Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slum Family

It's a screamer today. 45 plus degrees. Not a lot you can do on days like this except ensure that whatever you choose to do, doesn't involve a lot of activity. Great reason to bring out the inflatable pool again, and rather than see how many people we can fit in a car (20 plus!) we will see how many we can fit in a small inflatable pool...your guess is as good as mine!

I was hit pretty bad Thursday week ago with an acute bacterial infection. I don't think I have ever been that sick in all my life. At one stage when the fever kicked in and my temperature started to soar I started to panic and became somewhat delirious! My mind was clear, but my body wasn't playing ball. I tried to tell myself to settle down, but it started to slip away from me. I felt trapped in my body as it was going into shutdown...

For a couple of days I was layed up in the clinic with IV fluids, antibiotics, anti nausea medication, pain killers the works! I still have the doobylacky in my arm for the antibiotics (there are about 5) which I have 3 times a day. During this time, Sam has been constantly at my whim and call ensuring that I have enough cold drinks to help me keep my fluids up as I haven't eaten.

Now that the worst is over, I am grateful for the whole experience as it gave me a new perspective on what we do here, and also further insight into the daily challenges of our patients.

When I was layed up in the clinic during the worst of it, the staff (most of them ex-patients) kept checking in on me to see how I was going. They also came to pray for me. Even the kids came to see how I was going, as I was supposed to go with them to the Water Theme Park on the Tuesday! Here I was, supposed to be serving and caring for our patients and supporting the team, and I am the one being cared for like you wouldn't believe. I ended up going to the Water Theme Park on the Tuesday, with the doobeylacky still in my arm, with Sharlene administering my IV antibiotics during the day! You couldn't do it anywhere else but India, and the kids had an awesome time....

Just prior to getting sick, the medical team asked me to go with them to one of the local slum areas to pick up a family. I have been to a number of slums now, but it still challenges me to think that a large part of the world's population live in such conditions.

Jeerina, the grandma of the family, who is only 35 years old, found herself responsible for 3 babies under the age of 2 years - Aamna (2 years), Shabnam (18 months) and Rukhsa (9 months). Aamna and Shabnam are her granddaughters, whilst Rukhsa is her own. Jeerina also has 5 other children of her own - she did lose another 2 children just over 2 years ago from fever and both on the same day..the kids were only 3 and 6. Two of her daughters Sahbna (12 years) and Rijhwana (10 years) help her with the babies, and do a remarkable job, however it also means that they are unable to attend school - and so the poverty cycle continues. The cause for the intervention is the state of the babies and their current living conditions. The babies were extremely malnourished - they are so small for their age (I will get Lou to put the photos up when she gets here in 3 days...not that I'm counting). Also, the team advised me that on their first visit, they saw the grandma washing the babies in the same pan where all the dishes were....they have no toilet, no form of sanitation. All 10 people live in an area that is no bigger than 3m x 3m..so when one gets sick, they all do.

Well we took the family back to the Ashram and the babies have been doing great! In fact, the whole family is doing great. They are nearly ready to head back home. We will continue to support them with weekly visits where we will teach them about family planning, hygiene etc. As part of our new development program, we will be training our staff to become Community Health/Development Workers who will be vital in providing the ongoing support to families such as these, where we believe we will not only see transformation in the lives of the people we serve, but also the communities where they live.

We often talk about the capacity of the ultra poor, and their ability to work themselves out of the poverty cycle. It is often debated that they don't have the capacity to understand the work we do nor are able to become involved as they themselves become more empowered.

I would think that it takes tremendous capacity for a grandma who has no social support, alone with three very sick babies after having lost 2 previously and both on the same day, to get up each day and continue to fight....despite the odds. I felt trapped and alone for only a moment when I was sick....they have been doing it for generations.

The strength and character that is required to get up in the morning when you are a walking skeleton, suffering from TB, HIV and alone, is huge...and they have it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ricky 'Ray' Ponting

In India, as soon as you disclose that you are an Australian, it is a foregone conclusion that you know Ricky Ponting personally - also that you are a good cricketer. I have however well and truly put that assumption to rest during a very serious game of cricket late yesterday afternoon. Initially both captains wanted me on their side, due to my size and supposed ability at hitting 6'ers. Well, my side was first to bowl and i was sent out to catch the 'big' hits that were certain to come. Well it came...and it came my way. It came so fast - and the ball they use is a little black leather one - that I could hardly see it, and rather than take the risk of it hitting in me in the face and breaking my nose (which would probably upset Lou), I tried to catch it with my hat and missed by about 2 metres....well that did not go down too well! They immediately sent me to the outfield where nothing happens.The time to redeem myself came when it was my turn to bat...well that didnt happen as I was out for a duck on the second ball (although they do bowl mighty quick or more of a peg!)! After that, no one wanted me on their team..even Sam (who had a good game) asked me to move away from him as it was embarrassing to be associated with me! One of the female spectators however tried to make me feel better by saying that it wasn't the ball that knocked the stumps over, but the wind! - they use a concrete block for stumps so I know she was just being nice.

