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India: Not just fighting poverty but tradition

First off today was the street children project in the centre of Delhi. The “business district” was a ramshackle, dirty, potholed area, and the head office of Save the Children India was there, in a very inconspicuous building.

The project was just along the street, a room in one of the commercial buildings. I was worried that I was going to be very emotional, even tearful, but the wonderful greeting we got from the children was fantastic, and you couldn’t do anything but smile.

It is a safe haven for about 70 local children, on and off, some of whom weren’t there as they were in school. Also many had been shipped out of the area for the duration of the recent Commonwealth Games and families are only just returning.

A real success for the project, to give children a basic education, enough to get them into a local private school. They provide them with a uniform and transport. The centre provides all the visiting children with a meal twice a day, counselling and a basic education, and of course a safe haven off the streets.

The children all get a monthly health check and we get them medical attention if needed. The usual injuries are cuts and infected sores, picked up on the streets, but also in their role as rag pickers, collecting refuse and recyling from the tips.

This is usually carried out very early in the morning to avoid attention. Apparently a kilo of bottle tops will fetch about 50 rupees (75p). I must find out how many bottle tops are needed to make a kilo. Also dog bites are a problem from the many local strays.

The project has been so successful they hope to open a similar centre in a neighbouring shopping centre later this year, again where children congregate.

A very different experience this afternoon at a slum health project. A mobile van which caters for a whole slum district, complete with a female doctor, nurse and pharmacist, including a mobile Xray machine. All provided free.

Further down the street, the local outreach worker was doing a talk on malaria to a group of mothers, educating them about how it is caught, the sympoms, prevention and the need for treatment. By educating the mothers, you educate the whole community.

There was a small boy wearing a black arm band, and the doctor told us this was a tradition, that it was thought the band would ward off disease and like a charm would keep the child from getting ill. They have to educate the mothers that the child actually needs immunisation and medicine if he becomes ill, the band will not do it.

Although we can see the need and the benefits so clearly, the people need to trust the clinic, be reassured it is free and that it will benefit them and make them well.

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