Friday, December 28, 2012

Did Mother Teresa not know that education was important for babies and children?

 Did Mother Teresa really not know that education was important for babies and children?
One would imagine that as she came to India having trained in Ireland to teach school and finally spent years as the Head Mistress of a Bengali girls’ high school that she would have to recognize the value of education. It was then her job- her life so she had to. But her later writings and actions pointed to her belief that education and perhaps even all good things of life did not belong to the poorer classes or as she put it ‘the poorest of the poor’. Even to her nuns who she arranged vows that ensured they would always obey their superior,
Then again could it be possible for a woman who came from a middle class family from a very divided country really believe that the poor should be kept in their place.  
Was it possible she believed that only handicapped persons required education?
 Post humorously in 2000 at least two volumes containing information of how to look after physically and mentally handicapped children was published –Missionaries of Charity ‘Private circulation only’. Dating from at least 1986 onwards given to presumably MT and thence the MC brothers who ran handicapped boys’ homes. Although the brothers’ homes show some indication of some application of these works The fact remains that I have seen no evidence that either of these manuals have been consulted or introduced into the nuns homes despite it now being the end of 2012!! These Publications I have kept as evidence that someone at the top prevented the nuns understanding the needs of children and babies- both normal and affected.
I had managed to obtain a copy of each one as a substitute when the nuns refused to find any of the ten copies of the 2001 publication ‘Not by Bread alone’ –the play therapy manual for orphanage children based on research that local pediatricians  had undertaken in MC’s Delhi Civil Lines home and the director assured me he had supplied the nuns with in their Kolkata HQ. Before I was aware of these manuals I had obtained a Loreto published ‘Playway’ method which Sr M –the then manager of SB with its up to 250 children graciously accepted from me. To her credit she was not the superior yet somehow she felt she felt guilty about the 4 or 5 deaths that she’d informed me were usual for SB Calcutta. Although the Loreto publication presumed that the reader would be aware of children’s basic needs, both the ‘Not for Bread alone’ and the MC’s works included basic child and baby care skills and needs. Although I managed to arrange a printout of an electronic copy of the Delhi work  I wasn’t required to return the MC
 It took some time for any of the MCs to accept the copy of ‘Not by bread alone’. The first nun- one on sabbatical from her New York based  convent was incensed when she read the first page which said that the project had commenced due to the MC superior worries over why there were so many complaints at the development level of the children sent for European adoption. ‘Impossible’ she fumed. ‘this is a lie’. Actually the fact that the adopted children were ‘backward’ was from my experience a known situation. When I arrived in Delhi I was immediately ,with no need of a volunteer card, allocated to teach the 11 various aged children. It was challenging. These children could barely hold a pencil- all except the 14 year old  a recent admission unable to even color- in. weeks it may have been months later some 8-10 year olds started drawing, but they never started talking in my 6 months except for their favourite things- umbrellas. Keys.. could they were they speaking Hindi instead- not according to the local experts from ‘Very Special Arts India’. Though they told me they could speak their own  ‘ga-ga’ language.

Was Mother Teresa unaware of poorest of poor's physical needs?

These two publications I was given by the Missionaries of Charity in 2002. Inside are various respected programs defining basic needs for child development and how to achieve the best possible development.  Several humdred pages of excellent methods and desired outcomes are clearly printed. It was published in 2000 yet Mother Teresa expired in 1997. But at the end of the blue book it explains that from at least 1986 the Missionaries of Charity- presumably Mother Teresa too were recipients of ideas and programs from many in the education and healthcare fields including local Indian experts. Around this time Brother Andrew who as the head of the  Missionaries of Charity Brothers decided to commence an educational program for the MCs to improve the lives of those especially in the Brothers' Homes of which he was in charge at that time. He did commence educational programs which have contimued though he was forced to resign from Missionaries of Charity in 1987 and return to Australia [where he gave much valued retreats.]
When I received these books I was staggeerd and remain so because the conditions I've encountered in the homes I've worked in -though they don't include the Brothers' Homes- have remained so dire. Check Hemley Gonzalez sites where it is confirmed that more than a decade after these were published that the nuns have so many homes still unnecessarily lacking in supplying basic needs of food, water and education.
How many copies were published? who knows ?  I do know that the "Not by Bread Alone" manuals which local expert pediatricans supplied ten copies to Mother House somehow were lost. Even when I supplied a printed copy from an attachment this must have been 'lost' also as the clear simple cheap ideas and program were never implemented. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Deeds of God's Wome