My self esteem was however well and truly built when I took Sam to the local 'Splash' water theme park with the NZ family during our Friday day off. Scott and I became instant 'bollywood' stars when we took to the speed slide....our technique (and my weight) caused us to get considerable speed and air when coming down the slide - much to the delight of all the spectators - and we managed to 'skim' all the way to the other side of the pool once we reached the bottom of the slide. People came up and shook our hands, and the lifesavers ensured that the pool was clear when they saw us at the top of the slide ready to launch...it was a great break and we met a number of local people living around Narela where the Ashram is located and shared with them the work that we are doing.

Sam has been spending time in the clinic over the last few days, which has been great. He has shown a real interest in the work that the medical team does with the patients - from cleaning wounds, to hooking up IV's, looking at Xray's and listening in on diagnosis etc. He also spends time with the patients in the evening just talking with them. It has been a real eye opener for him and he has handled it really well.

Well it's Sunday afternoon and we are now getting ready for Sunday special dinner and service, so will post again during the coming week...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hot, Flat and Crowded

Well the Jourdans are back in India - well at least Samuel and I are. Lou and Hunter are due to join us in a couple of weeks.

On returning to India last Friday, I was quickly reminded of a book I recently read by Thomas Friedman, titled 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'. It was an approriate description for our retun trip to India! The sights, the sounds, the smells, the number of people - it all came flooding back as soon as we stepped outside Indira Ghandi International Airport. It was as though we had never left. The main difference to our last visit however was the heat....we have been experiencing 40 plus degree heat since arriving. We are drinking so much fluid...funnily enough we never have to visit the loo!

Being experienced Delhi residents, Sam and I quickly grabbed a cab and made our way to the Gibbons home in Gurgaon, where we would be staying for the weekend (the Gibbons are an Australian family who have been based in Delhi for the last 4 years and who have been great in supporting us in the move across). During our cab ride it became apparent that our driver really didn't know where he was going, so I ended up directing the way. We made it safely, and it was great to see Sam catch up with his mate Josh. We had a fantastic weekend with them and it was a great way to settle back into Delhi life.

On the Monday morning Sam and I headed off to the Ashram where we would be based for the first couple of months. On arrival it was great to be greeted by so many familiar faces - from some of the key leaders such as Kaye, Deepak and Prakash, to members of the staff such as Heli, Vinod and others ( I will share with you over the ensuing months the various team members because their stories are inspirational!). As I have shared before, it is very easy to forget the challenges that the patients at the Ashram face everyday when you are presented with a village that is very pretty and are welcomed by such positive people - a great credit to the team at the Ashram!

The Ashram had also had a couple of new additions to the community such as Scott and Sharlene and their three boys - yes three boys! - George (6), Oscar (4) and Luka (18months). They are an awesome NZ family who are based at the Ashram for 6 months. Sharlene is a nurse and has been a great addition to the clinic team headed up by Uwe. Scott, a carpenter, has been working with the maintenance team and teaching them new skills as well as adding some fantastic new things around the Ashram like a kids playground.

Samuel and I are sharing a room, which is not to disimiliar to the cube we were living in as a family, however we are now located closer to the bathroom, which will be great for the girls when they get here - we will post some photo's when Lou gets here....

The week has gone very smoothly, with Sam settling in and adjusting to the heat well...he has been swimming a couple of times with the other kids - forgot to mention that the Ashram has now got a pool! (a plastic blow up pool that I assure you is heaven here and that is so tempting to us adults, that even we have ventured in after the kids - now thats brave!)

I have also had my first driving lesson this week. Managed to drive succesfully into Delhi and back - got a little confused as I thought India drove on the other side of the road, however Sam quickly piped up 'Dad, they drive on the same side as you do in Australia!'...this caused a quick panick to my fellow passengers, one of whom was the head of the American Womens Association who is in her late 70's and who has a great relationship with the Ashram! Great start...

Anyway the first week has been great catching up with old friends and making new ones, adjusting to the heat, and learning to drive. Have also had several meetings with the team laying the ground work for the organisation moving forward which has been received well, so all in all life is good for us Delhiites!