Slum School…

…This morning, we helped out at a small pediatric clinic in Old Faridabad. I assisted in one of the physician’s pathology lab. Blood tests here are simple and performed manually with records kept by hand in large official books. The main ailments being tested for are Typhoid and Malaria. We have seen numerous cases of Typhoid here already but no cases of Malaria as cases are rare this time of year. Starting IVs and taking blood seem to be difficult processes on the children here. The young kids cry as would be expected with someone repeatedly prodding one’s veins. However, some of the kids are incredibly tough. One boy today stared with enormous eyes at the needle entering his arm. I could tell he was in pain by the tears pooling in his eyes, but he never made a sound or even a grimace.

Today’s real eye-opener, however, came in the afternoon. At 3pm, we made our first visit one to two slum schools founded by our host parents, Shri and Mumta. The slum is only about a ten minute walk south from our home stay, but is drastically different even from the community across the street from it.

The drive into the slum was an adventure in itself. Small fires fill the streets to provide warmth. Despite the filth and poverty, playful children fill the streets as people go about their daily lives. We arrived to find a simple one-room school approximately 10ft by 50ft in size with about 40 students. This school does not receive regular volunteers, so we were given a very warm welcome by the students and two teachers. Shri, who led us in, was greeted with a united and almost militaristic salute from the children, who immediately jumped up from the floor, stood straight up, and threw the back of their right hands against their foreheads.

Shri stayed for a few minutes and then departed. Kids eagerly wrote the English alphabet and waited to approach us to recite it one-by-one. Although lacking many of the possessions you and I take for granted, in many cases including shoes, these children seemed wonderfully satisfied and strikingly normal. In reality, they were more excited to learn and play than the children I taught and tutored in St. Louis.

Once school was out, the children stayed with us and appeared to love having their pictures taken. However, in a manner entirely opposite to our culture, they stop smiling as soon as they pose for a photo. About 20 of the students walked us through the slum toward home. All of them wanted to hold our hands, or at least hold hands with the other kids who were holding our hands. Although the girls dropped away as we left the slum, about 10 young boys walked us all the way home. It was a touching and inspiring experience. I will definitely be back regularly and perhaps put together some more formal English coursework.