Author: Rachel

I am woman

I am a woman, stubborn and strong willed
But also a girl, longing to be held
My dad’s lil girl
But also a Manager
I talk a lot
But love the silence
I can’t read maps
But love to travel
I dread growing old
But love my freedom
My tears may flow freely
But my strength is hidden deeply
I may hate for a moment
But I love for a lifetime
I am may be a huge cliché

But am still rare and special.

Do Public Opinions and Outrages also discriminate the poor?

In the recent news, there has been a lot of frenzy regarding the torture and killing of a monkey by 4 medical students in Christian Medical College. It was heartbreaking to see this as it is an example of cruelty by very young people who are in fact committed to help other people. This is not an isolated incident, there was another report of 2 medical students who tortured and injured a puppy as well. The perpetrators or the cruelty is not the only similarity, in both the incidents, there was a huge public uproar on social media and action was taken immediately which is remarkable.

These reactions and actions prove how strong public opinion can be and if people make enough noise, the action is taken. While in these instances, the action was taken and justice was served (as some call it), there are countless incidents which are equally ignored, almost all of which include human lives. Either the public opinions and reactions are not strong enough or limited or does not follow through till justice is served.

In the last decade, more than ever people have raised their voices against injustice which has definitely led to action but most of this is limited to metros and cities. What is about animals that stir up these feelings in people? Is it because they are endangered (as was the monkey)? Is it because they are viewed as defenseless? Is it because they can’t raise voices for themselves?

We hear about numerous deaths of children every day especially in the area I work in or in similar tribal belts. Most of the deaths due to preventable causes like TB, Malaria, malnutrition, lack of basic medical facilities Just yesterday, we lost a child to Malaria, in our project area and , more than 100 children have died due to encephalitis in two months in Malkangiri, another tribal area in Odisha.

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http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2016/nov/18/encephalopathy-besides-je-killed-malkangiri-children-1540163.html

What about these children? Do these incidents happen so often that we have become immune? Or are they not endangered enough for people to care?

Each child/ human is an endangered species as they are unique individuals, one of a kind person and each death means that an endangered species is lost. Obviously, these situations cannot be solved with just the public opinion, it requires people who are willing to take risks, the government that pays attention and a lot of other factors; but public opinion and raising voices for them is a start so that there is awareness regarding the magnitude of need that is there.

We often hear, don’t treat people like animals but maybe if we paid the same attention, some change might even be possible.

I believe every life is important whether its human or animal but just because something happens so regularly, we shouldn’t become immune to it. If public opinion and response can bring justice for animals then more so for children who are helpless, don’t have a voice and are endangered.

Are they not worthy of our opinions or outrage or our time???

A little action for that big smile…

It was a hot day today and I was reluctant to go for a field visit. But work has to go on and a meeting was to be facilitated in one of our villages. We reached and waited only to find out that people who had agreed to come yesterday were now caught up in some other work and the meeting was cancelled. I was annoyed and decided to go back when Mr. Sanjay (our staff) suggested that we meet some children and follow up on their status.

Since we had put substantial effort into the children in this village, I was hoping to receive some good feedback. We visited Dasrath, who is 3 years old and has Cerebral Palsy. I was hoping to see him in a better position but we met him in the same state as a lot of children with disabilities, neglected, alone and on his bed.

Children with CP are usually required to have different positions which benefit their posture and various other things but since there is no one at home to take care of him when his parents go to work, he spends the entire day lying down, unable to interact with anybody. His parents are generally supportive people but since progress is very slow, they tend to give up and the other obligations are prioritised. This added to our frustrations but we stopped to talk to his siblings and his uncle and explained the benefits of making him sit and teaching him to interact.

As we planned to leave with our frustrations, Mr. Sanjay decided that it was not enough if we just visited over and over again and explained the child’s condition and he wanted to go further.

Please follow the photographs to see what happened.

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This is how he stays, alone
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He seemed excited about sitting but needed some modification for balance.
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Mr. Sanjay initiated the modification
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The kids joined in….
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The uncle took over and the structure was complete.
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He was seeing people from a different angle and hence more interactive.
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Modification for support made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The problem was that he had to made to sit, the usual solutions are fancy items like CP chair or corner chair which are non-available locally  and even if available, unaffordable. A small idea by our staff and half an hour of our time changed the way Dasrath looks at things now.  The family has promised to make other modifications as well.

