May 26, 2020

Keeping babies safe during Corona

Blissfully unaware of COVID 19
Blissfully unaware of COVID 19

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. As a valued supporter of our Adoption Center we want to reassure you that the love and care of the babies in our care continues despite the challenges the current pandemic and lock down is presenting on a daily basis.

Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March. Before the national and state governments intervened, we had already taken action by stopping visitors to our 23 projects, reducing our field work and providing our staff and beneficiaries with health and sanitation support. As a direct result of our early interventions, we are happy to report that so far we have no suspected cases of the virus.

Despite a reduction in our services, many of our staff remain at work to provide support to our beneficiaries who do not have homes or families they can safely return back to. The same applies at our Snehankur Adoption Centre, which has been closed to visitors since March. A skeleton staff includes our caregivers and we are conducting regular disinfecting of the premises, floors, toys, and so on, as well as monitoring children for signs of flu and crisis management planning.

Unfortunately the lock down means that pregnant women and girls are unable to access maternity hospitals and are being forced to give birth at home. Normally we rely on maternity hospitals and professionals to refer underage pregnant girls to us so we can support them through their pregnancy and take over responsibility for their unwanted babies if that is what they chose. With a lack of access to maternity services we are already seeing an increase in abandoned babies. In the past week alone, two newborns have been left on the street and found by our supporters who fortunately heard their cries in time. We were able to find one mother, a 16 year old girl forced to give birth at home after which her parents threw her baby away! Despite our search we have been unable to find the mother of the second baby. We are glad to report that both babies are now healthy and safe in our center.

We remain worried about all of the other pregnancies being conducted at home without adequate support both for delivery and those unable to care for their newborn. Our Snehankur team continues to support those who approach us for help while our volunteers, Childline team, women's shelter and other staff continue to remain vigilant in searching for others through our regular nightly patrols and socially distanced outreach work.

With all adoptions currently on hold, our center is already over capacity with 36 babies awaiting adoption. Our team is dedicated and is managing but, as we are unable to employ additional staff, our already limited resources are becoming overstretched. With no end to lockdown in sight we are doing everything we can, but are also deeply concerned on the lasting impact in our communities and how we will manage the anticipated increase in demand for our support post-lockdown.

While Snehalaya is responding to the immediate crisis and the well-publicised plights of daily wage and migrant workers through a range of aid packages and practical support, we also continue to work for and with our existing beneficiaries, including the babies, and other communities most affected by the lock down. Your support has never been so vital. We understand your own situation may prevent you from donating at this time but you can still help by spreading the word about our work and raising awareness of the situation for unmarried others, pregnant women and abandoned babies in India.

Never before has it been so important to know that we are all in this together. Please take good care to stay safe and healthy.

Still locating & rescuing newborn infants
Still locating & rescuing newborn infants
Keeping our center Corona-free
Keeping our center Corona-free

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Mar 19, 2020

Update from Snehalaya

Creative repsonse
Creative repsonse

Hello from India. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy in these unprecedented days of Corona virus. Like most of the planet we are now on lock down which is having a significant impact on how we operate our projects.

Schools have been closed since the start of the week and today in Ahmednagar, where we operate, all shops and non-essential businesses have been closed. So far we only have three cases in our district but we are pleased that precaution measures are being put in place. While we don’t want to dwell on the pandemic we do want to reassure you that we are prioritising the health and wellbeing of our beneficiaries. This includes closing the slum schools you support until at least 31 March (the current date the government has directed). Fortunately we were nearing the end of exam season so most of our children have been able to complete their end of year assessments.

Obviously living in a slum makes social distancing impossible so our staff have been using their time to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the virus and promoting hand-washing, hygiene and other health precaution measures to the communities. The children have been provided their school books to work from home and our team are also preparing for the next academic year by reviewing and updating our highly successful curriculum which we brought in four years ago.

We have also closed our English Medium School based in the Rehabilitation Center where we shelter over 200 children, including around 100 who are HIV+ and are considered ‘high risk’. We are using the ‘break’ to continue to hone the basics of reading, writing and maths that will consolidate our children’s learning once schools reopen. We have also developed a program of extra-curricular activities to keep their bodies and minds active, including Lego competitions which have identified a huge number of future engineers and architects!

All of our projects are now closed to non-essential visitors and we have placed hand-washing and sanitising materials at all entry points for staff and beneficiaries entering each day. Our Childline team has also distributed free masks to all of our children.

There are many other measures being taken across our 22 projects, all with the health of the most vulnerable and at risk of our beneficiaries at the core. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary. We truly appreciate all of your support during these challenging times and hope you are assured that we are as committed as always to meeting the specific needs of our beneficiaries in response to the current ever-changing environment.

Future engineer?
Future engineer?

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Mar 12, 2020

Stop the stigma

School attendance is on the rise
School attendance is on the rise

Thank you so much for everything you have done to support our children, including many of whom are living with HIV,

As the chill of winter dissipates and the temperatures start their annual hike towards the high 40’s in degrees Celsius, our students’ determination is also on the rise as exam season is underway. While it may be getting hot outside our first ever batch of 10th standard students from our Snehalaya English school are doing a good job of playing it cool and taking their exams in their stride.

While we may remember our own exams with a shudder, these young people truly appreciate the value of education and obtaining the good qualifications that will sustain them through their futures. They are busy soaking up every opportunity to revise and review their learning, from personal study and after school classes to online Skype classes with volunteers in other Indian cities and the USA.

In a positive initiative we are also extremely grateful that the extra obstacles facing children living with HIV have been recognised with an extra hour allocated to them during their current exams. This is making a big difference to our HIV+ children who end up missing school due to medical check-ups and ill health. To help improve their health we have recently appointed a HIV expert doctor to our on-site hospital. Along with improved nutrition in our kitchen, thanks to advice from nutrition experts, we are hopeful our children’s school attendance will continue to increase.

We hope you join us in wishing all of our children luck in their exams!

In other news we celebrated a significant milestone a few weeks ago as our first ever HIV+ child was adopted. The two year-old has been living at our Rehab Center since his HIV+ mother, unable to care for him herself, gave him up for adoption. Having bonded with many of or other children and the caregiver responsible for him, we are missing him already but we are really happy to have met his new adoptive parents when they came to collect him a few weeks ago. We have since been sent photos of him as he takes to his new life in the United States.

This may be the first HIV+ adoption we know of in India, but we are confident it will be the first of many. We are grateful to the parents who saw beyond the stigma, the more children are accepted by adoptive parents the more the unfounded fears surrounding HIV will be reduced which will benefit all of the children living in our Rehab Center.

We are grateful to you for standing alongside us as we create better futures for our children by tailoring our support to their health requirements. Thank you for your support.

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