Monday, August 31, 2009

The Power of Art

Such an inspiration! Many wonderful crafters and artisans on the handmade community have contributed their beautiful creations to raise funds for dear Adia's care.

Please go check out these wonderful listings of handmade art and crafts. 100% of each purchase will go directly to Adia's medical bills and other neccessties.
In this post I shall address the letter-writing campaign with which we strive to bring Adia's story to the media far and wide.

We encourage anyone concerned to forward this brief summary to any media outlet you can find - together we can spread the word and make changes happen!

We are a family of American artists living and working in Hyderabad, India. We have lately discovered the tragic tale of a child in grave peril. Though never given a name, we have decided to call her Adia, which means 'gift of God'.
When we met little Adia, she was lying in the dust at her mother's feet, shrivelled and badly starved. Her frail body was being used to entice passers-by to give coins to her plump and smiling mother.

The haunting image would not leave us, and over the next several days we returned to visit the family many times, bringing money, clothing and food for Adia and her four siblings.
We then discovered that as the youngest and weakest girl child in a very large family,her father had forbade her nourishment. She was kept alive by being fed sugar water and diluted milk in secret by the women of the family.

Despite being provided with what resources we could give, her condition has continued to worsen drastically. When her family removed her from the hospital in which we placed her, she was subjected to 'folk-healing' practices such as blood-letting, which have further injured her fragile state. Presently her doctor is unwilling to attepmt further treatment which her body may reject, but in five days she will be eligible to again be admitted to a hospital's care. At this time we will again strive to procure any proper medical treatement which is required.

In our constant attempts to rally support from local state and charity organisations we have consistently met with either indifference or incapacity. We feel that by bringing Adia's story to the international media it will command the attention of those who can help, and appeal to those who can open avenues for her continued recovery.

We also seek to raise awareness for the plight of other abused or neglected female children in India. Thousands of other infants and young girls are suffering as Adia is, unnoticed and unregarded.

We implore you to givIthis issue your urgent attention, to save not only the life of this one small soul, but to make new strides in improving the lot of imperiled female children worldwide.

Feel free to add to or alter the letter in any way as you see fit, and to link to this blog and other web presences which concerned friends have compiled. Please include our contact information as follows:
Echo June Vincent and Nicholas Avirett
9550414507 (you will probably need to enter the coutry code 91 first)
...this is our mobile number at which we can be contacted anytime, day or night.

Let's spread the word!! I will contine to be immensely grateful for other outreach suggestions as well.
A glimmer of hope!

Today I peresuaded Adia's grandmother to allow me to return her to the hospital. letting me take her to the hospital again. The grandmother is a strange character, always has an arch little smile in the corner of her eye - but despite this, my heart goes out to her somewhat. I realise that once, she was probably in Adia's position - within the constraints of the caste system, it is likely that the women of Adcia's family have been living these very harsh realities for generations.

The hospital visit did not go as well i planned, but did provide some hope; finally I was able to speak to a doctor for a frank assesment, and translate the rapid Telugu the grandmother is wont to fire at me. Today I heard in more detail the story of how Adia did not breastfeed properly and was thus relegated to sugar-water, of how they sought to treat her by having her bled and through the 'power' of an amulet she wears around her neck.

I do respect folk remedies and natural healing - but I am still unable to determine whether the women actually believe that these bleedings and amulets will cure Adia, or if they are merely a token to absolve what small conscience they may have. Be it through ignorance of malice, these remedies have only worsened her condition, and the doctor argued with the grandmother to make her understand this.

We finally wrangled her consent to re-admit Adia to the doctmr's care, but the problem we have now is that he does not think Adia would be responsive to treatment. hospitals in India are pathos-ridden affairs, always under-staffed and under-funded (I am haunted by the rows of dingy metal beds, dimly lit, the atmosphere of abject desair which I saw today), and they will not give a bed to a patient who they believe will not be cured.

The doctor, after examining Adia, told me that her blood was too depleted to treat her through IV - her veins would likely collapse, as they have already begun to - nor could she recieve sustenence or medicine orally, for it would worsen her loose stools. They have no solution for such a situation, and will not seek one when more 'viable' children are waiting in line. The only thing we can do is wait, giving her diluted milk, until her blood has restored itself. The doctor referred us to Niloufer Pediatric Hospital, the best Hyderabad can offer, and will reccommend her to be admitted there in five days.