 MC= Missionary of Charity order- one of 102 Christian orders of nuns practicing in India, lead by MT, Mother Teresa
SELECTION OF DEEDS OF God’s women WITNESSED in 1997 in south India –in the state capital of Kerala- the most educated state in India. The MC orphanage, though there was a convent full of MC nuns just two doors away who were studying to take various levels of vows to completely devote their life to God or as my experience and as others’ published words confirmed perhaps instead the nuns were more dedicated to the betterment of the Roman Catholic Church. From my three months of daily familiarity and working I can’t recall any nun actually assisting with the milk preparation or children’s needs or with anything except the distribution of the donated drugs. Though often just dispensing cough mixture, the nun not a trained nurse would hand this out to every child whether required or not- though over time the nuns may have become aware of the mixture’s side effects of inducing sleep. For nuns whose mentor MT made no bones about insisting the MCs were ‘not social workers etc’ but were concerned only with spiritual welfare which MT always insisted that conversion to loving JC was the prime purpose of this, her order of nuns. But then as many have asked why were MT and MCs taking on people with physical problems and infants and children without having adequate experience and/or qualifications or education which is necessary when taking on these people. Hence with a home run by a foreign language ‘CEO’ with other nuns centered on prayer, penance, …it became a part of my volunteering to be placed in a position where I was a witness to a great deal of ritual abuse: on inmates defined by MT as ‘the poorest of the poor’-her catchment group. I wanted to help ameliorate the situation but the nuns are very adamant in their belief- ‘you can’t walk into someone’s house and tell them what to do’. This had silenced me lots of times though I seethed underneath when they redirected the puzzles, toys and books I had organized for the orphanage children to their friends, the rubbish bin and into trucks. It was just as impossible to encourage the nuns to give the babies the right amount of milk though I witnessed consistent underfeeding of growing infants as the milk was locked up. When I uncovered baby scales in the cupboard the nuns became very angry. So despite such young babies even in this country able to be weighed in clinics in the community, and a record maintained of their growth and health, the MCs became enraged should they even view the weighing machine out of its hide. Maybe the poor quality of staff dates back to MT’s mandate not to supply her houses from her central funding so the nuns were dependant on what could be fund raised from the local population. Hence I constantly encountered their practice to use unwanted and homeless women in particular as workers with only their board and lodging as recompense. It was particularly sad that pregnant women who were forced to seek refuge and also give up their baby once born, for adoption, who were forced to work in the babies room.  India then was and still is full of poor people who manage without resorting to MC homes. Primarily I learned there were sometimes impossible conditions imposed on those wishing to gain access to MC facilities.  I sometimes was besieged by pavement dwellers begging and though I redirected them to a supposedly free lunch up at the MCs, they never came and I presumed that converting to Christianity for a meal was too much. What I also must say is that the nuns needed workers desperately as they have a serious daily prayer program plus are not permitted to work at all on Thursdays, hence they require cheap labour. One would have to be desperate to work for so much less than the minimum wage. Hence the nuns employed only those people who were so desperately desperate that they allowed themselves to be coerced.  In Trivandrum it was using their untrained residents including mentally affected. One young girl in particular who didn’t understand and could not be convinced not to feed the babies with milk which was almost still boiling. I often had to wrestle bottles off this innocent girl to attempt to cool them somewhat. What nuns would not organise boiled water to make the milk rather than just adding milk to still boiling milk! With staff overworked with mandatory cleaning and hand washing and locked milk- only logs for a stove!
There was so much time pressure that bathing babies in water just off the boil was almost routine- yet discussing with locals putting the water in the sun would be more suitable as they treated their own babies this way. Until I went to the Medical College where the government doctors diagnosed scabies on Anil so severe that they refused to treat his talapes till his scabies were treated even providing free ointment. The nuns didn’t check out the other children instead allowing an illiterate lady to treat him with whatever amounts she felt like using and laughing at him- ‘scabie baby’. It took me years to learn that scabies, very itchy insect infestations, came not just from neglecting hygiene care but inadequate diet. -
