Our first week in India has continued to be jam-packed and exciting. On Thursday morning, we rose early once again and headed to our nowfamiliar breakfast of toast, eggs, bananas and some type of sweet Indian dish as well as tea. Directly after this, we headed to the preschool on CRHP’s campus to await the arrival of the 65 children who attend there. The teacher, Meena, lives on campus directly next to our building and we all crowded around her new baby, who was extremely adorable. The children slowly started to trickle in: some came withtheir parents on motorcycles and many unloaded from the large CRHP bus that some of us have been able to ride to the village and pick up the children in. They come from the poor slums of Indiranagar, the village across the street that CRHP has recently started working with. Some of the children were extremely outgoing and excited to see us, and immediately started playing catch, jumping on playground equipment and
hula hooping with us. Others were shy and stayed back, most likely overwhelmed by our presence in their small school. The walls were filled with familiar characters like Winnie the Pooh and The Little Mermaid, and some of the children wore shirts that displayed Angry Birds. While we couldn't communicate with the children in English, they loved playing with us and were fascinated by our cameras. Each picture taken had to be shown to them, and some wanted solo shots.
Once we settled down in a circle inside, Meena led them in several songs in both Marathi and English including one welcoming each of us by name to the class. The children seemed very happy and were extremely well behaved when given directions from their teacher. After Meena took attendance (almost every child was present), they broke into groups to work on puzzles, coloring and other activities. Shortly after, we left the school but not without many warm smiles and goodbyes from the kids. Many of us have seen them on our other visits to Indiranagar to do surveying for a professor here, and they remember us and come say hello.
After this, we went to a series of sessions on child health in rural India. This was a special opportunity because it was led by one of the village health workers who come to CRHP every Thursday. We learned about several holistic home remedies to some of the common health problems in children like pneumonia and diarrhea, such as steam inhalation and making a lemonade solution for oral dehydration. Shobha then informed us in a more medical session about the types of problems they have seen most in children, with a heavy focus on malnutrition in poor countries. These ran until lunch, where many of us ate quickly and decided to embark on our first trip into town on our own!
We climbed into rickshaws, and the driver brought us to a corner in Jamkhed where we paid him our 20 rupees and then looked around in confusion. Although we had visited once before, this street looked
nothing like what we recognized so we just started walking. After breaking up into smaller groups of four or five, this turned into a great adventure. My group (Shelby, Megan, Anna, Tierney and Lilly) walked in the hot sun for about thirty minutes in what ended up being the wrong direction from the center of town. As soon as we figured this out, we turned around and made the long walk back. It was worth it, however, when we finally got our bearings and were in a farmer’s produce market in the center of Jamkhed with some great photo opportunities. Although the stares are inevitable here, it was pretty cool to be able to say that we had this experience all on our own. We also found a great clothing shop right next to this where a few of us bought some tops and took pictures on a balcony overlooking the market.
Once back at CRHP, we went right into a session visiting with the village health workers as translated by Shaila, one of the CRHP staff. They took turns telling them about their care for the different vulnerable groups including pregnant women, infants and children. It was fascinating to hear from some women who have worked with CRHP for over 35 years and done over 800 births in the community, with only a few complications. They demonstrated one of the traditional songs and dances that are performed after the birth of a child, using Professor Tapler as their actress. We also heard the life story of one of the women who had grown up in a Muslim community and become a child bride in a very poor domestic abuse situation and how she had found CRHP and turned her life around by becoming a village health worker. Many of these stories are very inspiring, and after this we also heard from another village health worker about her recent election to mayor of the village.
By that point, it had been a long and exhausting day. We went to dinner (some Indian influenced Chinese food of fried rice and spicy chicken) and many of us headed to bed to sleep, read or work on our reflection journals that were due very soon. A very long but great day!