One child's story - Soma!
16th May 2013
Click here to watch 60 seconds of Soma's transformation!
The Love the One team first met Soma back in January 2012...
Soma, 7 years old, was hobbling along in pain with severe bilateral club feet, along a dusty track in a remote area of India. From that moment on, our team decided we would try and track down his family, knowing that if he didn't have an operation on his feet then he would end up crippled as an adult, unable to stand or walk.
After some time we were able to find his family and hear more of his story. Soma is one of 4 children, he has a mother but no father, and has been marginalised and neglected in his family situation due to his disability. He has had no regular attendance at school, has gone without meals on many occasions and has had to walk for many miles on his bent ankles to try and care for himself.
We were delighted when we heard that the family were willing for him to have the operations he so desperately needed. The sad part of this story is that if Soma was diagnosed as a baby, most likely correction could have taken place without needing surgery. This is a message we want to continue to spread amongst the poor and rural communities in India so that no children grow up with such painful deformities such as Soma had.
In Feb 2013, Soma travelled with his Auntie and staff from our team on a 2 day journey to the hospital where his surgery was booked for. His operations, in the words of his surgeon, were 'very tricky', but finally Soma's ordeal was over and he then came to Hyderabad to stay for us for his recuperation period. Soma has had to spend the past 2+ months with both his little legs encased in plaster cast, but finally they have now been removed and he is undergoing physiotherapy with us to strengthen his legs and feet as we help to re-teach him to walk again, this time on the soles of his feet!
It has been a joy to watch Soma recover, not only physically, but also transforming from a withdrawn sad little boy to one full of joy and confidence as he blossoms with a lot of love and a lot of play!
Sadly it seems at this time that his family are unable/unwilling to want to care for Soma, so in the meantime he will be remaining in the loving care of Love the One, now being able to walk, going regularly to school and remaining in a loving family environment where he is not neglected or marginalised.
Soma has dreams in front of him of being able to ride a bicycle, play football and cricket and becoming a pilot or a policeman! The future is looking bright!
One child's story - Bhuri
2nd March 2013
Bhuri is 4 year old little girl and one of 8 children. She has lived by the side of the railway track all of her young life, with her parents and siblings. They have no shelter or home, they simply sleep in a wooden box next to the rubbish tip. Bhuri's parents have lost all hope due to their terrible circumstances and being at the bottom of the caste system. They dull their pain in the only way they know... with drugs and alcohol, and sniffing whitener.
In 2012, Bhuri's parents were out late at night, working as rag pickers, rifling through the stinking garbage to collect anything they can sell for a few rupees. When they arrived back, at 3am, to where the children were sleeping, Bhuri was missing. Neighbours alerted to them that she was dead on one of the rubbish tips. Bhuri's parents rushed over and found Bhuri stripped naked, covered in blood and unconscious on top of the garbage. They rushed her to the nearest government hospital where she needed to be admitted for emergency surgery.
She had been stolen and so badly gangraped that she was damaged internally and needed some of her bowel to be removed, resulting in her needing a stoma - bringing the bowel out through her stomach wall to allow the bowel to heal.
After 3 days Bhuri regained consciousness and recounted the events to her father: she had intially been given breakfast to eat by one man whilst another man raped her, and then they gave her alcohol to quieten her down whilst the raping continued, and finally they put their hands over her mouth and suffocated her to keep her still and she lost consciousness. Bhuri's father told us that the same man had attempted to rape Bhuri 3 months prior to this but Bhuri had managed to scream and her parents had come running to rescue her. With a chaotic lifestyle and no permanent shelter, so many of these young children are so vulnerable to being sold, kidnapped, raped and trafficked. On the day we found Bhuri, her mother had reported another man had tried to steal her 1 year old baby girl the night before!
So how did we find out about this little girl?
Well months before, after this terrible incident, a wonderful couple, Paul & Jintu living in the same town came alongside the family and offered much love, care and support. This couple are heading up an organisation working with the children who are neglected or abandoned, living on the railway stations.
Bhuri's parents asked them if they would take Bhuri's 6 year old sister into their small family foster home to protect her and give her an education, stable family life and hope for the future. It was decided at this time that Bhuri would be too upset to leave her mum so she remained with them with regular visits from Paul, Jintu and their other daughter.
Despite Paul advocating and trying so hard for many months to get more medical help for Bhuri, the system was failing them and Bhuri remained living with an open stoma, no stoma bags with running liquid faeces down her body, living on the streets. She had no place to be washed down, and life became too difficult for the parents to even begin to care for her. Bhuri's dad reported to us in tears that he had lost all hope that anything could be done to help his daughter and he felt it was better for her if she just died. He had no voice and no ability to change things for his daughter.
During this time, Drs Mary & Cat from Love the One were visiting family in Australia and during this visit connected with a lovely lady who has been working in the NGO setting in India for many years... Enter Bev into the story! Bev simply loves the people in India! She is such a warm and inspiring lady who has been travelling out to India for many years now, and together with Paul and Jintu had helped to establish this amazing work with the Railway Kids. After we chatted and shared lots of stories, with tears in her eyes Bev then shared with us the story of little Bhuri and asked if we could help her.
So in a foreign country, far from India, with strangers meeting for the first time... Bhuri's story broke all of our hearts and connected us all up. 2 months later... the Indian, Australian and UK teams all met together in India and together Bhuri and her parents were found!
Bhuri was withdrawn and covered in faeces, Dad was very sad and distressed and Mum seemed indifferent to her daughter. Over the day we were able to wash her down, put her in clean clothes, play with her and hear more of her story. After checking her over medically we then began to make a plan together.
What happened next was amazing!
