Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for Indian Babies
Reunited mother and child
Reunited mother and child

We are happy to report that for now the COVID situation in India has stabilized after the devastating second wave earlier this year. While there are still cases being reported, and some restrictions remain in place many are being vaccinated and the pressure on the health systems is manageable. As we are sure it is for you, life has no means returned to normal and we remain concerned about a third wave, the improved situation is a welcome relief to all. We are so grateful for your support, it makes a world of difference when crises like these hit, thank you.

Children belong with their families and, wherever possible, Snehalaya is fully committed to keeping families together. During COVID many families have been extremely vulnerable and have struggled to keep food on the table and also care for and protect their children. We have been reaching out to as many communities as we can to provide support to help families stay safe, healthy and together. When, in March 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic, the government shut down the whole of India there was little time to prepare, especially for low income workers who depend on daily work to feed their families. As many were also isolating in cramped conditions, there were serious impacts on mental health and stress leading to increased quarrels between husband and wife, domestic violence and pressure to reduce the burdens they were facing through child marriages and abandoning or relinquishing their babies.

One family living in a rural village close to Ahmednagar felt all of this. The father with the responsibility of a wife and two children to support shares his story: “I used to work every day and support my family on whatever I could find. One day a storm called lockdown hit us. Of course, this storm, released by the government, hit the whole country but no one seemed to have considered the poor, blind, disabled, orphans and children. Many lost their jobs during the storm and the means of making any money were restricted.” For this family there was no work or income which essentially meant no food. The huge question of how they were going to survive was causing arguments which was affecting the children, including their six-month-old girl.

The father desperately wanted to take care of his daughter but with his own mental condition deteriorating due to the added stress of lockdown restrictions he felt he had no option but to legally hand her over to Snehalaya, where he knew she would be safe with plenty of food, medical and other support. Our Adoption Center Team realised that the mother and father loved their children and had made their heart-breaking decision to put their baby up for adoption based on the helplessness they felt due to the COVID situation. Thinking only of the best interests of their child, who they felt unable to care for at the time, they had made a hasty decision to secure them a better future.

Realising their decision was in response to a temporary crisis, we asked the family to speak with our counselling team. They were able to mediate the arguing couple and help the father through his depression to restore his mental balance. Once the couple was stable and back on track we were able to reverse their decision and legally hand the girl back to her parents. Today, thanks to Snehankur, the family’s life is back to normal and they are a secure happy unit once more. We continue to keep in touch with them and are ready to support them again whenever they need.

Without our support there is no knowing what would have happened to this baby girl and her family and we thank you for your support in ensuring we can be there for this and many more families like them.

Save the Date: GlobalGiving's Little by Little Campaign takes place September 13-17 with all eligible donations up to $50 matched at 50%.

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Our center is already 20% over capacity
Our center is already 20% over capacity

The second wave of COVID is devastating India. Ahmednagar District, where Snehalaya operates is one of the worst hit with no beds, oxygen or medicines available to our largely rural population of nearly 5 million. High unemployment, a severe lack of statutory healthcare, drought, poverty and a large transient population has historically perpetuated many issues for low-income families, most of whom earn their living from agriculture, daily wage or migrant work. Since March 2021 a flood of positive cases has rendered the current medical facilities throughout the district overburdened and insufficient. There has been a steep rise in the number of Corona positive patients in the district and at the start of April, Times of India reported it was in the top ten worst affected districts in India with over 1,000 new cases a day and this has now risen to over 3,000 new cases each day.

 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of abandoned children has risen sharply, at the same time, the adoption process has been disrupted by lockdown, being halted from March to September 2020 and again since April 2021 for the foreseeable future. As a result, in 2020, our adoption center was running at 20% over capacity. Fortunately, we were able to resume adoptions between the first and second wave completing the process to complete 46 adoptions but with the current devastating situation we are again already exceeding our capacity with 34 babies in our 30-bed center.

With lockdowns and the pressure of managing COVID cases dominating healthcare, most maternity facilities are closed and women and girls are forced to deliver their babies at home. They are also unable to access essential pre and post-natal services. In normal circumstances women and girls with unwanted pregnancies are referred to our center by maternity professionals where we can ensure they receive the support to safely deliver and where necessary relinquish their babies. We also rely on our large network of community volunteers to identify other potential abandoned babies within their communities. With more girls and women giving birth behind the closed doors of lockdown, we are finding it much harder to find those in need of our services.

We remain worried about pregnancies being conducted at home without adequate support both for delivery and the care of the newborns. These include women and girls like Radha’s mother who are finding it much harder to access our support. She is HIV positive but thanks to our HIV hospital we were able to treat her during her pregnancy so that her baby, Radha, was born HIV negative. She was also born with tuberculosis but we were able to treat that too and she made a full recovery and has now been adopted by foreign parents.

