Never in my life have I believed this more than after working at Daya Dan for the last three weeks. Hannah wrote about some of the kids in her last blog post and I thought it was about time that I do the same. We celebrated our 3 week anniversary of volunteering today, can you believe it? Time flies! Anyways, all of these little babes are so precious to me and I could go on and on about them all, but, as I have mentioned before and as is inevitable, I have a few favorites. Little ones that have melted my heart and keep me getting up at 6 am every morning just to see them.
First, Pompa. Pompa is a little 4-year-old girl with the most beautiful smile you can ever imagine and an attitude that can only be found in a little girl. She is the definition of sassy and has the attention and love of every single female volunteer that walks in the doors of Daya Dan. She certainly has me wrapped around her finger. She does not have any mental disabilities, so I spend time coloring with her, teaching her the names of the colors and helping her learn English. She speaks VERY good English, considering she came to Daya Dan only in March. She can't say Allison so she calls me Alli, which is adorable and when I hear her yelling that across the room, I can't resist. Since she met Hannah and I at the same time, she sometimes just combines our names and calls us both AllieHannah. I think this is so funny and totally fits her personality. Like she is too lazy to pick just one based on who it is. It's much easier for her to combine them and we are too in love with her to ever be offended. Haha. She has problems with her legs, which have developed slightly off kilter, and her knees are stiff, so she cannot walk. However, she has special shoes that she uses to help direct her feet and she can stand with the help of the railing. She just got crutches last week and I watched her walk in them. Go, Pompa!
Puja has a similar problem with her legs and has been going through the same process as Pompa. They are not sure how old Puja is because they found her on the streets, but they think she is about 4 or 5. Puja is an interesting little girl because she speaks a little Hindi, a little Bengali, a little English, and a lot of some other language that none of the Mashis or sisters know or can recognize. So I think that Puja gets a little frustrated sometimes because she cannot communicate like she would like to. However, she is such a sweet little girl. All I have to do is walk in a room, put my hands on my hips, and say, "Pujaaaaa" and she lowers her head a little, trying to hide that cute little smile that she can't help. Like Pompa, she does not have a learning disability and so I have spent time with her helping her learn the alphabet and many English words. I think that her English is getting better every day. She is also making great progress with her physical disability and she and Pompa can be seen at any given point, chilling on the railing in their special shoes. So sweet.
Goongoon just arrived here last week. She is quite the jibberish speaker and QUITE the giggler. She can't speak and only says "la la la la la" over and over again, with this huge smile on her face. I like to sit with her and talk jibberish with her for a few minutes when I need a break. Haha. She has a similar disability as Pompa and Puja and I think that right now, the physical therapists are getting her ready to start standing and maybe walking after. She cries a lot when she gets exercised because she's new and not used to it. That's hard to watch and to participate in. But other than that, she is the HAPPIEST baby in the world. And so so cute. I think she must be about 3 or so.
I like to think of Sneha as my personal little baby. Haha. Like with all the benefits of motherhood without any of the costs. Perfect, right? Haha. Sneha is a little baby with cerebral palsy and severe mental retardation. She has two lazy eyes and I'm not really sure how much she can see, but she responds sooo well to touch. She has the biggest smile and when she is happy, you know it. She squeals and giggles and opens her mouth as wide as it goes, failing her little limbs. She is such a joy to be around. Difficult to feed though. She cries and cries when you try to feed her and the only way to get it down is by putting it in as she cries and letting her deal with it when it's too annoying to ignore. Poor little baby. Every day before I leave, I go say "good night" to her in her crib and give her about a million kisses and she loves every minute of it. I have found that she is the perfect company during their meditation time (which they have every day) because she sits so quietly and lets me stroke her head and cheeks and arms. She has SUCH soft skin. I'm fairly positive that if I ever have children, she is like 80% of the reason.
I like to group Aloke and Priya kind of together in a little cutey baby package. They both have cerebral palsy and they both have this interesting little mix of moods. Sometimes they just stare into space, their bodies suuuuper loose and if they are sitting in chairs, they fall out of them. Haha. During these times, they are fairly unresponsive to most things, but when they are not in this mood, they are sooooo fun to be around. Aloke is ridiculously ticklish and Priya thinks it's quite funny when you blow raspberries on her stomach. These little babies make the exercise room a fun place for me and they are easy to exercise (when they are paying attention). I am also fairly convinced that they both have narcolepsi because they just randomly fall asleep. Sometimes in the middle of their exercises. Haha.
