Happy New Year from Mumbai!

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January 1, 2014


The calendar has flipped to 2014 and the loud bangs and pops from the fireworks have almost subsided leaving behind an extra a layer of haze on the Mumbai skyline. 2013 started quietly for DWP as we worked from afar, fundraising, taking care of personal lives and business, but always staying connected to the Saki Naka community through Jaita and Aarti who live in Mumbai and by keeping in touch with Indu. While we were still in Canada, via email and phone calls, we managed to pay some school fees and emergency help was given when needed. Since the end of September 2013, Todd and I have been living in Mumbai and have been working non-stop with Indu by our side, helping families we know as well as meeting new families from other areas of Mumbai who require school fees or medical help. Here is a recap of what DWP has been up to in 2013……..

We spend hours and hours at hospitals:

Recently DWP has paid medical bills for patients with heart problems, dengue fever, ear infections, typhoid fever, TB, kidney dialysis and cancer. Malnourished kids are receiving health care, follow-up care and supplements and moms and babies are ferried to and from the Foundation for Mother and Child Health for check-ups and nutritional information. We have paid for two surgeries (Keshore’s toe removal and baby Radha’s abscess). Sanobar, a teen girl with a liver abscess is receiving on-going care and Hema requires dialysis three times a week. Immediate care and medical attention has been given to women who have suffered physical abuse by their husbands. We have provided dental care for a child and a father and we just purchased eye glasses for 18 year-old Raju so he could continue his studies. Three elderly women living with chronic pain have received care for degenerative health issues related to aging and living conditions. We have paid hospital fees for strangers at hospitals who can’t afford to have their loved ones released or afford the medicine required for their ailments. Omkar, a 12 year-old boy, received a quick ride to the hospital and was given an emergency rabies vaccination after being bitten by a dog. We took a young mother who is unable to walk and who’s health has degenerated to a hospital for investigation about her condition. Almost daily there is a medical issue that we deal with. We try to avoid the filthy municipal hospitals which provide necessary cut-rate services and are over-flowing with people sleeping on blood-stained floors and instead take patients to small private, nearby hospitals where they get immediate attention and better care. Medical needs are a constant strain on our resources and the decision about who and how to help is always stressful, but we are thankful when patients recover and the financial burden is lifted from families who could never afford prompt, efficient medical care.

We search lane ways for schools:

Since October, we have paid for 41 children to go to school, bought a few pairs of school shoes and socks and attended school functions as guests. The parents are relieved of the major financial burden of paying school fees for at least one of their children, allowing them to spend the money saved on food, rent and transportation or in most cases the repayment of loans to survive. We are excited when one more child gets to go to school and the school principals (most of them small private local schools on limited budgets) are thrilled to have their balance sheets tipped in their favour.

We go to all the best parties:

Celebrating is the antidote to misery and the families in Saki Naka, in spite of their living conditions know how to celebrate birthdays. Dirty Wall Project always provides the cake and candles and a gift for the birthday boy, girl, man or woman. We get to partake in birthday pujas, while sitting in the small one-room homes crammed with excited kids waiting for a sliver of cake. After the cake and puja celebration is over and the neighbourhood kids have cleared out, we sit cross-legged on the floor and the parents provide a generous meal of veg, goat or chicken curry with special puri bread. We look forward to being guests at birthday parties and revel in the tradition of sharing cake with everyone who comes into the home. No one is turned away, even if all that can be offered is a mere sliver of frosting and crumbs.

We try to have some fun:

Dirty Wall Project is about fulfilling immediate needs and everyone needs to have fun from time to time. Shelving their worries and having time to focus on laughter and friendly competition for a few hours brings a lot of joy to many people. DWP has purchased art supplies and held impromptu art classes for hordes of kids at one time. We have played the popular “Housie” game, giving away prizes to the winners of several games in a row. The Sister’s Adorers Home for girls was treated to a day at a water park courtesy of DWP. Forty girls played for hours in pools, on water slides, had lunch and snacks and then slept on the bus ride home. Sometimes we provide art supplies to individual kids who love to draw allowing them the freedom to be creative in their spare time. Physical activity hasn’t been neglected as badminton rackets we have supplied are coveted and kids can be seen playing the game in all areas of the community. The kids love my camera. They love to have their photo taken, but are more excited when they take the camera and take photos of each other. As a gift to the families, we provide copies of all photos taken by us or by the kids. Memories are made, laughs are priceless.

We are grateful:

As much as we love being in Mumbai, it is not an easy city to live in, work in or play in so we are always very grateful for the rickshaw or taxi driver who is kind to patients we need transported and the few who waive their fees when they realize we are transporting someone who is ill. We are thankful to the doctors and medical staff who know us well now and always fit us in and care for our patients as much as we do. We are thankful and amazed when doctors reduce their consulting fees or waive them when they find out we are a non-profit and our patients are from slum communities. And then there are the doctors at the BMC Municipal Hospitals (filthy, over-crowded) who have treated patients who end up there with respect and courtesy despite the conditions they work in. It is amazing to find so many people willing to help others in a city as frenetic and difficult as Mumbai.

Most of all we are thankful to all of you who support the Dirty Wall Project so we can continue to help where it is most needed. In a world of hurt and misery and deplorable living conditions your generous donations go a long way and bring a wee bit of hope and a good dose of cheer to those who live in poverty.  Happy 2014!



Cindy, Todd and Indu

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2 Responses to “Happy New Year from Mumbai!”

  1. Joan Athey Says:

    Thanks for this heart-warming year-end journal. See a need and fill it – that is what the DWP indeeed continues to accomplish. Very proud to know the Ryans. Let me know when you are back in Victoria again.

  2. Delaney Says:

    And Happy New Year to you both and to everyone at Saki Naka! Thank you for the updates and the heart-warming and sometimes heart-breaking news from the community. As always, I am in awe of all that you do and accomplish, and having experienced the frenzy and frustrations of Mumbai and the slum myself, I know how incredible your accomplishments and good works are. Give all the kids a big hug from me!

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