Paul and Jintu agreed with us that Bhuri needed more care than her parents could offer alone on the streets so offered her mum and some of the young siblings to come and live at their house whilst we got Bhuri medical help. Jintu spent much time with Bhuri's mum, hearing all her struggles, and gently counselled her as to how best care for her daughter. Bhuri's mum has been blossoming under Jintu's tuition and started to wash and care for her daughter at their home.
From a medical point of view, we were able to get a bowel contrast scan that day and met up with a paediatric surgeon to discuss her case. He agreed that he wanted to help Bhuri at a reduced rate and admitted her that week for the operation she desperately needed - to reverse the stoma and make her bowel with normal function again! Bhuri's surgery was successful and has made an excellent recovery!
From an emotional point of view... coming into a warm, loving family home had an immediate impact on Bhuri. The other young children welcomed her with open arms and within minutes Bhuri was laughing and playing with her new teddy bear, tucking into her lunch and chatting with her sister as if she had no worries in the world!
So from a simply horrific event, where Bhuri was used, abused and left to die, many others gathered around and did all they could, just to help one little unknown 4 year old girl on the streets and her family. Bhuri is now continuing to rebuild her little shattered life with much love and play!
Love the One team are so thrilled to play just a small part in her story, help with her medical care and to meet her, her family and those caring for her, and to continue to visit and check on her progress over the coming years.
Every child counts... but Bhuri is extra special!!!!
Life in Orissa - Jo tells all!
26th September 2012
Joseph moves to Orissa...
It was Nov 2011 when I started work at the Love the One children's clinic in Orissa. The area where the clinic is situated is in a remote forestry area, poverty stricken, with little amenities and known rebel problems, so moving there felt a bit scary for me. To travel to Orissa was a 9hr journey from my place in Andhra Pradesh. After AP we then crossed a state called Chhattisgarh which is also one of the poorer states in India. After reaching Chhattisgarh we then had to travel for a further 3 hours on very poor bumpy roads, cross the river and then travel by motorbike to our destination.
Reaching there was a happy day for me and it was good to be part of the Love the One team, Mary and Cat and the team were waiting excitedly for me to come!
How did I find myself working in rural Orissa?
I had completed my postgraduate MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) and was in search of a job in an organisation which was really helpful for the poor and especially for the children, rather than looking for a job which would only benefit me financially. One day I met Mary and Cat, the Directors of Love the One, who shared about the work they were doing for the children in Orissa.
I applied for the job and was succesful in joining as PROJECT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
My first impressions of rural Orissa...
At first, I was so shocked to see the poverty and conditions the villagers were living in. I had come from a middle class background and yet I did not know how my people were suffering so badly in other areas of my own country. On a positive note it was so good to see the work at the new children’s clinic was going really well and I enjoyed it so much. Every day we used to see 20 to 40 children come to the clinic with different sicknesses. Many people in our community in Orissa believe strongly in black magic and there had been very little other health care. After Love the One clinic started, so many children were treated and become better, so more and more people heard about this and started also coming to clinic to have correct treatment for their children, all provided free of cost. We have seen many children now living who were literally saved from death and the families were so happy.
Access to health care in India differs from the city and rural areas...
Those of us who live in the city have access to many hospitals and doctors who treat people well. In Orissa it is very hard for rural communities to access any health care and health beliefs are such that people do not understand how to keep in good health. Many families were coming to the Love the One clinic and it was so great to see as previously many many children were dying from causes such as malaria and typhoid, chest infections and diarrhoea, and now they were surviving! We could share so many stories of how we saw children lying semi-conscious come back to full health again.We also got to know the families well and enjoyed visiting them in their houses and putting on fun camps for them to come and play and be happy, despite their difficult circumstances. As I worked with Love the One I was always encouraged to share with the families about the medical treatment that the children needed, especially if the people did not understand and wanted to use black magic. We shared with the parents how valuable and precious their child’s life was and encouraged them to care for them.
I feel so encouraged to work with Love the One, because the founding doctors have left their jobs and come all the way from UK to come to India and are doing an awesome work in developing India’s rural health care that is currently lacking in so many areas. As an Indian I really respect their work and love being a part of it. Sadly at the moment we have had to move out of Orissa temporarily due to the dangerous security issues in the district we were working in. It was so sad for us all as we had to shut the clinic knowing that the children really needed the services provided there. As Mother Teresa said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
"If we are not prepared to go and help, why should we expect others to go?"
Yes I am fully aware that working in places such as Orissa can be dangerous for us, as it is for the villagers themselves living there. But as Indians we need to go and work in those kind of places. If we are not prepared to go and help, why should we expect others to go?Why should some people in India have access to all they need, and many others are born into poverty and die in need. Is it a mistake to born in a poor family? Who is going to answer these answerless questions?
Lets all be encouraged to spread the news about these poor children and be prepared to do what we can to help. We are so looking forward to being able to go back soon to Orissa, the state that we love!
Project Development Manager for Love the One
Rural India... filming the reality
15th August 2012
A startling 6 minute video capturing what life is like for India's rural poor today. Shot in Orissa this video highlights the current desperate needs that rural villagers are facing and how Love the One has a passion to continue to work alongside these communities. Villagers will tell us they feel marginalised and forgotten by the world, the so called bottom of the pile, the untouchables.
We want to speak up on behalf of the millions who are suffering, be a voice for the voiceless and ask that justice and equality be sought for all people, regardless of religion, caste or gender.
Huge thanks to our good friend Steve Illsley who has done an amazing job at filming and collating to produce a short but powerful snap shot into rural life in India and capturing our heart and passion as we continue to want to see a difference being made, one child at a time.
WARNING: Some scenes may be distressing and unsuitable for children to view, Parental guidance should be given.
Please note, one scene demonstrating a child being beaten is a re-enactment played by actors.