Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curriculums,Data, and Reflections

I think it is safe to say that I have been busy with various projects at Yuva. Our biggest endeavor has been to formulate and plan a curriculum for the municipal children. This curriculum will go on to be taught by the Yuva volunteers every Saturday for approximately one year. I worked with a team of three other people, and least to say that this task ate up all of our time. The curriculum is already being taught at many municipal schools around Ahmedabad. And our next benchmark testing-for effectiveness-isn't until next year. So far it has been smooth sailing, and I can't wait to hear about the results next year.

On top of this project i've been also working on my research question, which I will be quietly ironing out the data over the next few weeks. Everyone here has been such great help. I've definitely had some bumps on the road with the research question, but I have a lot of material to work with. I'm excited to get started on that as well. 

I've been so busy with work within the organization that I feel that time has literally flown by, I can't believe that these are my last few weeks in India! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jeevika: Week Five

The report I am writing is moving along very well. The first draft is almost complete and there are many very interesting and very useful findings. What stood out to me the most is that many families are getting their daughters married off below 18 because they are afraid that their daughters will run away with a boyfriend. When looking at the actual rates of child marriage though, the majority of women are not running away but getting married by their parents. Many women are also running away for fear of being married off, not because of a particular boyfriend, creating a cycle of young marriages. It will be interesting to learn what interventions Jeevika will propose to combat this.

My interviews are also going along well. I interviewed the chair of the Women's Studies Dept. at Jadavpur University as well as the founder of the Association for Women with Disabilities. Activism in Kolkata is so interesting and I am really gaining a better understanding of this city and its history as I continue my interviews.

I did some sightseeing this weekend and got to see the Dakinshwar Kali temple. It was a magnificent building and it was packed with people.

I can't believe how quickly this experience is going by and I am starting to realize how much more I have and want to do! I'm looking forward to these last three weeks and what they will hold. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Delhi Week Four

I have been spending more time in the clinic these days, because the mobile medical unit needs a new register very soon and I'm the "Register girl." So it's been a lot of drawing lines and writing in medical names. As for my paper, it is almost done. The introduction just needs a few more paragraphs and I need to do the discussion.

In Delhi, monsoon season has started. That means surprise rains and cooler weather. The children love the rain -- they dance in the streets as it pours sheets of water. The basti is so congested that it begins to flood and the sewers overflow, but it hasn't been that bad yet. It's actually a welcome relief that things have started to cool down.

I've been to Central Market the other day, and I was surprised to see a Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks there. Subway seems to be relatively popular, even in the neighboring district of Jangpura. Western food is almost always much more costly, however. For less than a dollar I can get a fulfilling and tasty meal of dal, naan, and basmati. Why not :) They also had rows and rows of market for women's clothing and jewelry. Bracelets, earrings, sarees, tights, etc. As much as I liked them, I prefer the markets in Jangpura and the Basti, where more beautiful fabrics and jewelry come at a cheaper price.

Tomorrow, I will go to Old Delhi to see the Lotus Temple and a book market. In the meantime, a friend of mine leant me a book on learning Hindi and its script. Wish me luck with that!

Delhi Week Three

I’m finally getting a hang of Delhi. Yesterday, I went to the Monday market in the Basti and bought some anklets and henna for a fair price – today, I’m getting my kurta pajama back from the tailor. I also visited Chandni Chowk with some German volunteers at Hope and my new roommate Nina. Chandni Chowk, a huge market in Old Delhi, is the perfect example of Indian overpopulation. The temperature reached 41 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit), and it this was even further heightened by the presence of people at every conceivable space of the market.

One of the things I noticed because of this experience is how much warmer the temperature is in more congested places. In the Basti for example, the temperature was still hot even after the rain, but everywhere else it was cooler. On a public health note, this can be very dangerous for community members because the congestion plus the warmth presents the perfect environment for diseases such as tuberculosis to spread. In addition, the malnutrition that some people in the Basti my face, as well as any issues with smoking, may cause potential carriers to easily contract the disease.

The largest issues in the Basti seem to me to involve dirty conditions in the streets, the weather, and chewing tobacco. As in many developing areas, children tend to contract intestinal worms from playing in the dirt. As a result, they must be “dewormed” twice a year by the clinic. The weather tends to cause general weakness, especially in women. This “weakness” may also be heightened by the fact that most everyone in the Basti is fasting for Ramadan. Chewing tobacco is a large problem for men, not only in the Basti but everywhere in India, as chewing tobacco is the preferred form of nicotine for Indians. Because many men in the Basti are not proactive about their dental hygiene, many suffer from diseased-looking mouths and remain at a high risk for oral cancer.