These kinds of complications are already common in ‘normal’ situations and the pandemic is only adding to the problem as we see an increase in the number of home-birth complications resulting in deformities and minor to serious health conditions. With most hospitals beds reserved for COVID patients we are providing medical and emotional support to as many as we can through our network of paediatricians and maternity hospitals able to manage out-patients. Without you and our dedicated teams of volunteers and staff who conduct regular nightly patrols and socially-distanced outreach work, many more babies like Radha simply would not make it.

We are incredibly grateful for your support that allows us to continue to care for the mothers and babies already in our center and the many more who will be admitted in the coming months and post-lockdown.

Please do stay safe.

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Snehalaya is one of India’s most trusted nonprofit organisation. We give life changing quality care to abandoned and destitute children. Our team provides systematic approach of care to our children so they are safe, healthy, educated and happy! We want every child to grow in a family, so we work hard to reunite children with their families or place them in loving and caring Adoptive families children through a legal process.

We actively support vulnerable children and strengthen families in their difficult times through our Nutrition, Medical, Education and Awareness programmes. 

We are always overjoyed when one of the abandoned children whom we rescue, gets adopted in a family, home, love and hope because of loving foster-parents. We are also sure that after the adoption they also experience great satisfaction and meaningful life than in the past. We are always including such families in our prayers.

 

 Following are the success stories from Snehalaya's Snehankur...

1.Bhakti – [Name Change]

 Her mother was raped by her own cousin and she became pregnant with Bhakti.  After she was born, we found that she was a low birth weight baby. Further investigations revealed that she also had ‘Laryngomalacia” a condition in which there is a hole in the wall lining the wind pipe and the food pipe. This created problems in her breathing as well as swallowing. She was operated upon for this condition by a renowned pediatric surgeon and received excellent medical care. She has now been adopted by parents in Mumbai.

2. Kunal – [Name Change]

 Kunal was a low birth weight premature baby and needed utmost care and medical aid. He has a rare condition of absence of one external ear called ‘Anotia’. Both the mother and Kunal were abandoned by the relatives ad had nowhere to go. So the baby was relinquished by the mother to Snehankur while she was given shelter in our Women’s shelter Snehadhar. Kunal has been adopted and will be going in a happy family in USA. 

3. Shruti – [Name Change]

 Shruti’s mother was HIV positive but received treatment at Snehalaya through our hospital throughout her pregnancy. So Shruti was born HIV negative but had tuberculosis.  She was given complete treatment and has been now adopted by parents in the US.

 

Adoption of a child is a beginning of the new relations as we have also adopted each other as our extended family members.

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Happy Diwali from our family to yours
Happy Diwali from our family to yours

Diwali is celebrated of the victory of good over evil and the transition from darkness into light. The past eight months have been challenging for us as an organisation responsible for thousands of beneficiaries and over 300 staff. The lockdown in India highlighted even more vulnerable women and children in need and we have provided emergency support in extreme circumstances and seen an increase in demand for our existing services.

I am incredibly grateful to our Snehalaya family, including staff, beneficiaries, volunteers and supporters like yourself, for rising to the challenges COVID 19 has brought. As we celebrate our festival of light with the end of the pandemic hopefully in sight, we would like to share some of our positive news and highlights from the past few months to show the impact that we have made together.

I am glad to report that the adoption process has now restarted in India, however we a re still significantly over capacity as we and the Indian authorities work through the backlog. Also with many restirctions still in place and the impact of the pandemic and lockdown still having an affect on the poorest sectiosn of our society we are highly dependent on the work of our other 22 projects to prevent more unwanted pregancies and babies being abandoned.

With very few of the poorest families highly dependent on their daily wage and no savings for situations like this, unwanted babies have been one of the victims of the pandemic. Thanks to many of our staff and volunteers living in the communities we serve, we have been able to identify and help families of daily wage workers facing starvation and considering abandoning their babies. As well as supporting pregnant women, we have been working in partnership with staff, beneficiaries, NGO partners and allied systems to distributed cooked meals and essential supplies that will enable them to survive and support their children. So far, we have provided over 10,000 food and hygiene parcels to those with the greatest need to keep starvation at bay.

We were also able to provide emergency financial aid to 1,909 daily wage workers, including families living in our slums, sex workers, transgender, MSM, farmers, pensioners, people living with HIV and others struggling during lockdown. Used to existing on less than US$2 a day, the US$40-65 we were able to give them helped them to stock up on essential such as rice and flour and in some cases, the families, realising that such financial aid is not reliable or sustainable, chose to buy extra provisions to start their own food stalls. This will not only see them through the current crisis but will provides a foundation to build on once life returns to ‘normal’.

