Friday, May 07, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 6

We finished our last day of medical clinics, and in 5 days saw 2000 patients, dispensed over 10,000 prescriptions and prayed a whole lot. And with all this comes a sense of remorse for not being able to do more. How silly is that. Okay…perhaps not so silly.

When I look back at the 5 days we spent working in some of the worst slums in the world, I see a little speck of light in the otherwise dark cloud that hangs over the lives of these people. The smiles of the children, the glisten of tears of thanks from the parents, and the soft touch of a calloused hand that has felt nothing but garbage all of its life, gives me solace in knowing that at least for now, for even a brief moment, they feel worthy of being valued. They feel the warmth of dignity, the pride of being recognized as human, and the love that they may not have felt for a very long time.  We in turn, felt saddened, angry, frustrated, and confused at the indignities they suffer. But now, we must let all of that go, and realize that it is not easily fixed. What we did do, is leave behind a memory for those who choose to remember, the short time we spent together. The “slum dogs” and us. A memory of being valued and loved. No pity was shown, for that is not what they need, nor I would guess, is what they want. But empathy, compassion, and caring, all of which is sometimes very hard to do and give. This team, this group of 12 servants, did all that. Erica, Greg, Amy, Grant, Ashley, Kelly, Anne, Heather, Jesse, Gretchen, Sarah, and Cammie. Well done silent servants.

There are no pictures this time. I want you to close your eyes and see yourself in what I’ve described to you. I want you to see yourself living in a slum and being called as dog. I want you to make your own picture. And then burn it. You’ll not want to look at it again. But do one more thing for me. Every time you feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand, give thanks for it, because it will never be as bad as what has been dealt to the “slum dogs” of  India.

In all things give thanks,


Thursday, May 06, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 5

Sangam Vihar is one of the largest unauthorized colonies in Asia and has a population of close to 2 million. We only saw a very small part of it. The” Rag pickers” slum is one of the many slums within this unauthorized colony and the rag pickers slums have some of the poorest people I’ve ever seen living in absolute inhumane living conditions. IMG00359-20100506-1553

IMG00363-20100506-1555There is no potable water for people to drink. Slum Clusters (houses) are made of plastic and  low cost materials. People go to the city very early in the morning to collect garbage and bring it back to their slum and sort the garbage into plastic and  metal, for re-cycling. IMG00362-20100506-1555The schema of how this works is beyond comprehension. A wealthy landlord owns 1/8th acre parcels of land. He hires a “contractor” to manage theses properties. Rag pickers rent a 1/8th parcel of land to live on. The rent is about $300 a month, much too expensive for one just one family. So 9 families share that 1/8th parcel of land, and share the monthly rental cost. Once the garbage is sorted, a bushel bag of let’s say plastic is sold to the contractor for $1. The contractor in turn sells the same bushel to a recycling plant for $50. A large portion of that goes to the land owner, the contractor keeps some, and the rag picker gets a dollar. You can begin to see how many bushels of garbage needs to be picked and sold to the contractor for $1 in order to pay the rent and live. Parents do not want their children to go to school as they are needed to go out and collect garbage in order to add to the income of the family. IMG00370-20100506-1601This is one of the neediest areas for medical care as almost 20% children do not see their 5th birthday. These people are from West Bengal and speak only Bengali which makes it difficult to get jobs to earn any better income. This is where we spent the day today. This is where we saw 346 children. This is where we began to understand that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never know why life is dealt out the way it is. The haves and the have not's.IMG00360-20100506-1553

For now, we just keep going, waiting to see what tomorrow brings. And hope that it is a little better for those who live here. It is a difficult time for us. Asking questions, knowing that there are no answers. Why young girls are sold to the sex trade. Why people are kidnapped, drugged and operated on, only to wake up and find that both of their kidneys have been removed and sold for a great deal of money, and they now will die unless they can find the money to pay for someone's else's kidneys. I know that I will close my eyes tonight to go to sleep , but will find sleep illusive, as the questions are posed over and over again all the same. And if I do fall asleep, I pray that I dream that those whom I saw today, find a better life. It’s been said, that dreams can come true. Will you dream with me?IMG00366-20100506-1557

In all things give thanks,


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 4

Once in awhile we realize that all things are possible especially if you believe it. And today was one of those days.  An incredibly gifted US Medical Mercy medical team, working with an incredible India team from MoM project 253,  saw 600 patients.IMG00351-20100505-1816IMG00324-20100505-1047 In one day. Without fanfare, thorough medical examinations done, prescriptions handed out, patients prayed with and for, and with not one…not one complaint, excuse, or question. I saw silent servants giving of themselves for others. I believe.

