Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Circling Back to Renuka (and other odds and ends)

1. On Sunday night, Menakshi (the child life specialist) and I visited Renuka for the last time. It was really great to see her and hear more about how she is doing. (Past blog posts about Renuka can be found here and here 

Renuka was so excited to see us. When she heard the rickshaw coming, she ran outside of her house and started waving. She looks great and was smiling way more than the last time we saw her. Two weeks ago, her mom and dad came to see her for the first time since the surgery. Her dad wanted to take her back home now that she looks “so beautiful.” But her aunt and uncle did not want to let her go
because they were unsure whether the father would begin to treat herpoorly as he has in the past. The aunt told Menakshi, “We love having Renuka as our daughter.”

But mostly, Renuka does not want to go back with her mom and dad. You can't argue with her thinking. Her dad violently abused her. Why would she want to go back to that when she can be loved by her aunt and uncle? To say the least, her mother and father were not happy about her decision, and they left angry.

When Menakshi and I were speaking with the women in that village, they all said that the arrival of the mother and father had made them so nervous and that they were afraid she was going to have to leave. One of the neighbors told me, “Here, we love Renuka, we do not want her to go.”

Renuka is still going to school everyday and really enjoys playing with her friends. Her hugs are amazing... I wish I could get a Renuka hug everyday. She is just the happiest, sweetest girl. The whole time while I was there she held my hand and did not want to let go when I was leaving.

That night, I spent the night with Menakshi’s aunt and uncle again. Nine people, all under one small roof. There's the two grandparents, their three sons and one daughter. Two of the sons are married, and one of the couples has a baby. They are so sweet and I really enjoy sleeping in the village. No electricity most of the time, so quiet and peaceful. They fed me a lot, as always, and their neighbors invited me over for more food. I will say this again—they live such a simple and sweet life and there is much to be said for that.

Renuka is looking good! 
Best friends. 
Menakshi and Renuka. 
Renuka's aunt, Aunt's son
Socializing outside of Renuka's home. 
Saying goodbye! 

Ta ta! 

2. Khausitan has just completed her second full week at Panbazar Girls School, a government school! On the fourth day of school, her teacher told me that they had moved her to a higher class because she did so well on her tests. That is so exciting! Khausitan has also talked her best friend in to coming to Panbazar Girls School. Although her best friend enrolled at the school a couple of years back, she quit going. But Khausitan is doing her best to get her to go again.

Since taking Khausitan to Panbazar day school, I have discovered that there are two girls from the Lakhtokia slum who regularly to school. Their mother brings them every morning and strongly believes they should get an education. I convinced these two girls to go to the Don Boscoe afternoon program for extra practice last week. So everyday, I take Khausitan and Komala (Khausitan's best friend) to school in the morning and then I take four girls (Khausitan, Komala, and the two sisters) to the afternoon program! Whoohooooo!

Yesterday morning, I did not go to take them to school because I was coming home from visiting Renuka. I wanted to see if they would go on their own. Yesterday afternoon, I was so pleased to hear
that in fact they went to school on their own.

One girl—Khausitan—has inspired more girls to expand their education. At first, I was disappointed with only one girl having so much interest in going to school. But what has come of that is very exciting.

Khausitan and her sister on the first day of school. 
3. I leave for the USA in just under two weeks. These last two weeks, I am just going to continue living my day-to-day life: wake up, exercise, walk to the slum, take the girls to school, walk to the centre, finish up all my research and social media projects, walk to the slum, take the kids to afternoon school, go back to the centre to continue working, and then pick up the kids from afternoon school, and walk home.

I am really sad to leave, so I just will not talk about it until the time comes. But I am going to enjoy these last two weeks as much as possible. Soak it all in!

Sending smiles from India, 

More photos from the week:

Last week, I went to the wedding of the pediatrician who works for the Operation Smile center. Congrats, Bhabesh!  
A beautiful, simple wedding. 
Monsoon season is coming. This is outside of my apartment building.  

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