Due to the risks and restrictions of Corona virus many of our sex workers were unable to work to earn their living in their usual way. As we already have a program to retrain and support them into alternative careers we are really pleased to report that since the start of lockdown a total of 38 of our female sex workers have started new jobs and businesses, hopefully leaving the world of prostitution, and the risks on unwanted pregnacies, behind them for good! 

While our emergency work continues we also have nearly 15,000 beneficiaries who still need our regular support. This includes women and children living in our shelter homes, slum dwellers, sex workers and women experiencing domestic and other violence. It is anticipated that there has been a huge increase in domestic violence but we are also worried for the girls being married off in child marriages or forced in domestic servitude and at risk of not returning to school once lock down ends.

Fortunately, all of our projects remain active, including our Childline and women’s helplines which offer lifelines and emergency rescue and support to vulnerable women and children. Country-wide restrictions on a maximum of 50 people who can attend a wedding has reduced the average price of a marriage ceremony, which over 500 guests normally attend, from around US$1000 to US$200. While this is good news for lower income families who are taking advantage of the opportunity to maximise their small savings, it has also unfortunately significantly increased the number of child marriages taking place. Fortunately, our Childline team has leaped into action, locating and rescuing 67 child brides so far and our other projects are supporting the rescued girls in a range of other ways.

Times may be extra tough for us all at the moment but, since day one, Snehalya has always tackled the challenges facing our beneficiaries head on, and we are managing the pandemic in the same way rising to the challenges and continuing our mission to work for the most vulnerable in our society. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to evolve our services to provide practical support to those who need it most. We will beat this together and I am as always truly grateful that we are in this together, thank you.

Let Diwali continue to light up our lives as we hopefully move towards brighter days. On behalf of our whole Snehalaya family, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Diwali.

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Sleeping through the crisis
Sleeping through the crisis

We hope you are staying as safe and healthy as we are keeping our babies. Although the adoption process has started again in India, our center remains in lock down to non-essential visitors and is still over capacity. We remain extremely concerned that there will continue to be increased demand for the cots in our home as lock down restrictions continue and Corona cases rise across our nation. 

Given the current situation we thought we would share some positive news here. Earlier this year, just before lock down,  we celebrated a hugely significant event with our first ever HIV+ adoption. We are truly grateful to these adoptive parents who have truly secured a place in our organisation's history books.

In the early hours of a cold March morning, Alan and Kerry woke in their home in Ohio, USA, warmed by anticipation of starting their 8,000 mile expedition to our Snehenakur Adoption Center, where they finally arrived two days later. Although a little weary, adrenaline smashed away their fatigue as they finally came face-to-face with their son for the first time.

They have joined over 1,200 families that have made this journey since the birth of our adoption center in 2003. While the informal handover ceremony that follows signifies our usual official handover of an infant to its new parents, that day we were making history. Two-year-old Ashok was our first ever HIV+ child to be adopted.

Abandoned as a baby he has grown up in the loving care of our Rehabilitation Center, where his mischievous sense of humor and cheeky smile, which can light up a room, made him a hit and won over many hearts. Despite this we were unable to find Indian parents to adopt him so we put him forward for an international adoption.

When Alan and Kerry saw him they didn’t hesitate. To them, as long as Ashok has the right medication, his HIV status can be managed as easily as the health and development of their other two children. This is reflected by the fact that the process for adopting a HIV+ child in the United States is almost the same as for a non-HIV child. They recognise that no matter their age, race, colour or health condition, every child needs a family.

Little Ashok took to his new parents straight away and after their joyous ceremony, they faced their long journey home together where he would be united with his two older brothers, one adopted from Haiti and the other, the couples’ natural child.

Alan and Kerry’s actions have paved the way for other couples to do the same. After all, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is for sure HIV is a much more manageable virus, thanks to the progress of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). Using it correctly, a HIV+ person can expect to live a normal life span and treatment has advanced so much it is now possible for a positive couple to have a child who is negative.

We are so happy that Alan and Kerry have chosen to keep us posted on Ashok’s progress. He’s growing fast and is beginning to speak and understand English. Video clips show how he took like a duck to water on his first trip to the local swimming pool, learned to brush his teeth by himself and loves playing in the park with his brothers. The bright lad is now preparing for pre-school and we are so happy to see that he is a regular, happy and healthy little boy.

Alan and Kerry play down any sense of heroics, but they are pioneers, sending out a clear message to one and all that with the right care and love, an adopted HIV+ child can complete a family as equally as any other child.

There's more good news. You can help more babies like Ashok by giving today. All donations up to $50 will be matched by 50% as part of GlobalGiving's #LittleByLittle campaign. With matching on all donations, BIG change can come from lots of little acts of kindness.

Stay safe.

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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
Website:
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Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Joyce Connolly
epsom, Surrey United Kingdom
$37,428 raised of $50,000 goal
 
462 donations
$12,572 to go
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