My first day ever volunteering was totally shocking. Five little toddlers each standing mournfully alone in a metal cot/cage; one little girl Judy took one look at me and started screaming – luckily for me at least- on a young local student volunteer sat and as I sat next to her she told me that Judy had screamed when she first came- unfortunately this was her last day. I looked more closely at the other four little ones- a boy was desperately scratching his head as he watched another little boy was banging his head against the cot, another girl scratching her stomach and banging, the last simply standing as all the others were in a wet cot stretched out her arms to me, ‘Amma. Amma’ –‘mother, mother’. We volunteers were to feed them- something they should have been able to do for themselves. All I can remember from that day is that in the far corner of this room there were boxes in which I spied lots and lots of toys. My request as to whether I could use some of them with the children, just like my request to take the children out of their cots for a cuddle or a walk, was dismissed immediately. day 2 –these tiny children being taken into a dank, slippery dark cement room with trough toilets and cold water taps which they murmured sadly perhaps frightened quietly;  mostly nits, cold horrible bathrooms, isolating vision I confess that when on my third day of volunteering they were no longer there I felt relief. I was never to hear anything about them again. Months later when I visited Cochin in search of another disappeared child I enquired about these children’s whereabouts. By then I had learned that none of these children were available for foreign adoption unless they were transferred to Delhi, Mumbai or Calcutta. The nuns never spoke about these children again. Surely they would have informed me and the local volunteer with satisfaction about their transferal. For I did later learn that there was a scarcity of people wishing to adopt in Kerala though later I learned that in Chennai the queue for a child was hundreds long.  I’d learn too over the passage of time that local Indians in those times preferred to adopt baby boys with wheatish skin colour. Toddlers were not their preference and certainly not girls especially dark skinned ones. This proclivity for light skinned babies made sense especially when one considers what can happen to older ones that can’t fit in with the family… after the Gujarat earthquake within days the United Nations who had taken over the relief management put a stop to the quick adoptions of local children who lost their family in the quake. They’d discovered that a number of people had taken up these kids not entirely for their own benefit but to be able to train them up as low or no cost servants. I met my first ‘adopted and returned’ child in Trivandrum. A was adopted by a Tamil couple living in Singapore and she could speak English quite well and had even been to Australia. She had been adopted at age 2ish and only problem was that when her adoptive father died when she was twelve her adoptive mother sent her back to the Kerala MC convent. Why? I wondered whether the clue lay in her adamant wish to never marry- even to the extent she wanted to become a nun. Now at around age 16 her most prized possession was a snippet of MT’s sari.
Gradually as I learned more about the culture I could understand with the Indian inheritance laws the adopting parents would have to create a ‘new’ birth certificate making the child officially their own family.        
Though it sounds outrageous it could have well been that I was witness to their staff feeding up unwanted babies and transporting them under cover to become body parts in Enaculum. I will describe my experience. In South India [then nationwide], dark baby girls are definitely undesired to be adopted by most childless families. Though it’s been illegal for more than 50 years, Indians who wish their daughter to marry must provide a dowry- surprising when there are now according to the census at least 40million extra males in India. In addition people want ‘fair skinned’ babies. So when I watched and could hear the lighter skinned babies especially the desired baby boys [potential dowry drawers] yet here they were underfed and quite thin, often distressed. Yet one big very dark baby girl of more than 12 months, was the one the workers spent much time shoveling in food to make her quite fat. The superior assured me that Aulya was much sought after in Enaculum. If this was so why hadn’t they taken her home already- I would not have been at all suspicious, except  that accepting the correctable treatable problems of inmates. as God’s will for their suffering  was very hard to take, and I this was because the nuns were being too lazy or had ulterior motives. Could be that a child crippled/ unable to walk due to not correcting talepes vagus could be used  for hard labour – perhaps relocated when older to a place like the Chennai Cheshire homes where I witnessed camera parts were in production.
I witnessed them allowing babies to be frantic with hunger because the nuns refuse to use modern stoves to boil water to purify for making into milk. The workers have to use small machetes to cut up large logs of wood into usable pieces – often they start fires in the middle to cook on and as a bonus burn it down into more usable pieces. This procedure occurs downstairs in the garden area and the workers have to struggle up a flight of stairs to deposit the huge metal pot on the floor where they can add the powder into the bottles. Here most of the bottles are labeled which is good as there is no sterilizing or even hot water bottle cleaning facility.
Because the nuns don’t even read the label on the milk tins, and because they just empty new powder add milk powder into any empty tin the workers just go on feel for making up the milk
There is no time to measure as none of the nuns in Trivandrum ever did any actual work, apart from supervising, in the three months I was there. The workers were unable to read either Hindi or English which were the only languages on the tin. The nuns couldn’t have read the instructions either because they were only feeding much smaller amounts than the recommended. Their instant and only response was that the babies were premature. As the majority of babies came from pregnant mothers who lived and worked in the institution before they gave birth, I’d be surprised if they induced them. Certainly the post natal mothers did not look malnourished- which is the most given reason here for low birth weight