We came back to the same slum community that we were in yesterday. There are as you remember, over 2000 children who are cared for by the ministry of Pastor Koshy and his wife Joicy. IMG00348-20100505-1537600 of those are MoM children. We decided to see as many of the the children as possible, and between yesterday and today, we saw 1000 of the children. We must move on to another slum community tomorrow, but we will be back. Soon.IMG00323-20100505-0845

This slum community is rift with evil. Drug addicts, parents selling their children for $500 to gangs never to be seen again just to feed the drug habit, girls as young as 12 years old being married off and having children at the age of 13. I examined a 26 year old woman today, who had 5 children, the first one at the age of 13. Her husband is a drug addict, abuses her, and sells her. Pastor Koshy and I spent a lot of time with her. 1 of her children is a sponsored MoM child. she never looked at us, wringing her hands, never shedding a tear as she told her story. She had lost her emotions. We examined children with dark make up on their eyes to ward off the evil sprits. IMG00349-20100505-1612IMG00338-20100505-1352They were Hindu and Muslim. We looked past the things we didn’t understand or agree with, and took care of those who came to us. Judgment is left for another time and for someone greater than us.

This slum, this place called home for the many who live here, is beyond description. IMG00335-20100505-1348IMG00342-20100505-1358The pictures may help you see it. But the feeling, the closeness of living in a small 4x8 foot room with 9 other people, can’t be shown. It has to be felt by standing in that room as I did, and feel the darkness bury my senses until I had to escape. The little boy however knows no other life.IMG00341-20100505-1356

So, it is really true that all things are possible. 6 of the teachers that work in this MoM slum project and who worked with us today, were once themselves slum “dogs”. They were taken in by Pastor Koshy and Joicy, at the age of around 12 years old, and were sponsored by those who cared enough to love from a distance. They all “graduated” from this MoM project, went on to get their teaching degrees and came back to be with those who came from the same place they themselves once escaped from. And one day, maybe that little girl who was saved from being sold and is cared for here today, will be a teacher also. Caring for those who are no longer forgotten. Sometimes you’ve just got to believe all things are possible.IMG00343-20100505-1401

In all things  give thanks,


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 3

After a 45 minute drive we came to a main street packed with tuk-tuk 3 wheel taxis, over crowded buses, people carrying a variety of goods on their heads, bicycles loaded with merchandise and cows. Several cows. Each of which had a command of the traffic and ruled the right of way. It’s India. Where cattle are sacred and people are dispensable.IMG00317-20100504-1524 Across the main street was  slum that  was to be our place of work for the day.IMG00310-20100504-0836

Kalkaji is situated at South Delhi and Navjeevan (New Life) Camp is situated right within the city. This is one of the largest slums in New Delhi. It has a population of over 150,000 people with as a large population of children: 40,000 children under the age of 14 years. The slum is known for its drug addiction, prostitution, and rampant crime. The population consists of people mainly from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where being illiterate is the norm and consists of a labor class people who earn less than $2 per day. As most of the men are drug addicts or alcoholics, the income they receive is just enough to pay for their habits and as a result the women have to work as servants or prostitutes. The children  stay at home to take care of each other or their siblings and rarely attend school or venture out of the slum community.

There is no water facility. The children have to carry water from the water trucks that come in and fill centralized water tanks.  The children eventually get caught up in the cycle of poverty and illiteracy and become that which they have been born into: untouchables. And it those children who we cared for today. We saw 400 children today, with many more to be seen tomorrow.IMG00316-20100504-1435 The team worked hard and without complaints. A few members of the team were feeling a little under the weather and a little IV fluid helped get them through the day.

Malnutrition is rampant. Over 70% of the children we saw today were grossly underweight and were moderately or severely malnourished. We saw children 12 years old who weighed 35 and 44 pounds. One child whose name is “Rocky” captured our hearts. That is his real name. “Rocky”. He is 12 years old and weighs 35 pounds and is 44 inches tall. Standing next to me, gives you a striking visual of his size. “Shamu” and “Rocky”. IMG00315-20100504-1154

Just as were were packing up to go a 10 year old boy was brought in seizing, We quickly went into resuscitation mode,IMG00322-20100504-1544 but unfortunately did not have the right drugs to stop the seizures, so we gave him fluids, IV antibiotics, and sent him to the hospital. We hope to find out tomorrow how he’s doing as we are going back to this area.

From those who have to those who have not, there but for the grace of God go we. I can’t imagine living like this. I wrote about our time in Haiti and how devastating that was. And I also mentioned that it is like that in many places that we go to. It is times like these that give me pause to give thanks for what I have and more importantly for what I don’t have: a life like what these children have. We left them with a little bit of something I hope. A certain sense of comfort knowing that no matter what they are, poor, destitute, dirty, sick, and malnourished, it is who they are, a child,that matters most.

