By Christina Metz, MSW candidate ’15, in India as a visiting student at Delhi University
Hello from Delhi, India! I am traveling with two classmates from the MSW program – Sarah and Dawnette – and we have had such amazing interactions in the short time that we have been here. During our first week at the university we toured three agencies: the Center for Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (CCAW) at Delhi University, the Center for Community Action and Development, and St. Stephen’s Hospital and Dispensary.
St. Stephen’s hospital, located in a village called Sunder Nagri, provides an array of services to the local residents of the surrounding slum. In addition to basic medical care and services, St. Stephen’s also provides a day care facility for malnourished children and a department for women’s empowerment in which women are taught skills such as making bags and jewelry for sale.
On our second day, we were connected to our interpreter, Manoj**, who took us on home visits in the slum. Walking through the slums shows a level of poverty unseen in the States. We visited the residence of a family of six, who occupied a small two-room space on the second floor of a decrepit building. The father, diagnosed with HIV, was weak but extremely welcoming. He told us about his own difficulties maintaining work, how they relied on his wife to find work as a housekeeper to get money, and that he viewed financial hardship as the greatest difficulty. While he receives medication from St. Stephen’s Hospital, the family receives no help from their extended family, neighbors, or the government. Especially bitter about the government – “they only come when they want votes” – he thanked us for “checking up on him.” His gratitude was in itself a heartbreaking glimpse into his experience of the community, that our visit could hold that meaning for him. Nonetheless, he exhibited great hope for the future, stating he will be happy once his kids get a good education and when he finds a permanent job; I was reminded yet again of the sheer resilience of people.
**A note on how amazing Manoj is – he is a 20-year-old university student who lives in the slum of Sunder Nagri. On our way to the second home visit, he pointed out his home and introduced us to his sister. Full of hope despite such challenging circumstances, Manoj radiates positive energy and is committed to completing his education.