The first day officially in India and there are no words to describe the experience thus far. From the moment I got off the plane it was evident how poverty stricken the country is. I had an idea of what India was about and their culture, but being here in person does not come close to what I thought India and their culture represented. Today, we had the opportunity to participate in the Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) guided tour walk. Our tour guide was the amazing Sabir who was so informative and used the social agency SBT to overcome his own challenges. He is now 19 and self-reports that he is motivated to continue with his college education and is making positive changes for his own future. Sabir took us on a walk that really made you realize the conditions of the streets of India and showing us where the kids who use SBT’s services come from. Sabir first took us to a contact point where he showed us where the boys who are taken in are taught education. Next, he took us to a shelter for boys where they were living. The children there were so happy to have us some were even playing games with some of the students from the study abroad program. Following, the group and I went to the Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), which is an addiction center for children. I think that was the most emotional part to my day knowing that those kids fall into addictions, due to their homelessness and socioeconomic status. It really touched my heart as it probably touched many others. The youngest child there was only 5 years old and that really just broke my heart seeing how young they can fall into a drug addiction. The kids were so happy to see us and so eager to ask us so many questions. We even participated in a dance with the children participated in a dance with the children It was such a rewarding feeling seeing those kids smile and laugh as we were there. For one day, I think there was so much that was brought to us! We even went shopping to end the day. Oh, and last but not least, how can I forget to add the start to our day, which was a rickshaw ride to meet Sabir. That was also the best way to start the day to a wonderful first day in India.
Reflections by Leah Abramoff:
India has many differences to the United States of America but there are also many, especially when looking at social and health challenges found within the populations. Addiction and youth homelessness are prevalent social challenges that can be found within both the USA and India and there are social programs that target these social challenges within both locations. While the umbrella-ing terms appear the same, like jolly ranchers found within a bag, the flavors can all be different. Within the USA we have places like the Salvation Army and mental health facilities with addiction centers as examples of supportive services for children dealing with either homelessness or addiction. And, thankfully, there are social agencies like Salaam Baalak Trust and the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses within India. Per the experiences learned on this day and knowledge of how our own USA agencies work, the beauty of all of these social agencies is that they work with their communities in order to identify and meet the individual’s needs. As a social worker learning the trade through USF it is constantly reinforced that best social work practices is to follow evidenced-based practice but keep in mind the cultural impact of the individual and what their specific needs are. Having children become survivors of substance use and homelessness can tug at a person’s heart and it is evident that while the social challenge appears to be the same these social agencies do an amazing job at meeting the specific needs of their community and applying it in an appropriate, evidence-informed system of practice. At the same time, it is invigorating to get a new perspective of the social challenge and come back to the USA with a broader sense of how to positively and humbly serve individuals.