When we work with communities and work towards empowerment, we focus so much on “Helping them to help themselves”. We talk and explain and then expect them to act and get frustrated when change does not happen the way we expect. We sometimes miss the umpteen opportunities to initiate change a different way Sometimes, action has to be initiated from our side as well, a nudge; a little hand-holding can go a long way. It does not have to be resource intensive, simple gestures and initiatives can make a world of difference.Untitled8

As I left their house, I left my frustrations behind and carried with me the image of his smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Reading, God Bless

(Consent was taken from his parents)

Women – Beyond all adjectives

It’s that time of the year when words like strong, independent, multitasker and a whole lot of adjectives are used to describe women and various events are held, women are appreciated and then we move on. I pride myself on being one of these, strong, independent working woman. But often these adjectives conjure an image of a certain type or class of women (If I may say so), women with professional careers, balancing their home and work etc. Very seldom, have I used these adjectives to describe women in the place I work in and I have also not come across many whom immediately think of women in rural areas.

But today, I met somebody, who embodies all of this and so much more. Sushma Devi, is 21 years old from a village in the Satbarwa Block. I have known her for the past 4 years since her husband used to work with us in the project.

She had come alone to the hospital, to get her 3 months old baby girl vaccinated. As she waited to go back, I met her; we talked and ended up having lunch together. As we talked she shared the challenges of living in a remote village, her dreams for her children (2 years and 3 month old children) and their education, the plans they had as a family. She also shared the stress and challenges with her work. It was not very different from what I am going through.

I manage a project for People with Disabilities with 8 staffs. She works for an organization in the post of “Active Woman”. The NGO works with SHGs and for women empowerment.  She manages about 140 women in 14 groups. She attends 3 meetings, a day and supervises their work. In addition, she manages her entire household, takes care of both her children and her sick mother-in-law. She is 21 years old and hasn’t completed her graduation since she had her delivery during her exams. She plans to write it again this year and wants to try for a better job. She is both a mother and a manager, now that is multitasking.

Even though she has a job outside, since her husband is busy with his work, the entire management falls on her delicate shoulders. Through all this, she had found time to study and pursue a higher education.

As we talked, I reflected on all the times, I complained about the amount of work I have, the difficulties, the stress and many other silly things but compared to her life, I have had the luxury of a comfortable life. There are many people who appreciate the work I do, encourage me and support me when I am done. I am not so sure, if she even has time to ventilate to anybody and seek comfort and encouragement. Also there is almost no one in her social circle to encourage her and appreciate her work which could motivate her to try harder or try different things. But she continues this pursuit without complaining and with a lot of determination.

I thought, I was strong and independent but after meeting her, I feel there are so many women who go about their daily life, unnoticed, unappreciated and unrecognised. They work in adverse conditions, managing their homes and families, being strong for them.

It hardly makes a difference in their lives, if its women’s day or if their efforts are appreciated. While the world celebrates Women’s day or week or month or women as heroes, there are many whose lives are untouched by all this. But they silently live each day, move on, selflessly doing what they do whether they are appreciated or not. They keep going because the only way to survive is to ‘Stay Strong’.

She is one among many, many women who are in similar situations. But I would take the liberty to say that she is among the few privileged ones as she has a good family and a very supportive husband. A Majority of the girls get married early and that is the only thing they are prepared for since they are born. They don’t even dare to dream. Although there is so much work going on for the empowerment of women, there are so many who do not enjoy the basic right to life- a life of dignity and fulfilment.

Often it feels like things might not ever change or take a long time but when there are women like Sushma, there is a glint of hope. With every woman she meets, am sure she leaves a trace of her determination and continues to inspire them. It’s these women who are the real heroes, who need to be encouraged, appreciated and enabled to continue to make a difference.

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” – Helen Keller

Thank you

What unites us? Tragedy or good times?

For the past 2 weeks or even more, every time I check the news, I look for updates on Chennai, the rains, the flood, the relief. Why do I care so much when I am living more than 1000 kms away?? Chennai is my city, my home; it was where I spent 5 important years of my life, most of friends and my family live in Chennai.

Chennai: People rescue from their Watter lodged houses during heavy rains in Chennai on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI12_2_2015_000351A)
Web pictures

Of late, Chennai has been witnessing the worst rains and floods, nature’s fury was unleased as rains lashed mercilessly but Chennai has also witnessed peaks of humanity. Very few disasters have had such response from within its people. The expanse of the help rendered by Chennaiiteis is unbelievable. It is not NGOs or government that took initiatives. It was every day Chennaiites who opened their homes, distributed food, offered rides. A lot of corporate companies, franchises have also come forward to support each other. It has also spread to other neighbouring cities like Bangalore as well. It’s amazing hNYT2008112822242898Cow one tragedy can bring people from all walks of life together and make them so selfless.

But the one question amidst all this is, Do only tragedies unite us as a state, country, as people and as humanity? The Nirbhaya rape, Mumbai attack, the Chennai Floods or the Paris attack; what is it about grief and suffering that brings us together that happiness and joy cannot do? Are we able to share others grief but not celebrate their victories? I am not sure what the answer is, but sure, I and almost every india-rape-casesingle human being would prefer that it was a celebration and not a tragedy that brings us together. Do we have to wait for yet another tragedy to appreciate our neighbours and friends? Shouldn’t we unite for a better government, unite for prevention of natural disasters, prevention of injustice.

