Hope in the Slums
This is the office of the World Health Organisation on Mahatma Gandhi Road in New Delhi, India. A close look at this picture will show you the security man behind the window gesticulating to my friend, Lydia, who borrowed my camera, that she is not to take photographs.
Behind the WHO office is a foul-smelling, milky white, polluted river. A little further down the road, as you cross this river on the footbridge you enter the Anna Nagar slum. You may see one of the big pigs rooting among the garbage on the banks of the river. You’ll probably also see small children among the garbage and the pigs.
Go further into Anna Nagar and you’ll come to the Asha building. Asha is the Hindi word for hope. Asha works to bring hope to the lives of people living in the slums of Delhi. Asha works to empower people, build up community in the slums and helps the community to help itself.
Dr. Kiran Martin, a paediatrician at the time, began the work of Asha fighting against a cholera outbreak in 1989 at a borrowed table in the shade of a tree. Today Asha works in 50 slums in Delhi, helping to bring hope to the lives of over 350,000 people from different backgrounds, castes and religions. Asha seek to live out the Christian values of faith, hope and love, honouring the God-given dignity of every human being.
Sarah and I went to visit Asha in November last year. We were part of a team from Northern Ireland and the Republic led by my friend and pastor Monty and his wife Gwen.
We worked in the Anna Nagar slum. We painted the Asha Centre. We entertained the children’s group and joined in worship with the women’s group. We visited homes and met people that Asha was helping to keep their children healthy, checking them and monitoring for diseases like tuberculosis. We met the students that Asha was helping to go to college. We met vendors that Asha helped to get loans so they can earn a living with their own business. We prayed for those who asked. Before we left we had a party and danced in the Asha centre.
It was an unforgettable experience that I can’t capture in a blog post. My reason for posting here is not to tell you about my adventure in India. I want you to know about the work of Asha – they’re still out there working in the slums, please consider helping them. I wanted to tell you that, in a slum behind the WHO, across a dirty river, hope lives. Jesus lives.