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Does poverty mean unhappiness?

After my first week here in Bangalore, it was clear to me that poverty was an issue here in the community that I am currently working in, which I was baffled with to tell you the truth. When I was telling my friends and family that I was coming to Bangalore they all turned to me and said “Elaine that’s the Silicon Valley of India” so my whole idea of Bangalore changed. Until I got outside the airport and the reality of the poverty here hit my straight in the face. When we were driving along the busy roads to our accommodation the amount of people walking between the stopped cars in the traffic begging for money and also seeing others lying down asleep at the side of the busy roads here shocked me even more. I never felt so driven to work in solidarity with the people affected by poverty until now after seeing it for myself.

On my first day walking to the partner association I am working with here in Bangalore I counted not one but five people who were either begging or lying down at the side of the chaotic road we walk down every morning. I found this number extremely high for a short 5 minute walk. Once I started working in APD (Association of People with Disabilities), one of my first questions to the physiotherapist was “will we be working with people living in poverty?”.

When Amala said that we would be working to help impoverished families with children living with disabilities, I was excited to have the opportunity to work alongside those who need the most support. Amala informed me that I would start working in the community along side another two of her colleagues on Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week while I am here in India. Once Tuesday came, one of the co-ordinaries of the community projects brought me to the community with her where I worked first hand with the local people helping them in any way I could. From the minute we stepped inside the community hospital where the early intervention group class was being held, I felt every emotion possible! I was extremely nervous but excited to try and help those who I could help. During the class we got to spent time talking to the parents of the children and listening to their stories and how they are coping both emotionally and financially with the situations they were in.

After speaking with the mothers of these kids it made me even more determined to make a change and help them in my area of work by showing them simple physiotherapy based exercises they can perform with the children at home with no equipment. All of them were so thankful, I was shocked at how thankful they were for just the small bits of information I gave them, if that was in Ireland I would have been lucky to get a thank you! I was amazed by the appreciation they showed to us all, it really shows that these people have their hearts in the right places! Even thought financially they are struggling to make ends meet they have a heart big enough to overcome it.

I also got the opportunity to accompany one of the therapists to a home visit just a few minutes down the road from the hospital. Walking down the streets made me feel nervous but excited at the same time to meet and see exactly how people on the poverty line are coping with a child with disabilities here in India. From having this opportunity to speak directly to family who are living on the poverty line, it really made me think; why in Ireland is it considered the poverty line if an adult has under €40.40 to live on per day? While here in India it is considered the poverty line if an adult has under €1.90 to live on per day, how does this make sense. Why can’t India roll out a minimum pay allowance? If they did, it would change not only peoples lives but it would also help the overall appearance of the areas people live in. It was heart breaking to meet some of the families as all they wanted to do for us was to buy us tea and make sure we have food.

Seeing this really does show just how generous those are on the poverty line, As one father said to me “I may not have a big home or a lot of money, but I do have a big heart and a happy family” this does really show that having a big house or a fancy car really means nothing if you aren’t happy within yourself!Even though, parents are struggling financially over here in India they still try there best to ensure their children are cared for to the highest standard they can afford.What I have learnt here in Bangalore will stick with me for the rest of my life, as they taught me money means nothing if you aren’t happy! Would you agree?

About Author:

Name: Elaine Houlihan
Award: Silver
SDG: 5