It is amazing now we can stand together in grief and pain and this is important but I think it is also important to appreciate people we live with every day. It is important to unite to celebrate, unite for justice, and unite to celebrate other’s victory, and finally unite to make the world a better place.

Finally, I leave you with this question to ponder upon: why do our tragedies unites us but not our good times?

Note: Please do continue to pray for Chennai and its people.

The Invisibles – Now you see them, now you don’t

In any project, selecting the target area is crucial as it determines the kind of people we would be able to reach out. With this in mind, we in the CBR project set out for an exploratory visit to the project area. The task sounded easy but as our team set out, there were various challenges varying from broken roads to overflowing rivers and finding most people in the fields busy with agriculture. But nothing could compare to this particular challenge, “not finding People with Disabilities”. Most villagers we had asked claimed there were no people with disabilities in our village, some claimed “oh that lame man, I think he died a couple of years ago or that mental child, I don’t think she survived”. Most people we met seemed very sure there were no people with disabilities in their village and some even proudly stated so.

It should actually be good news, unfortunately it isn’t. According to the WHO statistics, 15 % of every population world-wide has a disability (World Report on Disability). According to our secondary government records, at least 1-2 % of every population are people with Disabilities.  But in our experiences, they are often not found, people do not know them, they are forgotten or invisible. Often, families hide the fact that they have a child or an adult with disability in their families they feel ashamed and this often leads to them being neglected, uncared for. And without any care, they deteriorate further, are constantly dependant, a burden to the family and finally lose all dignity.

But during one of our visits, a call came through to one of our staff from the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre. He urgently wanted names and contacts of a few PWDs. I wondered why there was such a hurry to find random PWDs. I found out that, since the Independence Day was coming up in 2 days, they wanted to distribute some aids and appliances from the Department of Social Welfare. So suddenly, PWDs were in demand, it may be a good thing and someone in need could actually benefit. But what annoyed me was that the PWDs were sought after for a day or two in a year.

We met the officer in charge and he expressed that this would be an opportunity to showcase the activities of the department. It felt like the PWDs in need were on display for the world to see what the Department could achieve. There would be photographs and news reports and heaps of praise but the PWDs would go back to being invisible. However we referred a young girl with severe physical impairment who would benefit from a tricycle. I found out today that she couldn’t go and receive the tricycle. I wonder if she will be on record somewhere, if she will ever be sought out again, if she will ever get another chance, if she and many other PWDs be visible throughout the year.

Some may argue that at least they are getting something, I disagree, and they don’t need our pity or charity to be given something. They deserve better, a better life, a better future and better attention. The least we can do is to acknowledge their presence amidst us and make them more visible.

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Thank you

No more “Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”…

For ages, development, social work, social change and many other professions focusing on empowerment have had the old Chinese Proverb as a guiding Star “ Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”.

We have followed this in our work and have communicated it strongly as a principle. But just today I came across a very interesting modification to this principle. This has been outlined in the “Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change”.

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Source: Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change pg no: 6

Often a lot of development activities done under this banner, end up teaching the community to fish claiming that it is sustainable. In working with People with disabilities in our project, it means that providing services makes them dependent for life but teaching them skills makes them independent or empowered for life. But in this complex society that is undergoing constant change, the skills that they learn are dependent on the circumstances. As long as the river or the circumstances are favorable, they would be able to use their skills but when things change, they either have to learn new skills or end up where they started.

But as this new twist to the Chinese Proverb suggests, organizing of Community would help them come up their own solutions. This is often overlooked in development activities. We say we believe that Community has strengths but often don’t act on it. This often leads to project driven interventions which have quicker results but often last only till the situation remains the same.

We in the Community Based Rehabilitation Project are moving to the next phase and are planning to expand our work and follow the Community Organizing (CO) process with People with Disabilities. In our previous experience, the CO process has been difficult and time taking as it does not yield immediate results. But coming across this new twist to our guiding principle has been encouraging.

I am looking forward to this new phase in our project and although the future looks hazy and the task is huge. I hope as a team, we would develop an attitude that, people, even the most helpless ones have inherent strengths that can be developed. I pray that as we move ahead, we will be able to facilitate our communities to come together for social change, no matter how difficult the work gets. This we believe would result in transformation and restore hope.

Happy Reading

God Bless…

Sound of Silence

As on June 30th we had finished our project cycle of three years. The past three years was an amazing but strenuous experience, especially the last 6 months as we frenzied through activities leaving all of us in our team exhausted. Hence a retreat was planned for the team away from all the noise and work in a place about 200 kms away. We stayed in an abandoned but beautiful retreat centre.

