I decided to combine yesterday’s experiences visiting the homes of urban patients with my experiences today with the rural patients. This is partly for comparison purposes, but also because after some of the emotional situations I observed yesterday I wanted time to reflect so that I could do justice in relating them.
Perhaps because I have grown up in the countryside, I find urban poverty much harder to comprehend. I headed into some of the poorest districts in Nagpur, along with Seema and another member of staff from DREAM Trust. I think we are bombarded in the UK with representations of the developing world, whether it be images of starving kids on charity television adverts, or the Geography school textbook case study, “Anna is 7 years old and lives in a mud hut with her six brothers, ten sisters, blah blah blah”.
However such images and information cannot compare in any way with seeing poverty first hand. I have travelled widely over the last few years, often volunteering with disadvantaged or the needy and observing their homes. However India so far has been everything I have seen before TIMES TEN, and this was no exception.
To get to the first home, we had to park the car and walk because the homes were precariously balanced, ramshackle corrugated this-that-and-other, squeezing together in every space imaginable. Small children seemed to be everywhere; there was a trickle of dirty water running along the narrow gap down which we passed.
We had to stoop down low to enter the house, which had no door. It sounds strange but my first reaction was to look around for the entrance to the “other room”. Of course, this was the only ‘room’, tiny, painted bright green and with all the equipment necessary for living hanging from every piece of wall space. It was like an oven, sweat gleaming like emeralds on the walls.
Father, mother and three children live there. Father lost his arm after getting an infection and not being able to afford medical treatment. I realised why I had seen so many small children on the path; I wouldn’t want to spend much time inside either.
The second house we went to was even smaller, and bright blue both inside and out. The young woman who lived here lost her parents when she was small, and the rest of her family disowned her because of her illness. Somehow her and her brother scraped by, living in a room which was pretty much just a bed. A toothless neighbour came in to boast that she had found the patient a potential husband; the girl just gazed brokenly at the earthenware pot containing her insulin.
Not all the city stories were so depressing- we met a beautiful woman and her husband, who had successfully had a baby. Even the saddest story of the afternoon had a golden lining, thanks to Dr Pendsey. Another lady named Seema, whose father used to be an alcoholic. Her mother could scarcely afford to feed her children, and told me how “she had to break one roll of bread between four children”. Seema’s health suffered badly, and it is really a miracle she is alive. DREAM Trust has bought her a sewing machine and now she gets money for hemming and stitching beautiful saris.
I will only share one story from the villages because I think it illustrates best my hope for what I can do for the Trust. Dr Pendsey, Mrs Pendsey, Seema and I travelled out into the countryside- a different kind of roadtrip- driving across acres of beautiful green ‘tiger territory’. It really was like something out of Jungle Book. The village I describe was blocked by a huge herd of goats, and the jeep had to blare its horn to get them to move.
As they bleeted away, a beautiful, doe-eyed little girl with a green and golden sari appeared from their midst. She had come down to wait for us and guide us to her house, and her name was Nandini, which means, “the one who brings joy”.
Nandini is eight years old. She lives with her mother, father, and brother, who is a little older than her. When she was five, her family found out she had diabetes. For two years her family had to pay for her insulin. Her father earns 100 rupees a day as a farm labourer, and her mother 50 rupees a day, when she can work. The insulin was costing more than a third of their monthly income. Nandini’s mother explains how they used to starve so that they could keep her alive.
Another problem was that they could only obtain, and afford to buy, around a week’s insulin at a time. However, as they live in a remote village, they were having to take a day away from work to go and buy it, and also pay the travel costs.
Thankfully they heard of the DREAM Trust, who now provide them with free insulin, and will also dispense up to 6 months supply at a time. This has been life-changing for the family, and for Nandini’s future.
However, although DREAM Trust has promised to help Nandini, she is on the waiting list for a sponsor, along with many other children like her. £17 a month is so little to us in the UK – my phone bill costs significantly more! For Nandini, it is the difference between life and death.
I truly hope that through my work, whether or not I can get it broadcast, I will be able to spread awareness of the wonderful work this man has done for all these children.