Monday morning it was time to start the programs and we began at the Bethany Centre, Home for Destitute Women. We arrived at the centre, which compared to anywhere in Australia that might provide a service would appear bleak, but yet the people that filled it provided an air of hope. The room was filled with women from late teens to older women. The stories of the women supported include; abandonment, run aways, mental health, unwed mothers, burnt women, orphan’s, women who have no social or emotional supports and no way of providing for themselves financially. They sang and they danced before we took the opportunity to engage with them, to just sit with them and try by whatever means to communicate with them.
After some time we headed out to Anderson Church that provides per-school support for slum children aged 2 – 5 whose parents have to work and the only option they have is to leave their children alone at home. The pre-school is run from an upstairs room with not even a fan, but what it does have is some dedicated women who offer love, safety and food for the children. To actually just sit, play and sing with these kids for a while is an amazing privilege, they are all happy and amidst everything are just children needing interaction.
We took lunch and then returned to the Bethany Centre where the young street children had prepared some entertainment for us and once more following on from that we got the opportunity to just engage, they loved the hokey pokey!
No words can ever relay the experience of what we have done in this one day, no words can express the range of emotion that follows engaging with these women and children. We can never truly understand what their lives are like. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and I believe that it is true, some of the women’s eyes looked deep and troubled, yet still they smiled, but one thing I saw in all was hope. As for the children, despite the lives that they live, they all manage to smile and laugh. The pre-school seemed to raise the most emotion in me, knowing that the alternative to this small room was to be left home alone is heartbreaking. No judgement can be passed on the parents because the bottom line is that life in poverty in India, or indeed any developing country, is hard and harsh, if people are to eat, people need to work no matter how little they may be paid or how long they have to work.
The dedication of the people providing support is phenomenal, the care is genuine and in that there is no doubt. Our journey has well and truly begun, some days will be long and tiring and add to that the experiences and emotions, there can be no escape from the fact that we are on a learning curve that will be life changing.