Adia's family has now decided to return to their home-place some kilometers away from Hyderabad to wait out the five days, as they are rural people, coming to the city every few weeks to beg and living in a makeshift shanty or on the streets. They have promised to meet me at an appointed place and time on the fifth day.

I am very, very uncomfortable with not seeing any of them for that duration - but perhaps they have more resources there to draw from, and at the very least Adia will not be lying on the ground being used as begging bait. I have supplied them with enough money to not feel any need during the next five days, and promised them another very large sum to ensure they would bring her as arranged.

I tried to spend as much time with little Adia as I could today, taking the older children out to lunch and insisting on sitting by until Adia was fed the milk I brought. A curious phenomenon has occured in the area where we meet her family - suddenly, droves of women with their ailing children have cropped up - word travels fast about the peculiar foreigners with open pockets. This inspires me all the more to begin some sort of foundation here to help these children - one that actually WORKS and can provide them real help. I am ready to make this committment and am looking into what it will entail. I think whatever media attention we get will be extremely helpful for such a cause.

For those who feel called to Adia's plaight, please help us by continuing to agitate to get this story heard far and wide!

Adia's parents took her OUT of the hospital and to a folk-healer to have her bled. This when 'bad spirits' or 'illness' are supposedly removed by draining some amount of the patient's blood.

I was unable to see Adia yesterday because I was sick; and when I went to the bus today the family was there in their old spots, Adia on the ground - absolutely shrivelled. She could not wake up; opened her eyes for only a moment and tried to grasp my finger but could not - her stomach is swollen and she is coughing (along with rest of the family). She was lying in a pool of watery diarrhea. I am frightened and fear the worst.

The family gave us a prescription script to fill when we first came up, and after rushing to fill it and bringing back the meds we discovered they were adult antihistamines. Poor papa, it seems, has a cold...

We had a hard time finding someone nearby to translate, but the little we discovered was that she had been bled several times and the man who did it now says she 'doesnt have enough blood left to bleed her anymore'. She looks like she really doesn't have anything left; her skin is papery and wrinkled. They were leaving the area just after we arrived and didn't want us to do anything but give them money tonight. I think we conveyed that when we met them tomorrow we would not give them more money unless Adia went back to the hospital.

Please, even if you do not pray, pray with me to anything you believe in for a miracle. We will need one. I cannot find any agency here who will provide emergency help. The half-dozen police who were nearby witnessing the whole bit tonight (they're out in droves for the Ganesha festival) of course do not care.

Right now I think that the most effective thing to do is try to spread this story far and wide to command media attention. This is where you, my good reader, can help - I have no experience with getting media attention for anything but art exhibits and do not know where to turn. Everyone I've so far called or written has brushed me off politely or ignored me outright.

If anyone has any connections or knowledge of how I could bring international attention to this - please help us. It might even sound silly to think of calling out the world media for one child but I think it is exigent and necessary. Not only can we bring Adia's story to the world, but also raise awareness of the thousands of children like her who are suffering here in India and around the world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

STILL no doctor available to talk to me for more than a passing moment. if truth must be told, the Indian medical system often leaves a lot to be desired. i have been assured by many that Adia's hospiatal is a good one, though, and the nurses who care for her all very kind - it is indeed reassuring to know she is in a comfortable, clean place under the watchful eye of such caring ladies.

a bit of good news - Adia's first month of hospital care has been paid for! Mr.Nutmeg and i have been doing our best to match donations where we can, and with the help of our wonderful etsy friends we've raised enough to ensure her care for the entire month. now we'll keep praying for a wonderful recovery to match the outpouring of generosity!

i'm often indulging in flights of fancy where little Adia is completely recovered, mirthful and pattering about as a child of her age should. it will yet be some time, but i have a strong intuitive sense that such an image will one day be a reality.

i am very appreciateive of all the suggestions for the long-term. that is still my greatest worry; i feel so frightened lest i cannot measure up to the great responsibility with which i've been entrusted, to secure Adia a safe future. i think that contacting the media is perhaps the way to go, to surround her life with as much awareness and concern of as many people as possible. i am actually really nervous about this, being quite shy in 'Real Life', and it would entail a lot of direct communication which makes me skittish - but that is something i will overcome for her sake. it will be a very small thing compared to what she has overcome already!

i had another chance to meet the father today; he, the old grandmother, and the young boy were in their usual spots. again my suspicions are reaffirmed that i Do Not like the man - Mr.Nutmeg is quite intuitive of character, and he immediately read a great deal of negative energy coming from him. he is not overtly hostile, but has an air of being both aloof from his family and despotic; he was taking the day's earnings from the grandmother, and there was a great tension surrounding them both.