The 2 days away from all the chaos was a blessing and the 1st session was one of the most interesting times. It was part of the devotion and we had found a beautiful spot, which most probably was a popular spot as there were stone benches, greenery all around and peaceful. Our facilitator asked, all of us to grab a bench each and spend some time silently. He encouraged us to close our eyes and just listen to the sounds around us.

I chose the farthest bench in a hurry to get away from everything and as I closed my eyes, breathed the cool fresh air and listened unintentionally to all the sounds of around me. It was blissful…. Those 15 minutes in silence actually helped and as I sat there, I put all I heard into words and out came this silly poem, hope you enjoy it.

P.S. It doesn’t rhyme but bear with me, I was in a trance, ha ha ….

The sweet sound of silence

Can be heard only in the quiet

The rhythmic beating of your heart

The distant crow of the roosterPhoto6080

The occasional sound of a vehicle passing by

The song of the Koel

The constant chirping of the Crickets

All this and more

Can be only heard

In the sweet sound of silence

Clam your heart

Close your eyes

Open your ears

And enjoy the sweet sound of silence

I strongly encourage everyone reading this, if you’r rushing through life, stop, take a break, go somewhere far away from work, breathe some fresh air, close your eyes, open your ears and enjoy the sweet sound of silence.

Note: More pictures of this amazing place coming up in the next post.

Happy Reading, God Bless…

Water- the Elixir of Life or May be Not…

This was my first visit to Chukru, a small village in the Palamu district. Although I had heard quite a bit about the village, it did not prepare me for what I saw and heard. Here is an account of my experience of my field visit, a very familiar but tragic tale.

Chukru is notoriously well known as the village, with record number of people affected with Skeletal Fluorosis, a condition caused by extensive exposure to Fluorine content in the water. A limited exposure would lead to the dental condition, Fluorosis but a chronic exposure could scar you for life. But Chukru is not only famous for this issue but also the extensive amount of work done on paper and feeble attempts in reality both by government and non- government agencies.

It is said that almost every NGO who initiated work in the Palamu district (one of the most backward districts in the state) had visited the village, made promises only to never come back. The people of the village, frustrated have lost hope and are afraid to trust any more.

I had visited the village because our staff shared that they were finding it difficult to reach out to people (we work with people with disabilities and their rights) as they didn’t want to even access their rights which were available.

Here are lives of two families I met, which is a representation of almost every family in the village.

Upendar is 9 years old, a happy go lucky kid just catching few minutes of play before school started. As I stopped to chat with him, I found that both he and his brother Ajay have been victims to this dreadful condition. Although other discussions held in the village showed that most people who were affected, manifested symptoms only after their twenties.

As we talked, his mother walked in nonchalantly (not a usual sight in the village, especially when there are strangers in your house). She didn’t seem expectant at all, giving me the feeling that she was used to people interviewing their family. Still determined, I sat to talk to her as well. She shared of her three children, both the boys were the ones affected.

The family had also spent a lot of money in treatment and finally gave up as they did not get any medical help.I told her that I had met her son and that he was a bright kid. She beamed as she proudly declared that she was determined to give both her sons good education, as it was the only source of hope.

The other family I met were a couple both very old and had lived with this condition for almost 30 years. In addition to this, they also do not have any children and are dependent on each other. Both of them shared they had adjusted to this life and have no expectations of any change.

A crowd had gathered around us and people were enquiring was this the meeting that was supposed to happen. I was surprised as we did not plan any meeting, when we found out that another “NGO” had come to hold a meeting to discuss the issue. People shared that this was a non-stop happening as the village has been a constant attraction. They asked me what would I do, I didn’t have an answer.

We explained that we are not here to solve their water crisis rather to work with people who are already affected. We enquired if the people had taken any steps, they shared that they had protests, marches but each time same promises were made to shut them up. I have no clue what we will be able to do in this village as everyday people are still drinking the same infected water and just waiting for the worst to happen, a destiny they feel that cannot be changed.

We, in the project don’t want to be just another NGO with promises, the magnitude of the problem scares me but am reassured by this very familiar verse “My Grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in your weakness”. I am not sure of the way forward but one thing I know is that for any sustainable change to happen, it is absolutely necessary for people to be part of that process. I believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel in Chukru; it’s just a matter of time till we reach there.

If you are reading this, I would appreciate any thoughts, feedbacks and experiences you might have on similar issues.

Thank you

God Bless.Photo5972

Thelema

Thelema is the Greek word for “Will of God”. Most of us seek God’s will or desire to seek God’s will in our lives, work especially when making decisions for study, work, marriage. It is also a concept that we struggle to understand and we are not always sure of. I have heard messages, sharing and also have personal experiences of God’s will. It is one constant question that haunts all of us.  What is God’s will in my Life?

There also the other questions, that we tend to ask, How do we know God’s will, does God’s will apply only in big decisions? I have asked these questions to myself.

