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Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
Safe care and adoption for 80 Indian Babies
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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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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Proud Daddy
Proud Daddy

Happy new year!

No sooner had we welcomed in 2020, another adoption was taking place at Snehankur. The adoptive parents who had met their infant a few weeks previously could barely contain their excitement. Our Snehankur Adoption Center is the largest in India and with almost 1,000 adoptions since it was established in 2004, each official handover ceremony remains unique.

Many people ask how the babies come to be here? Each have their own individual story. Common reasons for a baby being abandoned is often because they were born to people from low economic backgrounds, or they have a defect in some way or just simply because they are a girl - over 90% of our babaies are girls! Before the adoption there are many papers to be signed and Balu, a former lawyer who is now our project manager, is a regular in the Ahmednagar courts, as there are many legal requirements to meet. If a baby is found there is a two month window period until the baby is eligible for adoption. They are then registered on the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA: the government agency) website where proseepctive adoptive parents can find their future son or daughter. Most of our adoptions are with Indian parents, however, if a child is passed over three times by an Indian couple hey become free for international adoption. 

Snehalaya's official handover ceremonies, where the child is formally handed to its new parents, are attended by local officials, dignitaries and in some cases the person who brought the rejected child to us. All who are present can’t help feeling overwhelmed and privileged to witness the important event that is taking place. Needless to say the couples who are finally united with their toddler express their deep gratitude and love for the new life that is in their lives, tears are shed and it can be an emotional occasion for all concerned. Like any  proud new parents the baby is cradled in arms and shown to all who come to congratulate them, then there's the collective sound of clicks as hundreds of photos are taken for the family album.

Witnessing Snehankur in action can be a breathtaking experience, although many of the babies arrive in poor shape, our center boasts a 100% mortality rate. 

Thank you for choosing Snehankur and the part you have played in transforming the lives of nearly 1,000 children and their adoptive parents.

Thank you for holding hands with us
Thank you for holding hands with us

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Childhood not motherhood!
Childhood not motherhood!

Thank you for supporting our Adoption Center, you are helping us to continue to be the biggest center in India having adopted over 700 children since 2004. Our umbrella organisation, Snehalaya was established in 1989 which means we are currently celebrating 30 years of empowering women and children and support from people like you.

Following our philosophy that ‘every woman and child has the right to live a life free from inequality, cruelty and discrimination,’ our adoption center was primarily formed to provide support to girls and women too young or unable to look after their babies themselves.

Today many are referred through our network of health professionals, NGOs, volunteers, supporters and government agencies, meaning we are often able to reach them early to support them through their pregnancy. It was a very different story when we first opened our doors with many of the babies we took into our care having been abandoned in public places and found by our volunteers and Childline team on their daily rounds of transport hubs, temples, hospitals and other public spaces. Therefore we are pleased to report that our intervention and promotion of our service means that now less than 2% of babies reach us this way.

However demand for our services remains high, particularly from minor girls as, according to figures given by the High Courts of India, incidents of child abuse are registered every five minutes. In 2016, statistics from National Crimes Records Bureau registered 19,765 cases of rape under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Therefore, along with a high prevalence of child marriage, it’s not surprising that 11 percent of the world’s teenage pregnancies happen in India, meaning 16 million Indian women between the ages of 15-19 become mothers each year.

It’s thanks to you that we are there to help young girls like Devi who was raped while grazing the family sheep. Coming from a very poor rural family, the 14 year-old was terrified when she realized she was pregnant. Unsurprisingly she had been traumatised by her rape and the resulting pregnancy sending her into a severe depression. Unable to help, her family brought her to Snehankur where we gave her shelter, prenatal and counseling support.

Devi’s depression continued after delivering her baby girl, who she gave up for adoption, and in no fit state to return home, we transferred her to our Snehadhar project where she could access further medical support and psychological counseling. Gradually, with regular counseling, love and care, Devi came out of her depression. She felt able to go back to her family and village where our local volunteers took on responsibility for her completing her education and, having recently graduated in the arts, she is now looking forward to the future.

Thank you so much for supporting Devi and her little girl, without you and Snehalaya who knows where they would have ended up!

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new beginning; new life
new beginning; new life

Thanks to your support, our Snehankur adoption center has been helping abandoned children and their mothers for the last 15 years. Our support goes beyond the safe birth of the babies as we counsel and support mothers to take their rightful place in society, with or without their babies. We never know what each new day will bring, facing a range of challenges while rescuing and rehabilitating innocent infants and / or young mothers.

With the start of the monsoon season here, they say without rain nothing grows, it marks the beginning of new life as so it is with our Snehankur beneficiaries; they too are bringing in new lives. To begin with we would like share the story of our beneficiary, Shilpa.

She was a minor (below the age of 18) who was pregnant and came into contact with our Childline and Snehankur teams when doctors told us about her after she visited the hospital for her pregnancy. Our teams rushed to help her at her home town, Rajur. After having a talk with her and family they came to the conclusion that she had been sexually abused and raped. Both our legal (police investigations) and medical teams decided to help her out. Exhausted mentally and physically with this situation she went into labour and delivered a baby girl. Due to her critical health she and the baby were moved to Sasoon Hospital, Pune. Unfortunately, her baby girl did not survive. Our teams knew that she was in need of special care after such incident and we were pleased when the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) puther in our ptotection and she is ow living with us at Snehalaya, where we can give her the care and support we believe that will help her find her new beginning.

They say you need to go through rains to see the rainbow. We are helping girls like Ashwini to see through the clouds to the rainbow, which brings new color into their life. One Diwali night, our phone rang with a call from Ashti Rural Hospital, where a woman just delivered a baby girl. The woman did not want this baby and was ready to give her up so our teams sped to the hospital and completed all the formalities and then rushed the baby girl to the district hospital as she looked very pale. At the hospital they found out that she was HIV+ and so was the mother, which is why she chose to giver her up. The doctors started her HIV treatment as soon as possible. Our Snehankur team tried to counsel the mother and offered the support for her to keep her child, but she was determined and legally relinquished the baby to Snehalaya. After 18 months of care and love, Ashwini had developed better health and the best news - her blood reports showed that the medication her mother had taken before her birth meant she was now HIV negative.

Our healthy baby girl was free for adoption and listed on the government agency, CARA's website. Unfortunately due to stigmas and lack of knowledge about HIV, she was rejected by Indian adoptive parents. She was sheltered at Snehankur till she was adopted by a US-based couple. Ashwini has now travelled to America and started her New LIFE.

Both were baby girls, one could start her new life and other couldn’t even open her eyes to see the world. We are sad to report that this is all too common and a girl’s life here in India is full of hardship, right from birth. Until we can change the mindset of people to improve sexual equality and society at large, we will continue to provide our support and Snehankur will stand firm to offer help whenever needed.

We couldn’t do it without your support. We would like to take this moment to thank you for supporting us to help girls, women and their innocent babies to help start ANEW.

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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Joyce Connolly
epsom, Surrey United Kingdom
$32,259 raised of $35,000 goal
 
382 donations
$2,741 to go
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