following the good advice of many, i have stopped giving any amount of cash to the women but rather take the children for a meal and bring them clothing and other essentials. it even seems a bit futile to bring clothing, for each day they arrive clothed in the same tattered rags as the day before - new outfits would prove ineffective for begging. i wish there was a way to connect them with some sort of gainful work, to help nudge them toward a higher standard of self-sufficiency - i'e an appointment later this week with a local NGO who may have some solutions. still, the man of the family is a great problem - i do not know what he will allow, or what repercussions my help could unwittingly bring. it is a thin strand to balance upon....

despite the obstacles, though, i still think we are making wonderful progress each time i see Adia's happy eyes. i do not think she has significantly gained weight yet, but she does look better as she is no longer severely dehydrated, and no longer has that terrible, harried look of a child who has endured too much in so few years. that alone is worth everything, and is enough to give me strength for whatever battles may come.

please keep praying/sending good energies for me, ladies and gents, that i may be granted clarity of vision to see what must be done, and strength to make it happen. i am, as always, ever grateful....

....and on that note! i have started writing Adia's story in the form of a child's book. i mentioned this briefly before, but my dream is to write down this tale so Adia can see it when she is older, to know the love which so many people showed - and perhaps so other children can read it to raise their awareness and compassion. i would really like to include a contribution from or mention of all who have helped and cared, and will give more details when the time ripens :)

ah, one more thing - it is not so easy to bring her case before a judge as we had hoped. the legal system here is a labyrinthine one, and even with the advice of an advocate we are finding it difficult to navigate. so far we have encountered no need for legal intervention. the women of the family sincerely want Adia's recovery, and i suppose the father is at least shrewd enough to allow us to keep her in the hopital if it might benefit him somehow - hopefully that situation does not escalate. we're holding off on pursuing legal action until we can get sound advice from an NGO (this week, we hope!) about how it would be best to approach the idea of adoption or removal of custody.

Monday, August 24, 2009

a very hasty update -

i'm back! sorry for the long silent - i am a bit embarrased to admit that, erm, i ended up in the hopsital myself (though i don't really think i needed to be, when a foreigner faints they get a lot more attention than the locals do).

anyway! i didn't make it to see Adia in the hospital today but spoke with her dear older sister, whe told me she is doing well indeed! the last time i saw her, the prior day, i do agree that she seems much sprightlier - still woefully undernourished, but that will take some time to remedy. one problem is that many children who have been starved for a length of time develop partial lactose intolerance - and while she is able to drink milk without ostensible problems, one concern is that she may not be absorbing the nutrients fully. that's one thing we're going to talk to the doctor about testing, hopefully tomorrow.

i am still so joyous to see the beautiful outpouring of generosity from our etsy comrades - again and again, i have reason to belive that kindness in the world always will overcome all that is unbalanced.

i hope to have a specific medical update from the docs tomorrow!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

i have marvellous news - Adia is in the hospital!

unfortunately the good news comes with bad as well; she went into a state of shock today. this time i went on my visit alone, and without the presence of a male the mother was willing to talk with me extensively through our translator.

sometime this afternoon the mother and aunt were collecting alms in their usual spot whn the baby's eyes rolled back in her head and her limbs went limp, then rigid. the women began to scream and someone called an ambulance, which took Adia to the St.George charity hospital. she is still there this evening - they are rehydrating her intraveniously and her condition is now stable; she is responsive and conscious.

the problem we now face is that the hopital will not treat her for more than 48 hours without advance payment or a guarantor of pay. her fulltreatment of perhaps a month of hospitalization will cost over half a lakh rupees, a very substantial sum. tomorrow we will visit Adia in the hospital and register ourselves as guarantors of the bill, paying about half up-front.

i have been so overwhelmed by the kind generosity of many who have read Adia's story. we will continue to be very grateful for any donations from those who feel called to help. one way you could help would be to list one of your items in your shop for charity. this will be of help not only for fundraising, but for public awareness as well - you can aquaint your buyers with Adia's plight by linking to the blog i'm writing,

please, though, do not feel pressured to help monetarily unless you feel inspired to; we are very grateful also for your thoughts and prayers! we are in contact with some NGOs here who, though underfunded, may be able to provide assistance, and also some Catholic missions through Mr.Nicholas' church. we are quite confident that the money will come with dedication and help from so many good people.

today Adia's mother placed a great deal of trust in me and was willing to discuss matters quite openly. i was able to find out many things which shed new light on the situation. Adia's starvation was mandated by her father, the man whom i saw yesterday. in her infancy she had difficulties breastfeeding, and grew thin and weak - the father declared that a 'sick' girl was not to be given food when they had boy children to be fed. bravely going against his orders, the women of the family kept Adia alive with sugar-water and milk.

