This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to study public health and traditional medicine throughout northern India. Each day was a unique adventure, filled with people and places worth sharing and many valuable learning experiences. However one of the most significant learning experiences came from interacting with street children at an organization called Jamgaht.
The first five weeks of my program were spent in the buzzing capital of Delhi. Throughout the weeks we visited a variety of different non-profit organizations, public and private clinics, and a few large hospitals. One of these visits was to Jamghat, an organization dedicated to providing support for street children and awareness to the community about issues concerning these children. One of the programs that Jamghat offers is a day care center where street children can come to receive food, education, and basic healthcare.
Jamghat’s day care center is located in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. The streets of Old Delhi are filled with winding and narrow alleyways crowded with life (people, cows, dogs, monkeys, and all types of vehicles). I recall walking through an alley filled with tables of scarves and other goods for sale. The smell of food wafted in the air and seemed to blend with the intense heat and humidity as the sound of chanting blared over the city from a nearby mosque. We soon reached an open lot with blankets and temporary shelters, and our program leader explained that this was where many of the street children lived. In the second story of a building adjacent to the lot was the Jamgat day care center. We spent the day playing with the children, talking with the organization directors and volunteers, and even helping with a teaching lesson. The children incredibly were vibrant and playful.
This was one of the most profound learning experiences for me because I was able to understand the lives of these children in a more dynamic context, as a new perspective was illuminated. Previous to my visit to Jamgaht I had only interacted with street children as they begged for food and money. This was a very overwhelming and haunting experience, and I found myself wanting to ignore and avoid these children. Thus, my visit to Jamghat instilled in me a deeper understanding of the lives of street children as individuals, in addition to greater insight into the social challenges surrounding children living on the street.
I am thankful for this particular experience and I believe it epitomizes many different instances in which my perspective changed. This experience, along with other similar experiences, afforded me the tools to understand novel and often challenging realities while studying health and healing in India. My time spent in India will forever hold a special place in my memory, and I am certain that it will continue to influence and impact all of my future pursuits.
– Katelyn Occhipinti, Delhi, India