Karen Adler (India)

Karen Adler (Butterflies, India): Karen’s parents are both immigrants to the US - her father from Hungary, her mother from India. Karen graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1999, and then completed an MS in psychology in 2002 in San Diego, CA. Karen spent a year volunteering with a literacy project for homeless children and families in San Diego. Also, while in San Diego, Karen and a fellow graduate student developed an outreach program where they provided blood pressure screenings and health education to members of African-American communities. At the time of her fellowship, Karen was a second-year medical student at Cornell University.


10 Aug

Hello All! Today, instead of describing events, I wanted to try to convey a sense of what the children of Butterflies are like as people. Because they are truly remarkable people: bright, silly, open, resourceful, responsible, and at the same time, very troubled.

All the children are really excited to meet newcomers and run up to say hello with big grins. They are also very sweet and thoughtful. They are always looking out for one another and bringing the needs of their peers to the attention of the adults. They also love to help out the staff, be it by bringing chairs for the us to sit on, running to bring supplies as needed, or carrying materials in for a workshop or event. They also love to learn, sing, dance, and watch Hindi movies. However, many of these same children have run away from their homes because of poverty and abuse, are now addicted to drugs, and/ or engaged in prostitution.

I’ll share a few specific stories by way of illustration.

Ganesh is a 12 year old boy who is currently living in the crisis center after breaking his leg in what is known here as an RTA (road traffic accident). He is addicted to inhaling solutions. From the day I met him about 2 weeks ago, his smile has lit up the room. He immediately ran to bring me a chair to sit in while I worked with Dr. Brijesh (the crisis center doctor) recording histories and prescribing treatments to the sick children. When I was bandaging the wounds of other children, he sat beside me as a faithful helper, cutting gauze and tearing wads of cotton into appropriately-sized pieces. When I would come to check on Jumman, he would always hop over to say hello. He practices English with me and I practice Hindi with him.

Anand, the boy who I have already told you about who lost his legs, also has a smile to light up a room. He is very bright and really listens and imitates whenever he hears me speaking English. Lately every time I see him, he has taken to waving at me and saying, “Hi, how are you?” as loudly as he can, although I usually greet the children in Hindi. Every morning the children pray and meditate in their activities room and a few of the older boys usually conductthe session and maintain discipline. Today, Anand was at the front of the room facing the group, loudly instructing his peers to keep their eyes closed and sit properly for meditation. This display was both highly amusing and heartening because just a week ago, Anand had to be forced to participate in any group activity, let alone lead one.

Dinesh Kumar is another boy of about 12. I met him last Friday for the first time. After meeting me, he ran to show me some very beautiful flowers he had drawn and quickly folder some paper into this rather amazing origami frog that actually hopped.

Meena and Farheen are sisters and are both incredibly sweet. Farheen is younger and loves to ask for medical check-ups like listening to her lungs and having her temperature taken even when she is perfectly well.

At the same time, tragedy is everywhere. Last week Dr. Brijesh and I examined a 14 year old boy I’ll call RJ. He had a macular rash on his palms and soles for which he referred him to dermatology at Safdarjung Hospital. Yesterday, he was seen there and tested positive for syphilis, and was promptly treated with IV penicillin G. After his return to the crisis center, the doctor and I spoke with him, and he admitted to having sex with boys in exchange for money.

My first day at the crisis center, an adolescent girl I’ll call Anna was transferred to us by the police after having been raped by her uncle. Although there were instructions which I helped to decipher regarding emergency contraception, I was told on Monday that her pregnancy test is positive. What exactly happened isn’t clear to me. After the doctor and I had discussed the details of what needed to be done for her the day she arrived, he said that she told the staff that she got her period that morning, so they thought the EC wasn’t needed. However, Monday the doctor told me that Anna said she hasn’t menstruated in about 2 years. I am not sure where the communication breakdown occurred in all this. Sometimes even when we are all speaking English, I find there are barriers. Now they are sending Anna for an ultrasound and will take things from there. Anna was very quiet around me at first, but now finds me and greets me each morning. I just wish I could do more to help her.

I hope this narrative helps you get a sense of these brave, resilient children. They have made this summer an incredible one for me.

Posted By Karen Adler (India)

Posted Aug 10th, 2005

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