Different people offer different answers, some convincing, some real, some fishy even ungodly. So who has the answers? In the early days, it was easier like Abraham who talked with God or David or Moses who sought God and he answered. But now a days God’s answers are subtle but the still small whisper remains unchanged.

The answer, I believe is only in the Word that God has given us, “The Bible”. During a recent devotion, I came across answers in 2 places which eventually answered other questions as well.

One is the very obvious one, in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ which I have often repeated.

Your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. When we pray for God’s will, on earth, it definitely means on everything not just the hard decisions or life-changing events, not just when we not sure but when the offer is tempting.

The other place, which was my devotion, is Psalm 143: 10 where David prayed “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. I am amazed at this prayer. David prayed for God to teach him, it obviously means that, it does not come naturally; it’s something that has to be learnt.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, it does not magically or automatically happen as God never forces his will on us. We have a choice and the choice requires that we learn to God’s will and that I believe is the only way we can fully obey His will.

We need to first learn to do His will and then maybe we would know better and understand it in our lives. I hope as you read this, we will pray the same prayer that David prayed; Teach me to do Your Will….

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God Bless…

Never for Granted….

In a recent prayer in our department, we were reflecting at the last year and all that we are thankful for. As I look back, I am of course thankful for a lot of things but the one thing I am most thankful for is a significant part of me that I often take for granted, My family.

I am very blessed to have an amazing family and being the younger child has its share of advantages.  My family has been my biggest strength throughout my life. I knew I had a good family but I am not sure I have taken enough time to thank God for them.

This post is dedicated to my family my dad & mom, Victor & Daisy my elder brother & sister- in- law John & Amy and my best friend Abinash and I hope to show the world a glimpse of the amazing family God has given me.

A small family you have given me

But with the biggest hearts

They always go out of their way

Whether it’s night or day

Their love is unconditional

Definitely not situational

 

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

I have my dad and we are inseparable

Proud of every little thing I do

And is someone I always turn to.

 

My mom is a dearie,

Love, sacrifice and worry

Keep her merry.

 

 

My brotherIMG_4722

None like another

Always together

I hope we’ll be

We have jokes that no one interprets

We have experiences that no one understands

Always was, always will be, my hero.

 

My Sister-in-law or the sister I never had

Girl talk, gang up or just silly giggles

She’s to be counted on

Stronger and Smarter

Completes my brother

 

 

And finally my best friend

Who plays all the above roles,Photo1849

When my family is away

And is yet unique and a gift.

Strong yet caring

Smart but learning

Teaching but always growing

Loves to talk but stops to listen

To all my gibberish

Always goes the extra mile

Just to bring back my smile.

 

This is my family and I am thankful for each member and for the role that they have played in my life. I am what I am because of them. I thank God and I pray that I will be able to be to them a part of what they are to me.

As you are reading, I would encourage you to take time to appreciate your family, thank God for them and never take them for granted… If your family has not been there for you, make an attempt to be a family for somebody else, you will be blessed.

Happy Reading and God Bless.

International Day for Persons with Disabilities – 2014

December 3rd is observed world wide as the International Day for Persons With Disabilities and the UN theme for the year is “Sustainable Development, The Promise of Technology”.

This day provides a platform to bring to light People with Disabilities, their abilities, their issues, their opinions. It also provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to assess themselves to see how far PWDs have been included in development both as beneficiaries and as agents.

This year’s theme is interesting as it focuses on Development that should be sustainable and a giant contributor to development- ICTs(Information Communication technology). The focus is also on present and upcoming technology, to see if they are inclusive and also how far technology can be used to improve inclusion and facilitate better participation of PWDs. We believe that higher level of participation from all sections of society would result in Sustainable Development.

As part of our work, we celebrated IDPWD a day earlier. This was done so that PWDs from our areas could be involved in the programs done by the government on 3rd December. It was an interesting day, we had approximately 250 participants, all People with disabilities from about 35 villages spread across 2 districts. The program was organized with an aim to create awareness regarding disability to the general public and to help PWDs experience and explore new things.

We also had the privilege of the participation of our District Social Welfare Officer, who also has the reputation of being a young, enthusiastic officer with special regard to disability affairs, the District Disability Rehabilitation Officer and the Block Development Officer.

Along with this year’s theme, we also focused on practical needs for PWDs, we had sessions and stalls showcasing different livelihood options, things to keep in mind when planning for livelihood. Another stall depicted Community Based Aids and Appliances (these can be made at home using local resources) and also information on rights and schemes.

Below are pictures from yesterday’s program, Happy Reading.

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Registration of Participants
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Starting the programme with prayer
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Lamp lighting by Chief Guest
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Welcoming the gathering by Mr. Prabodh Kujur
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Honoring guests
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A view of participants
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A special song by a Participant
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Stalls on livelihood and adis and appliences
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Speech by Chief guest (District Social Welfare Officer)
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Display of Aids and Appliances which can be made locally
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Session on Livelihood by Mr. Abinash Biswal
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Session on Aid & Appliances by Mr. Ebez George
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Session on Home based therapy by Ms. Sheron

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God Bless…..