Adia's mother fears greatly for the future of her children. her wish is that she could turn them over to me, all four - but cannot for the father would beat or even kill her when he found out. the father, she says, is a bad man from whom the children and women live in constant fear, and he will not work. i believe the women of ther family to be as oppressed as the children - she showed me a huge scar on her abdomen from where he burned her with a hot chapati pan.

now that Adia is in the hospital, our first priority is to ensure that the father cannot withdraw her. we will continue with our plan to petition the court for temporary custody.

the next step is to find a long-term solution for Adia and her three siblings (there is also a boy of eight years whom i have not met). the 'house' in which they live is a miserable lean-to without electricity, water, or sanitary facilities. with a father who refuses to work and intent on using his children for begging instead, they are unlikely to ever recieve any education and their future prospects would be grim indeed.

when Adia is released from the hospital in good health (insh'allah), we will again petition the court, this time for permanent termination of parental rights and the permission to act as temporary guardians until an adoptive family can be found - preferably one who will not separate the siblings, and can provide for their special needs both physical and emotional. an Indian couple would be best so they could be raised within their own culture and religion, and to hasten the adoption process; if onme cannot be found we will expand our search to couples abroad as well. we are still considering whether we have the ability to permanently take four special-needs children into our home - whether it would be feasible with finances, visas and travel, and the impact it may have upon our own daughter.

one of the first steps i think we should take is to find a safe environment for the women of the home - so they could provide evidence against the father without fear of retalliation, and to release them from their servitude to this very unkind man. there are organizations here which will provide shelter and gainful employment to such women - these too are underfunded, but we may be able to make a donation to such a place to secure their acceptance.

so much to do! - but a huge weight has been lisfted from my shoulders to know that Adia is now in a place of comfort, safety and care. we will speak to the doctor tomorrow directly and hear what he has to say about her condition and what treatments she will need - i will update everyone tomorrow on what he says.

please continue to keep Adia and her family in your thoughts and prayers; we are ever grateful to all who take an interest in their plight.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

a new hope

i have not been able to see Adia in two days. yesterday they said (from what i could tell, i have been studying Telugu quickly as i can - however they speak a provincial dialect which is similar, but somewhat different) that most of the family went to the masjid (mosque). today only one woman was there, and said the baby and young girl were out collecting money. the young girl takes the baby around sometimes, outfitted with a placard in Urdu beseeching help; from what i have studied, Islam has a strong imperative for alms-giving.

i'm a little nervous that i've not seen Adia, since i do not know if they would tell me should anything have happened to her. i made extravagant monetary promises to them for tomorrow, but made it clear i would only give such a sum if the child was produced.

over the last two days, a little boy has materialized, who seems about three years old. though dressed in filthy rags (we bought him a new set of clothing tonight) he seems farily well fed, and even a jolly little fellow. naturally i've fallen head over heels for him as well, and am growing quite close to the older girl too. tomorrow we're going to bring new sets of clothing for everyone - though i do not know how many children they might have....

another new character on the scene is a man - the children's father. a decently dressed and able-bodied man of perhaps 40, we saw him quarrelling with the mother when we approached - of course he immediately was all smiles thereafter - and ascertained that indeed, this was the father of these children. we're proceeding very carefully because we do not want to scare them off in any way, so i was unable to express or show my scorn for this man...he looked like a pretty idle fellow, smoking and drinking chai. i tried to ask the mother if he works, and from what i could understand he 'has none'. i daresay he should be looking harder.

my sympathy for the women increases daily - it is true that a mother should protect her children, and not produce more children than she can care for - but equally true that in this culture a woman cannot refuse a man, either in the 'capacity' of a wife, or in the running of a household. indeed, i believe the blame for this atrocious situation may lie more with he than they...