Friday, December 21, 2012


DESIGNER ABUSE: is it for real?
Part 1- Introduction
I was a hospital trained RN with time on my hands when I began in 1997 to volunteer in Mother Teresa’s home in Trivandrum in South India. Mother herself had just ‘expired’ as they say of heart problems in her lowly room in Calcutta so I had to wait till the Superior returned from her Indian State funeral before I could commence with her approval. Once sighted, I was immediately accepted to volunteer, without disclosing any credentials not even my name. Though I’d just spent over 6 months in the sub-continent I was still acquiring cultural knowledge. I then over a three month period of daily volunteering of six hours went on to witnessing horrors that I wasn’t sure were a necessity- whether rough treatment was de rigeur cultural  approach to life or whether it was all part and parcel of Roman Catholic cruelty and/or ignorance like what I’d endured as a child.
Time would show me that pinching infants’ cheeks till they cried was cultural but applying boiling hot water internal or external to infants wasn’t. I needed to meet up with locals who were visiting and or volunteering to uncover the realities.  Eventually after I studied up I found locally printed baby care materials which confirmed the obvious that babies universally have the same basic needs. HealthCare adequate nutrition and hydration educational stimulation. The local publications had differing details but the basics were identical.  But the superior refused to look at it–snapping at me ‘I don’t read’. She like the other nuns worked to Mother Teresa’s clergy timetable -formula hours which was but a fraction of the time of what the workers put in – she like most superiors I would later encounter would simply come for 5 minutes a day and bark orders and snap out at workers. Just why Mother Teresa had consciously selected this Hindi speaking woman to be in charge in a Malayalam speaking state?  To be managing the lives of 15 infants, transient toddlers, at least ten physically and mentally impaired children plus at least 20 older girls who slept below in a huge dormitory plus a. Yet her mother tongue was not the local. Moreover the babies I was told could only be adopted to families in this state. This woman who refused to engage outside her Missionaries of Charity program- prayer, chastity, obedience and poverty. Local experts who wished to donate their expertise were ignored.  I finally came across and met by chance due to local guidance the lady doctor who had offered to be a physician to all those MC inmates who required it. She was a genuinely respected doctor who was totally shocked when I described the plights of several of the children. Anil for instance though the MCs told me he’d been with then his whole life no MC had taken up the doctor’s offer to consult and to advise as to why Anil though over 3 years was unable to stand. The doctor assured me she’d visited lots over the years but had never seen Anil. The nuns would direct her to the ones needing immediate advice. But it seemed possible that they must have hidden him from her sight in another room. The one foreigner whom I convinced to volunteer though just for one day was immediately drawn to Anil. The orphanage was large- there would have been many places to hide. Why didn’t the nuns want this child to stand and walk like any other child? The doctor immediately said she would check notes on every child in the future.   As I note later –slavery is alive and well in India. Though people may not be able to walk they still can use their hands to make as I’ve seen plastic camera parts for their keep. With no usable legs they can’t run away. It was only in 2011 the MCs were finally apprehended in their Sri Lankan home for not keeping adequate admission records which could allow for disappearances. However the charges though they were proved to be accurate, were dropped ….
Not checking up on children’s health- a deliberate or unconscious omission? It would take another fourteen months of  volunteering and witnessing increasing numbers of easily avoidable abuse before the truth that I had tried to avoid hit me full-on - it could not have been ignorance that caused these abuses that I will detail - it had to be designer- nobody who had been trained for years –up to a decade before making final vows should be that dumb-  or could they- I lived in a regular RC family and attended a RC school for 14 yearx all the while legally blind- are people too busy to notice that their child requires vision aides…
Here are the accumulated events that finally convinced me it wasn’t/couldn’t be ignorance at least from the top – in my own case over time I would learn my ‘parents’ were in reality only step-parents ..