Tears were rolling down my cheeks, I had my hand over my eyes to avoid peoples gaze as they looked on awestruck, my spanish friend had her arm around me to comfort me, they think I'm sick.
I was in the biggest slum in Asia.
I'd met some photographers here for a shoot for the national press and had had to leave my bike as the paths between houses narrowed so much the handle bars were just pulling down corrugated houses. My senses were on overload, incense mixed with raw sewage, banging house music deafened all conversation but you turn another corner and the music dies and you can just here the kids playing cricket on the rubbish dump. Squealing and arguing whether it was LBW or not, saris flash past you and kids dirty colourful toys are hugged intensely.
We're invited into a house which is no bigger than a store room. Anything from 5 - 10 people can share a room. Kitchen, storage, beds are all in a space about the size of a queen sized bed. A girl lies in the tiny bed. She is so skinny she looks like the mummy in the British Museum. Just skin and bone. A tear rolls down her cheek with the effort it takes to look up and see the aliens that have entered her home. Angela has a bright tattoo down her left arm and piercings, with the looks of a well practiced model, I obviously have the brightest ginger beard ever and blue eyes that can only be associated with something from another world and a stupid grin on my face.
But this is the only low point of the whole trip - the charity have really tried to give an insight into what life is like in the slum. I'm impressed how well they live in these buildings (if you can call them that - they look like a strong wind would flatten the lot (luckily I'm able to handle curries a bit better now so my wind wasn't going to be a problem!!)) the children are all happy and enjoyed climbing on me like a climbing frame and chasing the balloons that I fired all over the slum.
My tears are falling because I'm back in the office of the charity and they are telling me how the money I have raised is being used in the slum. Abi translates what the women are saying piece by piece. Part of it funds a trade union run by women for women. Initially i hear graphic stories of how the women were beaten and verbally abused by their husbands for joining and creating such a thing. Bano (the team leader) is speaking again with emotion I can feel. Abi translates "These women stuck with it and kept working and then the results came..." - it feels like a movie... I know what is coming next and burst into tears. all the emotion I felt from the trip rips through me. I'm uncontrollable. I try and pull it together because i want to hear the rest.
The results came and the people realized these women were getting far better results than the men ever had and the husbands changed there tune too. They would stay at home with the kids on the days the women needed to work. There status in society is sky high.
Tears are still blurring my vision - I am sorry but i can't put into words what I was / am feeling. The squalor these people live in, the disease, the lack of education, the way children and women are treated in India, and what a difference the charity are making. What a difference we have already made through donating money to Action Aid - I pound here travels 100 times the distance it does in the UK. 5 pounds is enough for a months wage for one of these workers.
It's after Christmas, everyone is skint, but if you do find a pound under the sofa please think about the children and women in this slum, and think what a small amount of money can do for them.
PS Will try and get a computer than is strong enough for pics soon.....