Calcutta Kids, the second Global Health project partner in this month’s Give Together program, provides medical treatment, fights malnutrition and analyzes data to battle India’s health problems before they become unmanageable. We recently spoke with Calcutta Kids founder Noah Levinson:
What is the inspiration behind your organization?
[The inspiration for Calcutta Kids] came the summer between high school and college when I volunteered with Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitutes in Kolkata. While deeply moved by Mother Teresa’s sole mission to give love to those who would otherwise die alone, I was unsettled by people dying of curable diseases. I wrestled with the question of whether more needed to be done.
The following summer, I returned to Kolkata and again worked at the Home. A young man, Sudip, was brought to the Home because he was dying of an infection on his head: a rusty nail had penetrated into the skull. I recognized Sudip from a program I had volunteered at the previous year. He was one of the kids still in line to receive treatment when medicines and bandages ran out. The following day Sudip died in my arms because of that untreated head injury. The pain and anguish I felt was excruciating…I then founded Calcutta Kids.
What’s the story behind your project?
To prevent more unnecessary deaths like Sudip’s, we started a mobile health clinic which drove around the streets of Kolkata providing medical treatment to street children. The basic premise behind this project was to prevent street kids from dying at the Home for the Dying Destitutes. We collected treatment data and analyzed it regularly. Through this data we found out that while children were happy that they could be treated for their illnesses free of cost, they were coming back to the clinic again and again with the same illnesses. Basically the mobile health clinic was a band-aid solution to a larger problem. The larger problem was that most of these kids were malnourished as younger children and had weak immune systems and incomplete brain development. It was clear that if we really wanted to prevent people from ending up at the Home for the Dying Destitutes, we needed to work with children under the age of three. In addition to this, we needed to help ensure that mothers give birth to healthy children with good birth weights and that malnutrition does not plague them and retard their development. We therefore decided to start the Maternal and Young Child Health Initiative.
Let’s say Give Together raises $250 for your project by the end of August. What’s our impact?
The adoption of a pregnant woman/child pair. With that money, Calcutta Kids provides: pregnancy counseling in the home once a month for the pregnant woman by a qualified Community Health Worker, a minimum of three antenatal check ups with our qualified female doctor for the pregnant woman, a minimum of 2 tetanus toxoid inoculations for the pregnant woman, and access to folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin A to the pregnant woman and mother through lactation. In addition to this, the mother would receive daily access to a free clinic for the pregnant women and receive free medicines, access to a delivery savings scheme in which Calcutta Kids matches the patient party’s savings up to half the cost of a normal delivery ensuring that the child’s birth is facility-based, the required immunizations and micronutrients for the child, and monthly check-ups for child to monitor growth. If it is found that the child is not growing normally, the child will be invited to participate in the Calcutta Kids sponsored daily feeding program. The mother will also be provided with counseling in the home once a month and access to 24 hour emergency care for child at the local clinic.
In a nutshell, why should Give Together members choose your project this month?
If you care about pregnant women and young children, evidence-based interventions, using effective and tested behavioral change communication to ensure lasting positive change, and believe that empowered community health workers can be change agents to improve their communities… then please join the Calcutta Kids family by supporting our work.
This is one post in our ongoing Partner Spotlight series. Throughout the month of August, you can sign up to join Give Together and choose Calcutta Kids or two other global health projects. Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.