Hanumanatipura Village, Chennai, India
Gilbert, the capable, multitasker who runs Little Flock, arranged with the village panchayat, or elected president, for the elementary and middle grade children from the local Dalit school to come get fitted for shoes and hear a nutrition talk. Under the shade of a thatched public space, in the not-yet-searing heat, the middle school science teacher translated as we talked about nutrition and about hookworm. The level of attentiveness was impressive. The kids were thrilled with their new shoes, brimming with excitement and enthusiasm. Almost all of them came barefoot, and left with a spring in their steps. Any kids who had medical complaints were examined and treated, and we gave out enough albendazole for the school. We had the kids take the medicine at lunch the next day, as it should be taken with food, and for some of them, the free school lunch is their only meal of the day. We were struck by how much more robust the kids at Little Flock appeared in comparison to these village kids.
A huge proportion of the kids had hookworm infection, with swollen bellies and complaints of worms visible in the stool. Despite this, the girls all had shiny hair in beautiful braids or pigtails festooned with colorful ribbons. Their threadworn uniforms belied their brilliant smiles. The staff helped immensely in fitting shoes, and each child proudly signed his or her name in a ledger when receiving a brand-new pair of shoes.
The children, especially the boys, mugged for the cameras. They were obviously thrilled to see photos and video footage of themselves and their buddies. All the kids effusively thanked us.