According to my research, respiratory tract infections, gestational tract issues, and diabetes tend to be the most common reasons why patients enter the clinic. At the same time, I discovered that if these patients had gone to the general hospital, they would have to wait at least 2 hours and still may not have gotten an appointment, due to the large crowds that enter the hospital.

Delhi Week Two

I am blown away by how spiritual India is, and I absolutely love it. They say people find themselves in India, and I have certainly done that. The Basti is a very conservative Muslim community, and the life of the community revolves around Islam. During this holy Ramadan season, it can’t be more obvious. The sirens at sunrise and sunset, and then the frequent call of the Azhan remind me of how devoted everyone in the community is to their faith. Most men wear the tupis and the kurta pajama, and the women cover their heads in public.

At the largest dargah (burial memorial) in the community, I witnessed the magic of Indian music and the result of Ramadan crowds after Iftar. The whole dargah and the adjacent mosque was lit with lights like Christmas, and some men sat on the ground with traditional instruments, singing as loud as their voices would allow. Crowds of men in tupis surrounded the musicians, as they awaited the last prayer of the night. Women and children surrounded the foot of the dargah, socializing and resting from a long, hot day. Only men are allowed inside the memorial, but I could see them circling it and throwing flowers on the tomb.

Back at the Hope Project, my project is slowly coming along. Dr. Luna was kind enough to allow me to shadow her as she visits with patients, and otherwise I am in the homeopathic pharmacy room, helping to make the new register. I was finally able to get my hands on the monthly reports for the clinic, and I have some ideas for some great observations I have made.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Two months in

Funding my entire education on loans and by working, I have never been given this amount of money without exchanging my labor directly for it. It's because of this that I have been thinking a lot about why the donor has giving us this money for our trips. I feel that although I will be completing the requirements of the program, I owe the donor what they hoped would come of sending students to South Asia. But, I can't know exactly what that is. If it is to spread a cultural awareness about the region I believe that happened without very little effort on my part. Stereotypes and misconceptions have been broken. However, I believe this goal actually gets multiplied in its effectiveness as we tell people back home about our travels. Not only are/will my friends and family be more aware about what life is like in the area, but the people they tell will also come away with a little bit more understanding. Coming from a small town where news travels quickly, my whole town could come away now knowing a little bit more about India. If the goal of the donor was to allow us to experience growth at a personal level through our travels I believe I have achieved that. Being separated from your life back home allows you to take an almost third person perspective of it. I also believe that by working and playing with people from such a different background I have picked up insights about jobs and life. Many people believe that if they just changed cities or jobs that all their problems will be solved, however, I now know that transporting yourself into a completely different situation doesn't change who you are. If the goal of the donor was instill in us a spirit for traveling the globe I believe I have come to that point as well. I believe almost everybody would like to travel to different parts of the world but now I know that it is possible and not as scary as it once seemed. This also will hopefully effect the people I know or at least know me and I hope they think, "Well, if Dan went to India I should be able to go to Germany/China/Brazil...."

I don't know exactly why the donor decided to give money or what they hoped we would accomplish. My guess is that they probably expected a little bit of all three effects mentioned to happen and then some that I either do not know have happened or will never know.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jeevika: Week Four

This week I started my interviews! My first interview was with Durbar, a sex worker's organization. They began as an HIV intervention program that trained sex workers to lead health ed. classes for other sex workers. It now has many different interventions that aid sex workers, but the main goal is to de-stigmatize and legalize sex work. The second organization I interviewed was Sappho for Equality, a LBT women's group. Sappho began as a support group for LBT women and then grew into the activism part that is Sappho for Equality. Both of these organizations were so interesting. They work with different groups of women with different goals but their interpretation of women's position within Indian society was very similar. Their interventions also stemmed from many of the same concepts. The people I talked to were also so intelligent so just being in their presence was great. I can't wait to meet more people and get more information.

I got to go into the field a few times this week as well. I'm really glad that Jeevika works within the more rural areas because I think being exposed to the more rural areas of the state gives me a really good perspective with my work. It is very different outside of the city and really influences how I look at my work. My supervisor and I worked on transcribing interviews this week and I am currently analyzing them. I'm excited to be getting into the real work of the report.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Pictures

Mobile Unit

 Local Market

 Eating with some Friends

More updates!

