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India’s ‘Sensory Overload’ Greets Photojournalist

Photojournalist David Snyder is traveling in India for CRS. Here’s a dispatch David sent this morning.

September 5, 2008

New Delhi, India Nearly a week now in India visiting CRS projects here in Delhi and further south in Mumbai. I’ve been to India several times, but each time I’m overwhelmed by this place – by the sheer crush of humanity that India bears. A simple drive through the noisy, crowded cities here is a burst of sensory overload – the horns and pollution, the wealth of the rich and the incredible weight of urban poverty.

On his return to India, photojournalist David Snyder finds the country still impresses visitors with rich sensory experiences. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

It is that poverty that has given rise to the burgeoning HIV rate in India, where the government estimates that 2.4 million people are infected with HIV. While the number might seem low in a country with more than one billion inhabitants, India is ripe for the spread of the virus as it transmits among the poor migrant workers who still comprise the bulk of India’s labor force.

This week I spent time with CRS beneficiaries who are receiving all manner of care and support through CRS partners, reaching out to provide educational and nutritional support to kids living with HIV, and physical and psychosocial care for adults who are infected with the virus. On Tuesday I went out with a group of staff from CRS partner agency Karunya Trust as they put on a street performance for people in a local slum, hundreds of which rise up amid the cities of India. Their performance, delivered to the laughs of the many who gathered in the crowded alleyway, reminded me of those I’d seen in Africa so many times during the years I lived there – a raucous performance of comedy with a serious message of HIV awareness at its heart.

CRS programming here is as varied as the country itself. Here in New Delhi I visited a CRS partner who is working with a transgender community – men who have undergone surgeries to be women, and now live in shadowy communities where they earn money through dance and performance, and live high-risk lifestyles that leave them extremely vulnerable to HIV. Wednesday I met a group of HIV positive women who with CRS help are starting their own business making Nutrition Powder – a vitamin-packed mix used by a CRS partner agency as part of their HIV nutrition program. Rather than buy the product from an outside provider, they now buy directly from the women themselves, ensuring their own supply of the product and providing regular income for the group members.

There was talk of my going up north to document CRS’ response to the disastrous flooding that hit the state of Bihar this week. But I am off tomorrow to see some CRS programs in Bangladesh, a country I’ve never before been to. So, we’ll see what I find there.

David Snyder

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