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.


25 Jul

It is Monday night in Delhi and the heat is showing no signs of abating. Today marks the start of my second week with Butterflies, which I am discovering is a truly unique and remarkable organization. Butterflies’ governing philosophy is that of empowerment rather than charity. What this means is that children living and working in poverty are not handed free services, but rather are being encouraged to invest (monitarily and emotionally) in bettering their own futures and becoming active members and decision-makers within the organization. Any money that the children pay towards services that they use through Butterflies goes into a bank account for them at the Children’s Development Bank, a very interesting project that I will describe in detail soon.

I have primarily been spending my days riding with the mobile health van which visits 11 contact points during the course of each week where street children are living, working, and participating in educational programs. Two field educators are at each site everyday all day. Once at the site, we find the field educator who leads us to the children, and we examine each sick child in turn and dispense medication as needed. Most children I have seen have had wounds that may be getting infected, coughs, or fevers. Occasionally I have seen more serious conditions, such as a pre-gangrenous wound in bad need of debridement. If any injury or illness is beyond our treatment capabilities, we take the child to a nearby government hospital (free to all but very crowded). At each contact point, one of the children serves as a child health promoter. Usually this an adolescent who has received some training on basic medications and health promotion facts. They have shoulder bags that they restock with bandaids, antiseptic, gauze, acetominophen, and other basic supplies each time the van visits their site. That way, the children can have their medical problems attended to at all times. And once again, children are being empowered through their role as caretakers of one another.

I was also involved with a very interesting workshop on nutrition last Thursday which was attended by over 30 children who are members of the Health Cooperative, an organization run by the children where the children interested in membership pay a small amount of money which entitles them to unlimited health services through the mobile health van and 24 hr crisis center. In keeping with this philosophy, the children who attended the nutrition workshop all paid a small sum of money to participate (equivalent to about 10 cents), completed a registration, and were given official name badges, which I pinned onto their shirts. There were also several attendees from a UN conference for the Global Action Committee on Children. They delegates introduced themselves to the children in Hindi and were greeted by showers of applause in return. The conference members were all working with similar populations of children in their home countries (Colombia, Mexico, and Russia). One of the group leaders from Mexico commented to me that she was amazed at how open and friendly the children were, which was a contrast from the situation she had worked in in Mexico City. Similar health education lessons have been developed on the topics of drug abuse, child sex abuse, tuberculosis, and the digestive system. During my internship, I will be writing lesson plans for other topics such as diarrheal diseases and STDs. I am also going to be workin with Monica, one of the health coordinators, to develop a training module for a new suport group for children who are struggling with drug addiction. Sniffing solution seems to be the most popular substance of abuse among the children.

A final thought. Today was the first day I saw any female children, previously it has been all boys. When I asked the doctor about this, he answered that this is because the site we visited today is where entire street families live together, whereas previously we were seeing runaway children who are functionin without families. He went on to say that girls would not survive alone. Signing off for now, but more soon, I hope! Namaste. Karen.

Posted By Karen Adler (India)

Posted Jul 25th, 2005

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