water, toilets, and electricity. But they can continue to live in their community, surrounded by those they know, in a country they love, and feel like they are better for it.

The harsh reality of Haiti remains. The confusion of distribution of food, medicine and housing. The devastation of lives and families. The harsh reality of the slums of India remains. Different, not as acute and traumatic, but harsh reality all the same.

Medical mission work is serving. I am reminded of the Anglican missionary motto: TRANSIENS ADIUVA NOS: "I go overseas to help." Medical Mercy does just that.

In all things give thanks

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

India: Faridhabad-Ram Nagar Slum

This slum is about an hour and a half south of Delhi.  Ram Nagar  is one of the biggest slums of Faridabad. This slum is located near the Faridabad Thermal Power Station and right behind the New Town Railway Station. Around 50,000 families live in this area under sub-humane conditions. These individuals are migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Most all of them are daily laborers in the power house or other factories. Some are rickshaw pullers and rag-pickers. This place has a big dump yard and many of the children between the age group of 4 to 17 years  work in these dump areas which have a lot of toxic material from various factories in Faridabad picking out items to be recycled.

There has been some opposition from dump yard gangs and Hindu fundamentalist groups who have damaged the school property a number of times in the past where the children go to learn and eat. We went to that school which was just barley in the slum area, but were advised not to go any further into the slum area. It is currently under review as to whether we will go there to hold a medical clinic or not due to the undertone of resistance from other factions. The children there are not as healthy as I have seen elsewhere. There have been reported instances of child kidnappings.


I hoping to be able to bring a team here, but one must be careful.

In all things give thanks,


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

India: Sangam Vihar Slum

Sangan Vihar is considered one of the largest unauthorized colonies of Asia and has a population close to 2 million. Yes, that’s right, 2 million. 2 million people living in an area beyond comprehension. This slum area has in it a sub-division of a slum if you can imagine that is called the “Rag picker” slum, and that is where our MoM children are. The Rag picker slum is only one of the many sub-slums within the large Sangam Vihar slum colony, and the populations is about 200,000 people, all of whom are rag pickers, or garbage collectors. It has a striking resemblance to “Garbage City” in Cairo where we where several years ago (go back in the archives to see that). There is no potable water, no toilets, no sewage. The Slum clusters or the dwellings they live in are made of plastic or other material picked and found during the garbage collections. People go to the city every morning to collect garbage that they later sort though to recycle. They make about $1/day doing this. Children are not allowed to go to school because they are needed to go and pick garbage in order to sustain the family.

They live in small parcels of land owned by wealthy individual who rent the parcel to several families living in there. It is usual a small piece of property, no larger than perhaps a 1/16th of an acre, and rents for about $300/month, which is split by the families living there. There is a middle man, or a contractor who is hired by the owner of the property who collects the sorted  garbage and pays around 25-50 cents for a bag of plastic and then turns around and sells it for $5-$6 giving the owner a cut. The Rag pickers are essentially slaves.

Here’s what you need to know: 20% of the children do not see their 5th birthday due to the illnesses they contract living in the garbage squalor. MoM is there to pave the way to a better life and better medical care by bringing in Medical Mercy. Pastor Koshy and sister Joicy have been there for 14 years and have a remarkable educational, nutritional and spiritual program going all with the help from MoM. Medical Mercy will be there in April of this year. We’ll look to do the best the we can.DSC02170DSC02163 DSC02164 DSC02140 DSC02147  DSC02141

In all things give thanks,


India: Kalkaji Slum

Kalkaji is situated in the southern area of New Delhi, and is one of the largest slums there. The populations is around 150,000, of which 40,000 are children under the age of 14 years. It is known for it’s high drug addiction rate and gang related activities. almost all the dwellers are illiterate andDSC02133DSC02117

are labor class people who earn les than $2/day if they do work. As most of the men are either drug addicts or alcoholics, the money they make goes to their addiction and leaves nothing for the family. The women try ot work as servants in nearby houses. The children stay home to care for the needs of the their younger siblings. Or…the girls are sold by the parents to gang like sex traffickers in order to get money to live on. The slum area has no water facility and the children have to carry the water in buckets from water trucks that arrive in the slum on rare occasion. Few of the children go to school. They fall into the circle of illiteracy and the cycle of poverty never leaving the slum area. The small rooms that they live in are no bigger than 5x8 with as many as 9 people living in there. There are no toilet facilities except for a small communal area that has a line that can take 2 hours before one gets their turn to go to the bathroom. The alley ways are easier and quicker. Need I say much about the sanitation? DSC02126 DSC02124 DSC02114

There are those who have and those who have not. Take a moment and look around at what you have…and in all things give thanks,