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. Across the main street was slum that was to be our place of work for the day.
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. 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”.
Just as were were packing up to go a 10 year old boy was brought in seizing, We quickly went into resuscitation mode, 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,