At the end of May I had the honor of traveling to India along with Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of mom bloggers who use our voice through blogging and social media to spread awareness, education and support to the various NGOs around the world that are making a difference.
The purpose of our trip to India was to meet face to face with some of our partner NGOs and see firsthand some of the issues we cover as part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good: Maternal and newborn health, food and water poverty, sanitation issues, and education for women and girls.
Although this was not my first time to India (I had visited India a few years ago as a tourist) it was my first time going in a much different role: As a social good blogger and advocate. Seeing India in a different framework was utterly life changing.
India is perhaps one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been and with its enormous population, and sensational culture comes issues that are often overwhelming to comprehend. Most people are aware of the huge inequities and poverty strangling India. Although India has seen rapid economic growth over the last decade, the gap between rich and poor has become even wider and more profound. As migrant families leave their villages in rural India and come to the big cities in search for a better life, the growth of urban slums, many in deplorable conditions, continues at unmanageable rates. In just Delhi alone, there are thousands of them. And as almost half a million migrants come to Delhi alone each year, many of them end up populating the already over-crowded urban slums that can be found all throughout the city, even alongside some of Delhi’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Our mission in India was to visit the heart of Delhi’s slums to see the issues firsthand and meet with our partner NGOs who are on the ground and making a difference in people’s lives.
It was not an easy trip. The weather was scorching hot with highs nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit and visiting an urban slum in itself is heartbreaking and shocking. Although I’ve experienced poverty many times before in my travels I wasn’t prepared for the enormous magnitude of desperation that I found in India.
The highlight of our entire trip happened on our first day. We met with a small Indian non-profit organization called Protsahan. Founded by young Indian social entrepreneur Sonal Kapoor, Protsahan, uses a unique approach to teaching and inspiring young, underprivileged girls who come from some of the most tragic circumstances possible. All are poor, and many have been abused and have little opportunity to get an education or a way out of the poverty they were born into. Protsahan, which means “encouragement” uses the arts as a means to inspire, teach and motivate the girls to learn and strive for a brighter future. It was a heartwarming experience meeting Sonal and the girls that were striving to succeed and climb out of poverty. I left wishing we could stay longer. The love and tenderness of Sonal for the girls was overwhelming and made me realize that anyone can make a difference in the world and impact the lives of others.
Our second day was spent visiting another education-focused NGO called Pratham, which is the largest NGO working in India to provide quality education to the country’s millions of underprivileged children. We visited a Hub Center supporting 150 children that was located in a slum in Trilokpuri, East Delhi. The program model was slightly different from Protsahan as the classes were co-ed and also were offered for a minimal, yet affordable fee. Classes began at preschool age and continued on to more advanced English as well as vocational courses. What makes Pratham so unique is its approach to working with the government to create change.
Our final day was spent visiting two big NGOs, Save the Children and WaterAid, where we were able to do two field visits to different urban slums to see their work. In the morning , we visited some of Save the Children’s projects within the Okhla Industrial Area that hosts garment factories, home to over thousands of families living in unauthorized slums. Save the Children provides a variety of services to the slum such as a mobile health van where people can receive basic health care services, medication, and prenatal and newborn health check-ups which is extremely important in cutting maternal and newborn mortality rates. We also attended one of the weekly meetings for pregnant mothers where they are taught the skills needed to ensure their children’s survival.
We ended our day with WaterAid, an NGO that works all over the world to provide safe drinking water and sanitation services.
Ironically, we visited an unauthorized slum built right outside the lush, grand American Embassy.
Unauthorized slums are by far the most devastating places to live. Many do not have running water or sewer systems, which significantly threatens the health and livelihood of the people. At the Vivekanansa slum, we toured one of WaterAid’s Community Toilet Compounds (CTC) which provides safe, clean toilets to the hundreds of families that live in the community. WaterAid operates 78 CTCs all over Delhi as well as CTCs throughout India. The importance of having a CTC cannot be understated. Not only does it provide dignity, it also helps stop serious diseases which kills many children each year.
I left India feeling intense emotions. There were so many enormous issues that at times it was completely overwhelming. Yet, meeting some of the NGOS and people on the ground who are saving lives and making the world a better place, sometimes one person at a time, inspired hope that change can be made.
This is an original World Moms Blog post written by Nicole Melancon of ThirdEyeMom .
Have you been to India, or experienced the juxtaposition of these types of extremes?