As a fellow with the American India Foundation Clinton Fellowship For Service, I have spent the past nine months working with Calcutta Kids. It has been an incredible experience, and the things I have learned while working here will remain with me throughout my life and career.
One thing that has really impacted me is how this small, but mighty organization is not just one that “talks the talk”. Every day, every employee, every community member is provided with love, compassion, and a sense of humanity that so many organizations may lose as they get caught up in their day-to-day work. “Walking the walk” is what has made Calcutta Kids such a beloved organization in this community. I wish you could see them in action too. Here’s just a sample of the amazing things I’ve seen, which are just a part of Calcutta Kids’ daily work:
- I’ve seen the Community Health Workers in homes, teaching families intimate lessons that will improve their health; teaching mothers how to initiate breastfeeding; and being the first visitor a new mother receives after giving birth.
- I’ve seen technical staff carefully stop programs that turned out to be ineffective in our area.
- I’ve seen the staff embrace a child from the neighborhood, teaching him English, providing him food, and even brushing his teeth when his mother cannot.
- I’ve seen the work in the clinic, where the technical staff knows the names and faces of individual mothers and children.
- I’ve seen mothers come to receive diarrhea treatment, and stay for nap under a fan with her child without any disturbance by the staff.
- I’ve seen severely malnourished children literally being wrapped up in the arms and love of every staff member – from our cleaners to our doctor – as the mother comes daily to learn how to provide proper nutrition for her child.
- I’ve seen management put aside social norms to prove Calcutta Kids values girl children as much as boy children.
- I’ve celebrated with the staff when babies are born with a good birth weight, when our support group started coming to meetings without being called, and when 86 people came to the clinic the day a new immunization was offered (more than 50% increase from an average week of immunizations).
- I’ve joined in concern when unhealthy children come to the clinic, and have seen the staff go to great lengths, sometimes even on the weekends, to ensure the child’s health improves.
Calcutta Kids is not fancy, and we like it that way. Our interventions are simple and heartfelt. The staff prides itself on feeling like family, and the community members are treated like an extension of that family. The facilities are clean and the women are respected. I’m grateful I was able to spend my Fellowship with an organization as sincere and hard working as Calcutta Kids. – Margy Elliott