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India: Anganwadis are such happy places

Delhi Station is a must see experience. We had breakfast on the train, as well as being handed the morning newspapers. Luggage storage was a bit of a problem for us but at least no one had to sit on the roof or hang out of the window.

We went to the office to meet the staff there who welcomed us warmly and gave us lunch and started their presentations. They gave us an overview of Rajasthan. It was difficult to take it all in when we were so tired.

The next day was very hectic – we travelled to Ajmer, a rural village, to see an Angarwadi, which is almost a community centre.

We were given a wonderful welcome from the villagers who gave us garlands and the red dots (bindis) on our foreheads. They took us into the centre to the sound of a drummer.

These Anganwadis are run by the community, with the help of local agencies and government departments. Save the Children helps to monitor and fund them. It had been closed for a year but with the help of Save the Children and these other partners it opened a week ago.

The community did all the work and decorated it. They were very proud of it. It holds classes for children up to the age of 3-6 years and monitors and counsels pregnant women and lactating mothers. Babies and young children also come and are monitored.

The children sang songs and then we were shown the examination room. The children receive 2 meals a day there and any malnourished child is given supplementary feeding. There is no running water in the village and no toilet, as the only one they had is broken. That is on their wish list.

It was such a happy place and we felt very welcome and priviledged to see what they had achieved in such a short time.

We walked through the village like the Pied Piper to visit a mother in her home with an eleven day old baby, surrounded by her family and friends. The children waved for as long as they could when we left.

We met another mother with a malnourished 3 year old child. She explained what had happened – sickness and diarrohea and chest infection  – and how she had had to buy the medicines and vitamins herself.

She will now be able to go the Anganwadi to get her child weighed, monitored and examined once a month when the doctor visits.

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