Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Saving Grace...

The Lenten season is on. Time for reconciliation, period of receiving God's grace through one's own act of charity, forgiveness and penance. Charity is in giving until it hurts. Forgiveness is in begging pardon for one's own acts of revenge, anger, sinfulness, and it is equally in terms of coming forward to forgive others even before one asks for it. This is a time of penance that should help one take control of emotions and feelings that can endanger anyone's life, dignity or name.

There is that element of eeriness floating in the Lenten air. A sense of deprivation, partaking in the sadness of the Master who wants to die a culprit's death, and a sense of loneliness that is pronounced in longer hours of prayer and silence. 

Almost every day I walk to some of the streets in Howrah and I see women and children handling filthy water that is home to every disease one can think of, and see children of Muslim brethren working in the household cloth industry with no thought of education or access to health and other services.  I know many of their houses and the roads that lead to their homes go under water exposing these people to more diseases. What is dignity to them? Grace is supposed to fill upon grace. But here, saving grace is yet to come.

I return back tired, almost deadly, and sleep off wondering if there will be a better tomorrow. Can the turn of every Lent bring in the joy of Easter?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Luring with balls, whistles and gifts...

E. Hogden of USAID vaccinating a child in Uluberia, West Bengal
Tomorrow, 18 Feb, once again we will go through the Polio Sunday--trying to count if more children were vaccinated at the polio booths, and then throughout the week, counting the Xs (those who do not take the vaccine) and pray that there aren't too many resistant cases, and there are fewer children reported sick or out of home. It all happens in a week's time. To allure the children and parents to take vaccine at the booths, whistles are given by Unicef, balls are given by Rotary, and at times masks and caps! And besides that the ICDS centers are kept open so that children below 5 years can eat on a Sunday (usually ICDS centers are closed on Sunday) with an egg! Ooh.... the list of lollipops is getting wider and wider. This raises the fundamental question: are our programs really responding to people's perceived needs? The question is wrong as it tends to abdicate our responsibility to teach what is good for people. So, it must be placed as : Are we responding to the needs of people when we need them, or are we rushing to them to fulfill what we perceive as their needs, although selfishly, we want to benefit from the same as well? Now the question makes sense. If people's basic needs and need for health care, sanitation and education are not met, why should they vaccinate their children when we tell them to do so. 

The issue gets further complicated when we look into the amount of money that goes into this polio eradication program. At what cost have we achieved a title "polio free India" for 14 months ! Can our dolling out of freebies ever teach people the needs of health care if our health care systems function hardly for few hours in a day? Answers are deeper than the skin.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Web Based Emergency Needs Assessment

I had been planning to write earlier than this....but too many travels and field visits kept me under wraps. Meanwhile, we have started test running a Web Based Emergency Needs Assessment (ENA) format that can help organizations to file their reports within 72 hours after a disaster strikes. The format is simple and is made user friendly for organizations to fill in the formats in quickest time. All filled in formats can be viewed by any user, but can only be edited or new forms can be uploaded only by authorized users. The idea is to allow only genuine non-profit organizations to participate in this. So, any organization within India (international, national and community based non-profits) can freely register and use this service.

We plan to upgrade the service over a period of time and seeing the utility, suggestions and feedback. All are welcome to visit:  ena.cks.org.in  For testing you may use the username : approved and for password: redchair123

We will be happy to receive feedback from each and everyone of you. Our thanks goes to Mr. Edward U, a student of Seattle University, who volunteered to prepare the site for the benefit of Indian people.