Sonia. Oh Sonia. I think of Sonia as my own little challenge. Sonia is severely handicapped (though I'm blanking on what syndrome she has). She is both mentally and physically disabled and fairly unresponsive to most stimulus. Sometimes you can get a little smile out of her and she does cry a little too. I have exercised her a few times but mostly I feed her and this is where the real challenge is. Once you have proved to the mashis that you are capable of feeding a particular child, they will tend to assign you to that child more often. This is how I got to know Sonia. I fed her one of my first days here and so every since then, I feed her a few times a week. It is heartbreaking and frustrating work. The best way to describe it is to say that each bite is like a mini battle. One where I have sneak attack every single time. It's like I have to trick her into opening her mouth and then, when she realizes it was a dirty trick and that she now has a spoon in her mouth, she jerks her head away and squirms out of my reach in her chair. If the spoon is not securely in her mouth, food goes EVERYWHERE. Both she and I are always a huge mess after lunch. Then, after each battle, I must do damage control, which involves trying to put as much of the food that got free in her mouth as possible without any cooperation from her whatsoever. And this happens with each and every bite. Oh man. By the end of it, we are both fed up with each other. Haha. It's a good feeling though, knowing that she got the nutrition she needed because I didn't just give up when the going got tough. It's hard though, I will not lie or try to pretend like it's all flowers and happy feelings. Haha. Despite our battles, I love Sonia dearly and something about her keeps me working to find better ways to feed her with less conflict. Maybe we will figure it out soon!
Lastly, my boys. Baskar, Shantu, and Raju. The floor is mostly girls and the bottom floor is mostly boys, but we have the younger boys and the ones that are very severely handicapped as well. Baskar and Shantu fall under the first category and Raju falls under the second. Raju is a fireball. He has little control over his limbs, so he spends a lot of time thrashing around but with this huge smile on his face. And he responds very well to smiles and hand-holding, both of which I like to think I am very good at :) I like to spend at least a little time with Raju evert day. He is special to my heart. Baskar is our little walker. When he first came to Daya Dan, he couldn't walk at all and could barely even sit up. Now, he walks, stands, and sits (mostly with the help of volunteers hands) like a pro! He has a head that's just a bit too big for him and his neck is not quite used to holding it up. So it kind of flops around in this really comical and adorable way. He is a hair puller, so we avoid letting him too near our heads, but I love spending time with him. He's a happy baby and is very ticklish! Lastly, Shantu! I spend time with Shantu when I need a little break from the more severely handicapped children. He has a developmental problem and even though he is 5 years old, he looks not much older than a 1 year old would look. He is probably one of the most responsive babies in the exercise room and you could keep yourself and him entertained for hours if you had the time. He laughs more than any baby I have ever known and loves being tossed in the air. I love this baby with such a passion. I hope he gets bigger and can grow to adult size, but maybe being an eternal baby would not be so bad, eh? Haha just kidding.
Anyways, I could go on and on about sooooo many more of the children. They are all sooooo near and dear to my heart. I wish I could explain it! I can't believe I'm going to be leaving them in just 3 weeks! Ick. I hope that this post brings you as much joy as it did me when I was writing it. I was hoping that maybe I could send a little bit of the love that I feel for them over the computer and that maybe you can love them too. Haha :)
In other news, we met another American girl named Molly who is going to travel with us when we go in a few weeks. Funny how you just meet up with people and things just fall into place. We are all excited to travel!
In Kolkata news, we had yet another Oh! Kolkata moment today that I felt you might like to hear. We were walking to the metro from Daya Dan today and someone dumped a bucket of mud (yes we are sure it was mud) from a 2nd story balcony right in front of us. It splashed up and got ALL over Hannah and I. Haha. We looked up and were like "what???" and the guy was looking down and shouted "sorry!" Haha Oh! Kolkata.
I am buying a card reader tomorrow so pictures will be posted very very soon!
And some closing words, courtesy of Gavin Degraw:
"Love has a reason.
There's a meaning to the world.
We're giving love."
Thanks for continuing to follow and I apologize for basically writing a novel in this one post!
Love from Kolkata,