A Face in the Web

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A lot has been written and debated on the vicious cycle of poverty and disability and has always been of interest to me as well. Often we get lost in the academics of these concepts that reality doesn’t affect us as much. But during my field visit yesterday, I happened to meet someone caught in that web, a face in that vicious cycle.

Anshu is a 2 year old girl with delay in developmental milestones. I had met her during one of our assessment camps for Children with disabilities. She was accompanied by her mother. In the initial interaction, her mother seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. I later found that she was a trained health assistant and had been working for about 6 years. I even took the liberty to assume that the child was getting good care at home and that everything would turn out ok. But unfortunately, not everything is as we see it. A long interaction and a visit to their home showed the other side of their lives.

Anshu is the only child in her family, her father lives in Kerala in South India, where he with many other men from the village had migrated in search of jobs mostly unskilled labour. Her mother is hopeful that her daughter would recover. She had quit her job as a heath assistant to take care of her daughter and is dependent on her husband.

But this is not all, Anshu has a heart condition, when asked if they had taken any treatment, her mother explained that they had gone to Ranchi (about 150 kms away) but couldn’t admit the child as they did not have money and had to come back. She said when they had saved enough money there was no one to accompany them. Her father visits once a year and that could be a time for them to go for treatment but this year due to lack of rains, there has been no agriculture and it also means that her father would not come home this year.

As we observed the child playing cheerfully, it was heart breaking to watch her stop and gasp for air. I offered her a biscuit, her face lit up but she was too tired to come and take it from my hand. As we talked, am disturbed by the thought of how much longer would the child be able to hold on? I pried her mom on if they were planning to have other children, her reply was surprising, she said they wanted to wait till the child is independent otherwise they wouldn’t be able to take care of her properly. I am not sure what is the right reaction or suggestion. I left quietly with a promise to come back. I only can whisper a prayer that the family would win the race against time cause every time I remember that family, I am left with an image of little Anshu waving but her little heart beating so rapidly that it was visible from where I stand.

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Thank You

Helpless Silence

Today was another wonderful experience during my field visit to Tarwadih, one of our target villages’, part of the Community Based Rehabilitation Project. Our Physiotherapist and I had a meeting with parents of Children with Disabilities in the village. The challenging task was to get people to come together. But I was surprised to see most of the parents had turned up obviously with a lot of expectations.

The meeting was one of the firsts to facilitate a caregiver’s support group in the village. The meeting started and the discussions trickled into the difficulties faced by parents. As the parents shared, there were issues that we had heard before, worry about the future, physical condition of children, lack of awareness and many more. The one sharing that caught my attention was from a mother; her daughter Fareen is 12 and is like any other girl her age, playful and yet shy and smiles sweetly as her mother mentions that  her daughter has Speech and Hearing Impairment. She continues very softly that her main concern about her daughter was that she continuously got into fights with other kids, her siblings, the neighbourhood children, children at school and this affected her relationship with other families. This was an unusual sharing and I kept wondering until it struck me that, the daughter couldn’t communicate and probably got frustrated and hence the fights. I can’t imagine being unable to talk, express what’s on my mind. The place I live has very bad cell phone signal and every day I hear almost one person complaining about it including myself. The inability to communicate cripples our lives and frustrates us. But unable to communicate for life… that’s unimaginable. I could only sympathise with her. Of course I would never know how she really feels.

Although I had come across many people with speech and hearing impairment, this affected me because they had come to the meeting with a lot of expectations. But since we do not have the expertise,there is little we can do for her physical condition or her schooling and more importantly her communication.

Circumstances and opportunities break or make people. Many people with Speech and Hearing Impairments learn to communicate and continue to live their lives without any barriers. . But for children like Fareen continue to be in unfavourable circumstances hidden in remote villages struggling to meet their basic needs and lack even the most basic opportunities. So the big question arises, do we just give up? Her mother didn’t. She came to us with a glint of hope in her eyes. It’s her hope that gives us the courage to look beyond and find ways to break through the helpless silence.

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I am not exactly sure how much we will be able to do but hope that whatever we do would make a difference in Fareen’s life and many, many more children like her.

May God Bless…..

Feedback : Food for thought

Recently at work, we as a team had a training on Listening Skills and feedback. Although I’ve attended various other sessions on listening and practiced it in  Counseling, I hardly had given it thought beyond work. But this session particularly stirred up my thoughts otherwise.

Here are a few things that I’ve stirred in my head, hope you can also get a taste of it as well.