I want to move here once I finish my education. I am really in love with this place. 

Last week was really good. I am still working on my project, focusing on nursing education for the nursing students and continuous nursing education (CNE) for the nursing staff. I have been sharing my knowledge on topics such as pain assessment and motivational interviewing through very interactive workshops in which everyone was encourage to participate and contribute with their knowledge. I realized that there was a language barrier, although they classes are always in English, so I have been arranging for somebody so summarize the material in Kannada after the sessions. 

On Friday I went on the mobile unit to visit 12 tribes that live in the forest surrounding the hospital. It was a very interesting experience. This outreach service covers most of the tribal population of the area. The mobile unit visits different places everyday and do weekly follow ups to the same place. Basic health care is provided to a population that suffers from skin diseases, pulmonary diseases and vitamin deficiencies among other health problems. 

On Saturday I was in the infertility clinic. It was very interesting to see 18 years old coming for counselling after not being able to conceive. It is definitely a reality that I can only understand within the cultural context.

I was also able to attend some special workshops on diabetes and pediatric emergency management. They were very helpful and I  learned a lot from them. 

I have a few projects I am working on that I must finish before the 15th of July, so I will have to work very hard this coming days. 

Unfortunately I only have 8 days left here, and I am not ready to leave. 
I love this place and its people, and I find myself calling it home sometimes... 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jeevika: Week Three

I am getting into the routine of getting to and from work as well as handling my tasks at the office. My work this week was pretty consistent with the work I have been doing. This week we had a group from Delhi come in (Breakthrough) who also uses similar methods to combat child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, and a whole host of other issues regarding women's rights. They were here for two days and got a crash course on Jeevika. I got to sit in on most of this, which was beneficial because it gave me some new perspectives as well as a deeper understanding of the organization.

I am loving the food here. I attended my supervisor's son's birthday party this week and got an amazing meal. She had to bring me a spoon though because I do not have the skill to eat biryani with my hands.

Next week I'm starting on my interviews! I'm excited to get to formally meet with many of the prominent activists in the city. I've ran into many of them and they all have a very moving passion for their work. I'm also visiting a school to watch one of Jeevika's presentations on early marriage and healthy relationships. I might also be starting Bengali lessons, which would be a huge help, because right now I have become the master of non-verbal communication, which I've realized can only get me so far. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Week!

WOW India. I didn't think I would ever say I'm so lucky to be living in a slum. This is real India right here - no Western clothing, foods, or music here. Only chowpatis, roti, salwar kameezes, and the Azhan for fajr. This place is the Hazrat Basti Nizamuddin, a slum on the outskirts of Nizamuddin West, filled primarily with Muslims but also containing Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians. A place of questionable smells, the constant melody of motorcycle horns, and lots of people scattered in the streets. Constant heat and humidity, even in the middle of the night, a sacred ground of spirtuality and humility - welcome to the Basti. No, welcome to India.

I'm working at an NGO called the Hope Project, inspired not-too-long-ago by a name named Inayat Khan, a disciple of the Sufi Order, a musician, a Unitarian, and surprisingly, a husband to an American woman. This place was founded near his burial site in order to continue his Unitarian beliefs and promote unity through music. Although the Hope Project in this Basti does not work too much with music these days. Their primary focus has been providing work, education, and health care for the people of the Basti and surrounding areas. I'm going to be working in the Inayat Hazrat Khan clinic, probably in medicine dispensing. Also, I plan to help out anywhere I am needed, whether it be with computer classes, babysitting at the creche, or teaching when school starts next week. I still need to come up with some sort of survey and research design, which I will mull over this weekend. For now, I'm adjusting to India and waiting for that inevitable moment when I will eat the wrong foods :D


Due to a lack of internet access, this entry has been posted after arriving in India.

At this point, I'm not feeling too ready to be journeying off to India. India seems like it requires some preparation, and I just spent the last mnth in the Philippines. I'm tired and jetlagged - not at all ready to be traveling around the world again. But I welcome it.

I have a lot of desi friends, so luckily I've had a chance to prepare for India months in advance. Got some kurtas? Check. Sunblock? Check. Wet wipes and snacks? Check check. All I need to do is prepare a research project, which is not so easy until I get there and am able to scope the place out. I want to do something about the health care system but other than that I'm not too sure. We will see once I get there!