In all things give thanks,


Monday, May 03, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 2

We began our 5 days of clinics with an unexpected treat. We came to care and we were cared for. Before we  even started the day’s clinic, each of us had a garland placed around our neck by the children that we were to eventually see. Grace. Freely given, humbly received. IMG00274-20100503-0846

We were at The Life Center Academy which is a Christian run school located in at Satya Nikethan in New Delhi. It is located in an urban area but surrounded by many slums, that comprise of Ardak Pur Gaon, Nanakpura, Vasant Gaon, Bapu Dham, Sanjay Camp, Indira Colony, Tank Jhuggi and Shastri Market

The total population of the area is approximately 50,000 consisting over 10,000 families. More than 25% of the population in these slums falls below the poverty line and of these approximately over 40% of the children have no access to any kind of education.

The Life Center Academy’s primary aim is to cater to these children and help provide them with an education which they would not be able to avail of under regular circumstances. The Academy also has a special school where they take care of children with special needs.IMG00306-20100503-1111 IMG00308-20100503-1115These children who are in the special school have certain disabilities like mental retardation, hearing disabilities and speech disorders, autism etc. Due to these disabilities, these children are not able to attend regular classes and the special school tries to help the child develop so that in future they can be integrated into the main school. This is one of the few projects in our 22 countries where a formal special needs program is established.

We worked long and non stop, breaking for 45 minute to grab a Chinese lunch, then back to work. The team worked together as if they had been doing this over and over again. smooth, cooperative, collaborative, and supportive. ThisIMG00280-20100503-0918IMG00283-20100503-0937 IMG00285-20100503-0938IMG00284-20100503-0938IMG00290-20100503-0942IMG00288-20100503-0939IMG00294-20100503-0944IMG00293-20100503-0943IMG00289-20100503-0940IMG00300-20100503-1042clinic is to be the easiest of the 5 that we are going to run. The children for the most part were relatively healthy, but malnutrition effects almost 40% of them, We did a comprehensive nutritional assessment using a computer program on each child calculating their nutritional status. IMG00277-20100503-0912We learned that visual impressions are not what they seem. The most healthy child, turns out to be moderately malnourished. A fact that can go missed, giving that child the chance of delayed development, and possibly an early death. As a result of the assessment, I'll be putting together a comprehensive nutritional rescue program that will make as diffidence in the  childrens lives within 6 months of taking part in it.

And the stories. Most are happy ones. Abandoned children who were found, rescued and cared for. Then there are the sad ones. To share the sad stories time after time, makes it seem like I single them out, but they do tell the harsh reality of life here. Like the 11 year old girl, who was found in a part of the city known for prostitution, and brought to MoM. She came to us today complaining of abdominal pain, and was seen by one our medical staff. I took her aside, and with a female interpreter, gently asked her some questions that would help me in determining if she was sexually harmed, and if she had a sexually transmitted disease. She tearfully shared her story, not one that I need to repeat, but simply to tell you that she is now being treated and will be counseled and loved as she should be. I held her for a very long time. She will do well. Grace. Freely given. We start again tomorrow.

IMG00304-20100503-1059In all things give thanks,


Sunday, May 02, 2010

New Delhi, India: Day 1

After 24 hours of flying, we arrived in New Delhi to start 5 days of clinics in 3 poverty stricken slums.IMG00263-20100501-1855 We’re expecting to see about 300 patients a day, perhaps more, mostly children from MoM projects that are centered in the slums. Landing at 6:15am, we were met by Satya our country director for MoM, and his 2 staff, Kevin and Mark. They had travelled 18 hours by train from Calcutta, bringing with them 300 kilograms, over 600 pounds, of medicines that we had asked for to run the clinics.IMG00273-20100502-1103 Checked in to the hotel, a 2 hour break to shower, then up to a conference room to package and label over 10,000 doses of medicines.IMG00268-20100502-1022 That’s 10,000 prescriptions that we’ll prescribed in 5 days.IMG00271-20100502-1100 IMG00272-20100502-1103And we’ll probably run out of medicines before the 5 days are up, and will be running back to the pharmacy for more…it happens every time. The reason being is that as we move into the week, more and more people hear that we are here, and the clinics swell, and we see more patients. We can never predict just how much medicine we’ll need. But…and here is the real important but…what we can predict, is that the most important thing we bring never runs out. And that is grace and compassion. For the most important tool we bring, the most powerful medicine we bring to the clinic and for those we serve, is ourselves. Holding a hand, praying, hugging, laughing, and simply showing and telling those who come to see us that we care about them, is sometimes all the medicine they need. Between us all, the 13 members of the team: Greg, Erica, Amy, Jessie, Cammie, Heather, Sarah, Kelly, Ashley, Grant, Gretchen,  Anne, and myself, we’ll bring all that we can through our actions, our smiles, and our touch.            And His love. It begins tomorrow. May we be prepared. Let it be so.

In all things give thanks,