Feedback as we all know, plays a major part in communication.  It completes the communication process.  Good Communication not only is the solution to most problems but also is necessary, as interactions form a crucial part of who we are and defines our relationships.  Unfortunately in real life, feedback is ignored both given or taken and hence our communications remain incomplete and our relationships shallow.

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I struggle with both giving and receiving feedback and also have experienced others who have similar issues. Although we wish our relations were better, we are often content in our comfort zones. I feel I miss out on enjoying my friendships just because I don’t have the guts to take the risk of telling whats on my mind which ultimately is for the better.

In a situation where I might have to give feedback, I am constantly worried about what the person would think of me or of their reactions. And when given feedback, I make excuses and the worst long explanations. I back off from either giving or receiving feedback and in turn compromise my relationships with friends, colleagues.

The training we had helped me look at feedback from a new perspective since had (sort of forced lol !!!) to practice giving feedback. I freaked out and became nervous but I felt so good later. It was a surprise to me the way I felt free and confident and also the relationship seemed more open.

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So if you are in  a similar position, (I bet am not the only coward in the world) where you want your relationships to be stronger and communications better, you should give feedback a chance. It is scary and difficult but not impossible. I definitely want my relationships with people around to be be stronger and I am going to try hard at it.

Just a closing thought, what also helped me (also learnt at the training ) were a set of rules, which might come in handy

Rules for Feedback – By Scott Smith, Manual for Community Transformation, EHA.

When giving Feedback

  • Always write down what you are going to say
  • Ask permission to give feedback
  • First give positive and THEN only negative feedback
  • Give feedback on actions or behaviors that can be changed.

Receiving Feedback

  • Remember it is the giver’s opinion and not the ultimate truth
  • Do not deny or make excuses
  • Ask for clarifications if you cannot understand
  • You can always stop the person any time
  • Say Thank you
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Happy Reading.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: A Humbling Experience

It was one of our usual field visits, only a new village. But the reason for the post is quite different as it’s not the usual experience. It’s one of those instances which give you mixed feelings, heart warming yet cruelly disturbing.

Hope you feel mixed emotions too as you read on.

I was on a field visit to Nawagarh, one of villages with our physiotherapist. We were looking to meet children with disabilities, especially those with whom we could work toward some physical rehabilitation. These visits are especially painful as we get to see children with impairments that could have been prevented, disabilities that have been caused by lack of basic services or means and families undergoing lifelong suffering due to ignorance and proper guidance.

Today was no different, meeting hopeful families just to tell them that there is no cure or just encourage them to keep looking after their children. One of our visits was to Tamana Khatun, a 10 year old girl with severe Cerebral palsy affecting both her cognition and her movement.

Like every other visit, a group of women, children had gathered to watch us speak to the family and meet Tamana. When asked for her family an elderly man explained the situation of the child, emotionless as though he had read the facts of a medical chart.   I formed my own opinion of him as the father in law, the head of the household who hardly cared about a girl with Cerebral Palsy. His following comments confirmed my opinions about him (So I thought!!!). He blatantly announced that the family hadn’t paid attention to the child since she was a girl and it would be pointless spending money on something which would provide no return.

I was a little shocked that he spoke so openly, as people try to pretend to care in front of outsiders. We then asked to speak to her mother and the mother was not to be found among all the women spectators. She came through after a while of searching, a small frail lady in her early twenties. Although she answered our queries about her child’s condition, she didn’t seem to grasp the reality of the situation and the therapy plans for her daughter. It was only the old man who kept responding.

I was annoyed at the irony of the situation, a mother who cared but couldn’t fully comprehend the therapy plan and an old man who was able to understand but didn’t care. As we turned to leave, I stopped to privately ask the mother, how many other children she had and if they could help out in therapy. She said Tamana was her only daughter, that came as a surprise- ONLY DAUGHTER, Something didn’t seem right, so I enquired about her husband, only to find out that he had deserted her after their daughter was born. I just had to ask the next question, whose house was this? And who was that old man? Her answer humbled me, this was her father’s house and that old man was her father.

The man who said he didn’t care and didn’t want to spend on a girl was in reality taking care of two girls, his daughter deserted by her husband and his granddaughter who has cerebral palsy. His actions spoke way louder than his words. His words were from a deep rooted culture but his actions from a deep rooted love.

As we were driving back, various thoughts flooded my head ranging from embarrassment and guilt at assuming the worst of someone to knowing that humanity still had a chance as long as there was love and that no matter who we are, it’s our actions that speak louder than our words.

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Thank You

Being Graceful

ImageGrace is a causal word, that is thrown around a lot. Most of us have experienced grace but few of us pause to think of its significance. This thought came to me, during our small sunday evening Bible study and got me thinking of my experiences with grace . I have been given a lot of opportunities to experience His grace in my everyday life but the ultimate gift of grace was given through salvation. I believe most of us have experienced this grace. But my question today is how many of us are graceful to other people???

