A Continuous Challenge

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Two little boys stand in front of their home just off the side of the main road. 

It’s all coming to an end quite quickly. I’ve been able to see different aspects of this NGO, have experienced the local’s taste in places and foods, have interacted with different people and overall have had a great time. Last week I spent a lot of time going through my interview footage of MAS members and Link Workers with a local who helped translate them for me.  It was challenging and took us a while as he struggled to come up with the right phrases since English and Hindi are so different. I’m actually still working on them, taking longer than I thought. I would have to say this has been the most tedious part of this project, but also the most important. I hope to get it translated as precise as possible since I’ve been a witness of crappy subtitles and I wouldn’t want to do that. It’s been very nice to finally know, more or less, what they were really saying. Before this, I only had a sense of what they were saying, since I asked the questions. I think I talked a bit about MAS members in one of my earlier posts. They’re basically groups of women that belong to a slum and are dedicated to help mobilize their communities. They divide the households among themselves so that they’re each in charge of 4-6 homes per person. Each of them pay daily visits to their assigned households, advise them, make them aware of resources, schemes and events HUP put’s on for their communities. I can say more, but instead am excited to share my video with you all once I’m down with it. There, you will get the breakdown of it all. So stay tuned!

For now, I can say there is a lot of politics involved, just like anything else. It’s sad. It seems like government schemes are there to help the poor, but the implementation is where it fails. There is a lack of monitoring, people looking out only for themselves, and no one really taking on the responsibility since much of organizations like these are grant based and therefore it’s progress advances at a very slow pace. On the other hand, it’s also a challenge for the people of the slum communities to adapt to these “new” ways of health care and sanitation. So in a sense, there is a lack of cooperation from both ends. Many of these urban poor come from rural areas where their parents and grandparents never got immunizations, so they think, “Why should we?” Open defecation is another issue that contributes to the unhygienic factor and also something that is very difficult to change. Many of the urban poor live in a single-room home jam-packed among surrounding homes, where is there room for a bathroom? On top of that, they believe the bathroom should be away from the home, most definitely not inside of it. How can this be dealt with? I interviewed a doctor, and in my opinion, was on the right tract when he said we needed more than just health officials in these slums to help alleviate the health challenges. Public Health officials, politicians, psychologist, economists, architects all need to work together to make things happen.

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Another thing that I must touch on is that this organization is going to disappear soon. Apparently it was created to form a model for the government and based on numbers, the government will choose to take it up or not. This is frustrating for me because I think, what will happen to these people now once all these incentive events disappear? This project is basically just an “experiment” and the people here are basically lab rats. I realize that’s an awfully strong statement but it’s how I feel. Many of us know it happens often. People go in, change the ways of the people and then leave not really considering how these people originally felt. Programs like these are to document numbers and build a reputation.  Even during the construction of my script for my documentary, I was told to leave things out. The purpose for them of my project was to show what HUP has done. I would have loved to focus more on the things that aren’t working. How annoying. At least I can say that I, personally gained valuable knowledge. I guess this is what I meant when I said I wanted to learn about how the NGO’s worked behind the scenes.

I don’t want to end this on a bad note. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I’m impressed by India. I’m impressed with the people of the slums and their big hearts. It makes happy to be around them, to see their excitement when I take their picture. I appreciate their hospitality when they welcome me into their small homes and offer me tea. I like sitting on the floor with them. I like the kids following me around calling me “Didi” as they smile non-stop. It’s contagious.

A man from the state department I met last week approached me as I was interacting with women of the slums. He asked, “how is it that you communicate with these women if you don’t speak Hindi?” I responded, “with smiles, body language and hand gestures we understand each other.”

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“Didi” is used when referring to your older sister. That’s what these kids call me. 

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Without the help of Rahul, my documentary wouldn’t have been possible. Cheers to good people!

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Renu, a Cluster Coordinator and is in charge of leading MAS meetings throughout several slums.

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A 5 year old bathes her 4 year old sister. 

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A mother breast feeding her child. What a beauty. 

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Amazing smiles. Amazing children. Amazing spirits. 

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This young girls sits here for a large part of her day, selling scraps of wood. 

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My first time wearing a sari, what an experience! Here i am standing with award winning Link Worker and MAS members for an event held last weekend dedicated to sharing the bigger picture to all 500+ MAS members and Link Workers. Awards were given to those that have been most organized and effective. 

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