Monday, 19 February 2007


Where to begin? No idea, but a single computer, a connection that drops in and out and a queue behind me means I'll just give you a very brief update for now. I'm also not able to bring you any photos while I'm away, so you'll need to wait for those for now.

I was going to say "in a few words" but I can't. The past three days have been quite an experience. Today was our first slum experience and I really want to tell you about that, so I'll leave our arrival, Saturday and Sunday's events to another entry. Suffice to say we have had a gentle introduction to Delhi and have loved it all. (Air pollution aside - the air quality is shocking)

Today, Monday, was scheduled as our first day in the slums. We met after breakfast to pray for the day and talk briefly about fears and concerns. Really in the end we were all just wanting get started, so while there were a few concerns the main feeling was of anticipation.
Our first stop was Asha Headquarters, where we met some of the Asha team and were walked through a presentation of the work Asha does and the progress they have made. It's unbelievable what Dr Kirin Martin and her team have done here. I will do more entries on that talk and our morning meeting, but I want to get right on to our first touch of the slum.

We will be working in the clinic in Zakhira. This slum is split into two stretches. Both are sandwiched between the railway line and industrial sites. Before Asha moved into the area 4 years ago, there were fatalities as the children and woman would cross the railway tracks to get water from the other side. In the past 2 years they have improved the site by leaps, and now have paved walkways and gutters for the waste water. One of the most significant improvements are water pumps in the slum. This now means they no longer cross the tracks.

We were met with garlands of flowers and a wonderful welcome by the women in the courtyard of the clinic where we will be working. Many of the key workers in the slum spoke about the work they do, which is all part of the empowerment program that Asha runs. (I so badly want to write and write and write, but have a people breathing down my neck for the machine, so I'm struggling for words! - unusual for me...)
This is primarily a Muslim slum and so in the past many of the women were not allowed to leave their homes or if they did, moved about with their heads and faces covered. For them to be walking heads held high and head scarves thrown back is huge thing. They are all beautiful with colourful dresses and quick, shy smiles. For them to stand up in front of a crowd and tell us about the work they are doing in the slum is also enormous. If you find that my words are mostly about the women and children, it's because this is who Asha is working with. It's the women who are making the difference here.

I have to go, I can't do this pressure, but before I do I want to tell you about the children. They were just delightful. As we listened to the stories, I started to take pictures of the women and the children. The wonderful thing abut the digital camera is that you can instantly show the picture to the group. After the talks, we were shown around both slum sectors and took loads of pictures. Mostly of the children. Hunkering down and taking a photo, and then showing them the results was wonderful. They giggled and laughed and rushed around us. As I turned to look at other members in the team, they were doing the same. Everyone talking to the women, listening and learning about the life they lead and the work they do in the area. Those of us with cameras, also having fun with the children. What an experience.

Our programme is to paint Tuesday to Friday, with a visit to one of the other slums on Wednesday. We'll also be walking with and talking to the people who live their lives in these places. We need to be done by Saturday lunch time, when there is an official opening. We also plan to do 2 afternoons of workshops with the children. I can't wait. The most powerful thing these children can receive, after the basic nutritional, medical and health needs, which is where Asha is helping, is English and computer literacy. With that, they have a chance to escape this life and move to something better. Now there's a thought...

Gotta go. More later.


Anonymous said...

Hello this is Jon and Cyd Phillips, I am Michael Phillips youngest son - it sounds like you have already experienced so much in such a little time. Please give my love to my Dad and tell him Hi and I hope all is going well. We look forward to hearing more. Many Blessings - we are praying for you all and Asha. Yours Jon and Cyd.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving us such a vivid and inspiring update. We will keep you in our prayers - particularly for strength!


Sue said...

Thanks for your messages, I have relayed your wishes to the team.