As promised, on Tuesday myself and two coworkers headed to the tracks to find the little girl who needs medical attention. As we entered the slum I immediately felt that something was off. All over, shanty homes had been knocked down, burned and removed. Quickly it was explained that the people in that area were being evicted, my stomach dropped. I can't even get into how I feel about the government evicting the innumerable amount of homeless all over the country... but it made me worry of course for all of my friends, all of the children we have come to love. I worried that we wouldn't find the girl who needed help but luckily with the help of some of the other children, we did. When she walked towards me I realized she was probably about five, and she walked like she was completely out of balance. My coworker who speaks the local language helped me talk to the father. As we were talking, I smiled at the girl, and reached out my hand to "tickle" her belly. It was rock hard against my fingers. Lurch in my stomach again. After much talking the father explained that he couldn't leave to take her to the hospital with us. One reason was because the government is evicting people from the slums and if he leaves, surely their home will be knocked down. The second reason was because he didn't feel that anything was wrong with his little girl. Knots in my stomach. I don't 100% know what I expected, I knew we wouldn't just swoop in and skip off to the doctor but I hoped he would trust us. The conversation went well but he wouldn't come with us. The end compromise is that I will return on Saturday and they will tell us then if they will go with us to the doctor. So, please continue to pray friends.
I initially thought I wouldn't share what I am about to but I think I want people to realize that it is not all rainbows and butterflies on Sundays. That despite all of the good and how much those of us that do this every week believe in it, that sometimes it is hard to the point of me having to walk away. You see here is the thing about me, I am a person who wants nothing more than to give, I am a lover, I am a servant and I am a person who feels endlessly. I feel so many emotions and I allow myself to feel them fully. So maybe why that is why I am sitting here full of guilt when maybe I shouldn't be but anyways here it goes.
It is winter here, at night under my thick blanket I wake up cold. I can't even imagine how cold it gets sleeping on the earth under a tarp. My friend/coworker arrived back in Guwahati this week after being at home for a stretch. She brought with her warm clothes to give to the kids and today (after much discussion) we decided it would be okay to hand it out after we gave the food. We wanted to give the meals, then walk away from the crowd to gain a bit more privacy/control to give the clothing to the kids. We both knew it would cause some madness, which is why until this point I have not given out anything beyond food in the slum. So that is what we did. The day was crazy to begin with, the crowd was massive, there was pushing and shoving and it felt like we had never been there before. It was a strange day, however when the food was gone things calmed and we continued on with the plan. I held Anjuna in my arms, hugging her then we walked hand in hand towards her home. As we got further from the crowd my friend handed the bag of clothing down to Anjuna with the intention of letting the kids sort it out, having no idea what would happen next. In a split second my little girl was swarmed, attacked by the other kids and even adults. She was on the ground screaming and crying out. People were hitting her with sticks, being completely animalistic and I was just tearing through them trying to pick her up. All I remember is yelling a lot, and scooping her up from behind and getting hit myself. Her sobs and screams hurt me like I have never hurt before. I pulled her away but the crowd kept pushing, she still wanted clothing of course and so she continued to put up a fight to receive something. I can't even describe what I was feeling in that moment and afterwards. I had to walk away at a point and couldn't look back. A few minutes later I still heard the yelling but saw Anjuna and some of the other children again. She came to me and looked utterly defeated, my feelings of guilt compounded. I picked her up again, she lay her head on my shoulder, I said I was sorry and soon we had to part ways.
Every week is such a positive and happy experience. The trust we have built, the joy that surrounds every meal there is real. Today I allowed the kids who trust me so much to be hurt (physically, emotionally) and I don't honestly know how to process this. I believe in giving, in serving and in acting on needs in your community. I whole heartedly believe in the purpose of Asha Guwahati and that is why I wanted to give out warm clothing when the opportunity came. What I didn't want was for the kids' survival instincts to kick in and cause them to harm one another. Even more than that, I did not want to put children who are so connected to us, who trust us to feel as though we were pitting them against one another. People will argue until they are blue in the face about their feelings on charity organizations, on giving assistance around the world and here in India specifically. The scene today might make a perfect argument of why people shouldn't just hand things out to those in need. I calmly listen to these opinions frequently and many time there are valid points made by either party but I stand by what we do here (both in the slums and at the surgical center) and anyone who visits and is a part of either of those stands by us too. The problem is that now I am stuck wondering how you forgive yourself for letting a child you love deeply be hurt by a situation you put them in...