Saturday, May 22, 2010

Delhi Council for Child Welfare

In an effort to do more than just go to work, the gym, and out to eat, this morning we had the opportunity to visit Palna, which is the Delhi Council for Child Welfare (DCCW) home for abandoned children. Lindsay had been asking at work what people do for charitable activities and a colleague mentioned that he and his wife donate to this organization so they allowed us to tag along. They also brought their 3-year old daughter who seemed a little suspect of the whole operation. Of course, for all she knew, she may have thought she was getting dropped off. They don't typically donate money but call ahead to see what products are needed in the orphanage. As a result, we came bearing specially requested infant formula that Lindsay was able to find in a couple of pharmacies near home.

When I learned we'd be visiting an orphanage in Delhi my mind started racing with images of screaming and malnourished children living in squalid, crowded conditions. Keep in mind, while I've been in India for a relatively long time I haven't really spent much time around children in India so the image I have is a horribly wrong stereotype of children working in a mine in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. At any rate, I was pleasantly surprised to find an extremely well run organization that seemed to really care for the children. After we dropped off the formula, we were fortunate enough to meet with the president of the center and learned quite a bit about the work they do. She mentioned there were only 80 children currently in the facility which had capacity for 150. Of the 80 children, twenty were infants and 30 had some sort of disability. Her primary goal was simple: nutrition. Her thought was that with the proper nutrition at the right stage of development, many of the issues that children might experience can be prevented. Toward the end of our conversation, we asked if we could get a tour of the actual facility. If we promised that we weren't looking to adopt, then we'd be able to go see the children. We opted for the tour.

The facility was located on beautiful grounds and in a building with a number of interior courtyards that helped separate it into a number of different sections. As we walked around, it was evident that the children were, all things considered, well taken care of. There were separate dormitories for the kids by age and a couple of different areas for special needs children. The space was clean, sleeping areas were air conditioned, and you just got the general sense you were in a "good" place. Kind of hard to explain and I'm obviously struggling to do it justice.  After seeing where the kids lived, we walked over to the school, which was actually in session. The kids were all younger than six, so it was more daycare/preschool than it was a true "school" but it was impressive to see these little kids writing and practicing the alphabet and numbers.

Word must have gotten out that there were visitors because a young girl came bolting in the room and literally attached herself to Lindsay and quickly jumped in her arms. Our colleague mentioned to me that the girl was a deaf mute but I decided not to tell Lindsay as I didn't want to interrupt the happy moment, even if a few seconds later Lindsay tried to talk to the girl.

As a whole, the place seemed more boarding school than orphanage, which I'm guessing is the intent of the place. In fact, only two parts screamed "orphanage"; (1) the basket at the front gate where parents can leave children and (2) the sheet of paper that explained the price of adoption (basically INR 500 ($11) + INR 27,000 ($585) adoption fee; however, to be clear the process isn't as simple as walking in and plopping down 600 bucks).
While Lindsay has started to volunteer at a school in Gurgaon on Friday mornings, this was my first (albeit extremely minor) attempt at any sort of social service or to learn more about what's really taking place in the community. And I'm going to admit, it felt good. Though I must also admit that I was relieved when the president of the DCCW made the "no tour if you're in the market" statement which pretty much squashed the inevitable question that Lindsay had probably been planning on asking since she invited herself along on the visit (i.e., "don't you want to just take one home?"). While I don't necessarily need to take one home, it was the most enriching experience of my four and a half months in India.

For more information, please visit their website:

1 comment:

  1. I believe I was on sentence #3 of this post when I said to myself, "Oh boy, Lindsay will want to adopt one of these little ones!"