A Visit to East Delhi River Bed Slum

A Visit to East Delhi River Bed Slum

Nothing can really prepare someone like me, who is used to cleanliness, security, a steady income, a permanent home and knowing where the next meal is going to come from, for the feelings you have when you’re exposed to people who have none of these things, and who live in the most appalling conditions.

The Riverbed Project is an uplift programme run by Asha, a charity AE Publications supports. The project helps the 15,000 people living in a temporary slum in Seelampur, New Delhi. Most years the whole area floods and the community is forced to move into even more crowded conditions higher up the riverbank.

The slum is a morass of shacks built from sticks and brush held together by cord. There are flies everywhere, no running water and no sanitation. The people live from hand to mouth by trading small items on the streets, working as rickshaw pullers, begging and doing whatever work is available.

As I walked through the gullies between the shacks, people crowded around to greet me. They are amazingly resilient and cheerful considering the hardships they face. I was invited inside one woman’s shack and she proudly introduced me to her three children. Her shack was tidy and organised and she attributed this to Asha, who were sharing with her the benefits of keeping things clean in order to protect her children’s health.

I met the women’s group, that Asha has set up, who all sat on a carefully rolled out mat in a clearing. They said they were honoured to meet me and thanked our company for being willing to help Asha with this project.

The children crowded onto a special bus, provided by Asha, that visits the slum a few times a week to provide basic medical care, educational activities for the children and social support. Asha has helped organise regular deliveries of freshwater onto the site by government tankers and have built a toilet block to try and improve the sanitation on the site. The children are now being vaccinated and there are programmes in place to educate and empower women to be leaders in the community and bring about social uplift.

The children are being encouraged to go to school and there are already some encouraging results. Education is the way out for these people and the children can help lift their families out of impoverishment. One young girl in the slum is attending university; our money is helping to provide a scholarship for her to continue her studies at Delhi University. I met this amazing young girl. Every night she returns to the slum but finds it difficult to adapt to living in two very different worlds.

My visit to Seelampur was very moving and I am proud that AE Publications has been able to assist in this great work amongst the poor of India.