Because I know that everyone is interested in what our life is like here, I have, thus far, talked only about things we do and see. However I do want to also take some time to talk about India itself, as this adventure has to be a learning experience for us all. So today I thought I would start with something near and dear to my heart, the children.
While I live in a nice neighborhood with expensive houses and tons of happy kids who attend the best private schools, this is not the norm here. In fact, many children in India grow up without safe housing, access to school, access to medical treatment, or proper nutrition. As a result, many of these children don’t get to grow up at all.
I see these children everywhere when I walk outside of my complex, begging on the corners, selling flowers and bug swatters in the middle of speeding traffic, climbing over piles of garbage looking for bottles and cans. I see the son of our community’s trash collector, riding along with his father and opening each bag looking for recyclables before throwing it in the back of the “truck” (a rickshaw with a bed on back instead of seating). I also see them right across the street from me, the children of the servants who tend to my neighbor’s house. The little boy and girl, the same age as Addie and Ender, who sit and watch everyone else go to school, who spend their days idle or working in the household, who, according to the neighborhood kids, are “dirty” and therefore can’t be their playmates. It breaks my heart to know that this goes on, yet I feel powerless in the face of centuries of this kind of thought.
Let me share some statistics that I found. According to THE SMILE FOUNDATION,
- 95 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their fifth birthday.
- 1 out of every 6 girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
- Over 60% of children in India are anaemic.
- 58% of India’s children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated. And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination.
- 17 million children in India work as per official estimates.
- Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
- 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
There are numerous statistics at the above website, I don’t need to list them all here. You get the idea and can click the link above if you want to hear more.
The numbers are daunting, and the reasons are many. The endless cycle of poverty, the “abolished” caste system that is unfortunately still alive and well here, the discrimination, the general apathy toward the impoverished, the lack of schools, the lack of affordable medical facilities, the list goes on and on.
I found an article that sums up a lot of things much more eloquently than I ever could. Read it if you like. It is exactly what I witness here each day when I go out.
As for what I can do…I don’t yet know. I hope to find a way to help, to make a difference, but I’m not sure in what capacity. Aid organizations abound, yet looking around you’d never know it. I will actively strive to find the place where my time and energies can have an impact. For now, I do what I can. I say hello to the kids across the street, I smile and wave at them when I see them, and have gotten shy smiles out of them. I treat them as they deserve to be treated as members of the human race, and urge my kids to do the same. I explain to Addie and Ender about the prejudices in this country and in all countries, the mindset of people not just here, but everywhere, and ask them to think beyond what their friends are saying and what the society is trying to tell them.
I realize that I am new here, that I don’t know much about this place, and that I come with a predetermined idea of what childhood should be like, an unrealistic expectation, perhaps. But, if I can find a way to help and teach my kids what I believe, we may be able to make a difference in the end.