This bring me to the most basic question, What is Grace and what is being graceful ? I remember a simple definition that my pastor quoted in one of his messages, GImagerace is receiving what we don’t deserve. Applying this to our lives it holds true, as none of us deserve salvation and many other favours from the Lord , yet He is continually gracious and compassionate.

So what is being graceful, we cant give salvation but we have various other ways to be graceful. It could mean overlooking an offence, speaking gently, celebrating differences or putting up with annoying people. My friend had rightly pointed out that we claim that the person has crossed the limit and we react. We are unable to tolerate annoying people or even be friendly to different people. we may feel that some people don’t deserve our grace but we should never forget we never deserved God’s grace in the first place. The question arises, what if God felt like that with us because we so often cross the limit.

What is ironical is that we who have experienced grace, we should be the ones being the most graceful; but a deep look at my life and I realise I haven’t been all that graceful especially in my thoughts.  I find it difficult to celebrate differences , I find it difficult to be graceful. When I reflect at my life, I see myself as the ungrateful servant in the parable in Matthew 18 : 21- 35.

Here’s to my self and all who are reading, to take up the Grace challenge, to be graceful to at least one person a day even in our thoughts. To let go, when you have something sarcastic to say or to stop judging somebody in our minds or to just be there for someone .

I just thought it would be appropriate to end with a stanza from one of the most dearly loved hymns, Amazing Grace by John Newton.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed

 

Being Graceful is difficult but not impossible

 

 

 

 

Not Finding God in Expected Places

downloadI am currently reading “ Finding God in unexpected places” by Philip Yancey. Actually this is an achievement as I read  only fiction for various reasons. I was convinced to at least try and finally I gave it a shot. No, I am not hooked or nothing has changed dramatically but it definitely has changed something in the way I think.

Well back to the book, Philip Yancey’s books have catchy titles and this got my attention. I wont be discussing the book here but just fragments of my thoughts. Reading this, pushed me to think if God is in any of the expected places. If you see my life, I am a Missionary Kid, working in a mission hospital, surrounded by “mission work”. This should mean that I see and experience God in all the places, own life, office, mess everywhere because these are expected places. But lately, I have been frustrated as I don’t experience as much. I don’t find God in expected places. No offense to missions but honestly including my self, all I experience is a lot of talk but no walk. It almost feels like God himself wont recognize these places.

Just yesterday my friend and I were discussing about Gandhi, who followed a lot of biblical principles but never followed Christianity. He claimed that he liked Christ but found Christians very different. He found the church not inclusive and uninviting. This is just one example, while there might be so many people who turned away because they did not find God in expected places- in our churches, our lives, our hospitals and many other Christian expected places.

I look at my own life and it scares to see the person I have become, when I don’t reflect God and yet make tall claims about being a Christian. I am scared to even recall the number of people who might have turned away because they did not find God in my life- their expected place.

As Yancey put it beautifully, we overlook God’s presence in our ordinary lives and places but its also important that we keep God in the expected places where people actually look and search or they might give up and we lose them forever.

We can only hope and pray that people who are searching find God wherever they are looking both in the expected and unexpected places.

God Bless.

P.S. I am reminded of a song from my favorite band Petra- Rose colored stained Glass Windows , Do check it out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk_4l44BXew

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/petra/rosecoloredstainedglasswindows.html

 

 

40 years old Sunshine…..

I love old, second hand books, the smell of them, the crackling of the old paper and deciphering the scribblings of the previous owners and imagining the kind of people they were. Well, I am lucky as I live on a Mennonite campus and we have our mess in an old mission bunglow (People who live on mission campuses would know) . The typical western style houses, the charming but unused fireplaces and of course the old broken cupboards with old books. Along with the rats, I too went sniffing around the old cupboards (but not for food like the rats). To my delight, I found old books, magazines. One of the magazines that caught my attention was the “Sunshine Magazine” (Picture Below) January 1971. Hmmm, my parents hadn’t met by then. My curiosity took over the sneezing from the dust on it and I got down to reading it.

Well, I did google it also and according to wikipedia, it is a “feel good” monthly digest, filled with uplifting short articles and anecdotes. I like monthly digests esp Readers’ Digest. So I got down to reading it, wondering how life was in the 70s without mobiles and laptops and limited internet.

It was a January edition and included articles on the struggles of keeping new year resolutions (can definitely relate to that), stress, family issues. It almost had every issue that you could find in a present day “feel good” magazine. It was strangely comforting and puzzling that nothing much has changed and life is as crazy as it was  40 years ago.

So to everybody who blames the fast paced, stress filled life of the present day, life has not changed much. May be we just need to find better ways to cope. I highly recommend a good book, a steaming cup of coffee and a good laugh with your close friends.

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This is one article which caught my attention, hope you like it too

 

 

 

Happy Reading

Rachel