Happy Thing #1: The girl who took her uncle to court for trying to arrange her underage marriage was shifted out of the remand home last month and transferred to a residential organization – a very good one, don’t worry – on the outskirts of Pune. (Yes, the not-so-happy part is that she was STILL at the remand home until last month – what was supposed to be a one-night stay had turned into a month-long stay, as we sorted through the court procedure and red tape associated with having her placed elsewhere…oh Indian bureaucracy…) Prior to being transferred, she had been released in the care of our social worker for one afternoon to come to Yerwada to write one of her 10th standard board practical exams. She came flying in the door of the Education Centre with hugs for everyone, and there were tears – many, many happy tears – as she reconnected with the teachers, students and caregivers. Despite having spent an entire month waiting around in a children’s prison until she could be transferred out, she was so thankful and grateful and happy to be away from her uncle.
Since her transfer, this girl has been coming to AIC every other day because her 10th standard board exams are being administered at her old school (down the street from our Education Centre), so we have agreed to take full responsibility for picking her up from and dropping her off again at the residential organization on the outskirts of Pune (and by “outskirts” I mean 35 km away – it’s a trek!). It’s so nice having her in the centre on a regular basis, and she says everything is going well in her new home, although she misses being an AIC student. Once her 10th standard exam results come in, we’ll work with her host organization to see about her admission at a college within Pune so that we can more easily keep tabs on her and continue to support her education.
Happy Thing #2: We have started Mother-Baby classes every Friday at the Health and Community Outreach Centre. The groups alternate – 1 week it’s the pregnant women, the next week it’s the women with babies under 1 year of age, and the following week it’s the women with babies from 1 to 2 years of age. The point of the class is to have a regular, informal gathering time for the women to share experiences, swap stories, develop a support network, and for us to impart valuable information to the women about prenatal/infant care, hygiene, breastfeeding, parenting practices, infant and toddler development, nutritional needs, birth spacing and contraceptive use and a wide range of other topics. It is meant to be hands-on – for example, on the day that we talk about making low-cost, healthy baby food at home, we will have the ingredients at the centre and make it during the class with the women – and enjoyable for the women and their babies.
A couple weeks ago we held an information session about the class, and it was an absolute disaster. Way too many women, way too many crying babies, the cooking gas ran out so we couldn’t make chai even after women had been sitting there for almost two hours, patients kept streaming in the door wanting to talk to Rashmi or I as we were in the process of meeting with the women, the entire set-up of the meeting was wrong, a random “speaker” had been recruited at the last minute to give a haphazard talk for 10 minutes about a smattering of childcare practices, etc. It was just so…not how I had been picturing the class working.
After that disaster of an information meeting, I was very worried that maybe my very Western idea of a mother-baby class just wouldn’t really translate well – our Program Coordinator, Rashmi, didn’t seem to fully understand the dynamic that I was hoping to create among the women and was more drawn to a lecture-style course wherein we arrange guest speakers every week to lecture the women on childcare, a far cry from the informal, mutually-supportive environment I was envisioning.
But. BUT! After a long, looooong talk about what had gone wrong the first time and what changes we would need to introduce to make the class actually enjoyable and effective for the new mothers (and their babies), we had a great first session with the pregnant mothers! And then the next week, a great session with the 0-12 month babies and their mothers, and then the week after that, a great session with the 12-24 month toddlers and their mothers. The classes have been friendly, informal sessions in which the women have been really opening up, sharing ideas and thoughts and showing support for each other as fellow mothers. The class sessions aren’t without occasional kinks, but they’re so much smoother and the women seem to be truly enjoying them.
Happy Thing #3: Rahul is still with us, doing well and learning fast. He is seriously the most uninhibitedly affectionate kid I’ve ever met (we all receive at least 3 Rahul-hugs every hour, without fail). He had a massive, infected toothache last week that involved his entire face swelling up (the poor kid – he was totally miserable for a few days), but antibiotics and a root canal took care of that. Only 3 more upcoming root canals and a whole bunch of fillings to go! Heh.
Happy Thing #4: HOLIIIIII! Need I say more? Everyone around here loves the festival of colors (I mean, if you were a 12 year old kid, wouldn’t you be pretty excited about an opportunity to have a huge water + colored powder war with your family/neighborhood kids/anyone driving by the gate?). On the morning of Holi, Jim, a longtime friend of AIC, came by with a few of his friends to celebrate with the children…needless to say, the kids were thrilled to have more adults to gang up on!
Photos coming soon, for sure!