In February 2017 I visited the people in the slum under a highway bridge. In Calcutta there are about 3,000 slums and countless bridges. In the slums children are born without birth certificates. Identities are unclear. There are whole generations of nameless people without rights.
Here under a motorway bridge, little Razia lives with her family. Mama Janara, Grandma Gieta and the three sisters, Niha, Tuturi and Resma. A bridge pillar forms the back wall of her plastic crate.
Here Razia was shown to me as a baby, with a conspicuous cleft lip, palate and throat. Nobody could tell me the exact date of birth. I think the little one was half a year old at that time.
Under the impressions of her family environment and the medical necessity of a reconstruction of her genetic defect, I soon realized that this little girl needed my help.
It was far too early for an operation, but I knew that if Razia wanted to survive, an operation would have to be performed. In this condition, food intake is extremely difficult and speaking is impossible.
A year later, I was back in Calcutta and my first trip was to the people under the bridge. Razia could walk and looked at me anxiously. I introduced her to a facial surgeon for the first time. An operation was not possible because her blood values were frighteningly bad. The doctor prescribed her food supplements, vitamins and iron drops.
In 2019 I went again with Razia and her mother to the blood test and to the pediatrician. The little one had better blood values, but she was still malnourished. Her body weight was in no way sufficient for an operation.
Disappointed, I brought the child back to the bridge. But nobody in the family could share my disappointment. Everyone seemed to be happy about this condition. I must explain that this little girl is the source of income for the family because of her appearance. Alternately, Grandma, Mom or the big sister go begging with her. I would therefore deprive the family of this source of income. I soon realized that we would have to continue to support the family after the operation in order to help the girl and the family in the long term.
This year in February I went again to the family under the bridge. The family accompanied Razia, Heather Rixon and me to the hospital to give the little one another checkup. Finally, the little one was in a condition where the first operation could be performed. This year the lip could be closed and there will be two more operations. Next year the lip will be pulled back over the upper jaw and again one year later the palate will be closed. Swallowing, taking a breath, tasting and all the everyday things that make our life with all our senses even more worth living will then change the life of little Razia significantly. A healthy girl will stay under the bridge. One of many small steps is taken...
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