tomorrow we will visit them again, and hpoefully be allowed to visit the 'house' in which they live. our Telugu speaking friend will accompany us to facilitate better communication.the wonderful news is that many rays of hope have opened up! tomorrow we also meet withthe advocate who has promised to petition the courts to get Adia into the hopsital. if we are successful, as he believes we will be, we will see her in the hospital within the week and on the road to recovery. it will cost over 2 lakhs for a month's stay, and we have contacted some NGOs to help us defray that enormous cost. we have also met with the human rights coalition for Andhara Pradesh. they agree that the very first step is to get Adia into the hospital, and in the meantime they will be researching what options are available thereafter. i have been overwhelmed, actually, with the amount of responses i have recieved from NGOs and charities, all willing to help if they can.

another thing we're going to try tomorrow is to speak to their local Iman (the Muslim priest). it seems like it might be a good thing to have their religious father involved. perhaps he can succeed in persuading them to take Adia to the hopsital, which would of course make everything much easier.

i'm quite in love with all of these children - i really wish there was a legal way for me to adopt all three immediately - sadly it is not so. their 'house' is nothing but a dreadful shamble, a lean-tol shanty next to a residential neighborhood. we are still mulling the potential idea of allowing one or two of the women and the children to live in our home. i can't even begin to think of being worried for our things (we could lock them away if need be) but Mr.Nutmeg is a bit more wary. it's probably good that he's here to balance things else i'd have the whole extended family under my permanent care....anyway i do think it would be good to have the children here where we can help to care for them, and also for them to be in a safe and loving environment instead of out on the streets every day from dawn til dusk. we would have to be sure they are all free from illness first to protect our daughter, and get them any medical care they may require. so mcu hhappening!

i feel rather like i've not had a moment to beathe in the lst few days. nothing much will transpire until tomorrow and i'm going to take the night off...i'm getting a little bit, um, strained and jumpy, so probably need to try for a bit of fun to keep myself healthy enough to help as well as i can.thanks as always for all who take an interest. i would alo like to ask anyone who has any media or NGO connections in the States to please post if you feel called to help. we're trying to publicize Adia's story far and wide to rally as much help and upport as we can - for her, and for other female children in the same plight.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On August 17th a child came into my life.

Our karma can be compared with throwing pebbles in a pond. Ripples spread out, intersect; each sphere affecting all this way we live our lives, and are touched by the lives of others. Some events drift alongside us - this is one which will change the core of my being forever.

I found yesterday a woman at the bus station with a small child shriveled up at her feet; when i stopped to see what was going on, I saw a child who was literally skin and bones lying out on a thin piece of fabric, the mother hovering over it and begging alms.

After rushing home and back to bring the child some essentials of food and clothing, I enquired of a nearby officer and passers-by to understand the situation further. A tragedy was revealed. Here in India it is not uncommon for a woman to cripple or starve her child, that they be used as an effective tool for begging. This family particular family is known to the police as one who has starved an earlier child to death some years before, but there is little legal recourse - the scant laws are rarely enforced, if at all. The police merely stand idly by while atrocities unfold....the hand of the woman which held this child was plump and covered in gold rings.

I cannot determine the child's age with any certainty, but it she seems to be around one year old, though much stunted in growth because of her condition. I fear that this child has very little time to live; her skin stretched tautly over her bones, her stomach distended, and her movements weak and listless.

When we asked the child's name, we were told she had one. We decided to call her Aida, Arabic for 'gift of God'.

Today over the course of some hours I was able to feed her milk and bread, though I cannot say whether it much benefited her condition. We are trying now to help in every way we can. Daily we will bring food, and we are trying to convince the family let us take the child to the hospital - we will pay whatever is necessary for her to be restored to health. This far, they flatly refuse this assistance.

I've come into contact with an advocate here who is willing to petition the court for suspension of parental rights so the child can be placed in the hospital. Myself and my partner would be temporary guardians during this time. The advocate tells us there is a great deal of precedent for this situation, so he is confident that we will secure hospitalization - and if sufficient cause can be proved, the rights of the parents could be terminated permanently.

A the very least, we will be able to provide the child with medical care - and at best, a loving home. We do not know if the miles and miles of bureaucracy involved in Indian adoptions will allow us to bring her into our family, but we will do everything we can to be sure she is placed in a nurturing and safe environment.

I have begun this blog to raise awareness of Adia's plight, and also to inform the public of the ng realities of many female children in India. Female infanticide is not uncommon, and a girl who survives will often be sold quickly into indentured servitude and prostitution. I hope, through this blog and other works, to bring this situation to light.

I ask any who come upon this story to keep Adia in your thoughts and prayers, that this one small soul may find its way to experience the beauties of life, and that we may be empowered to help her there.