Tag Archives: India

My First Real Slum

Here is your warning:  If you are not prepared to have your hearts moved and your eyes moistened then read no further and come back to this site some other day.  But, if you can read through to the end you may find hope.

Today I visited a slum in India.  I had no idea what to really expect.  Drawing a comparison to the weekend trip to South Central L.A. in High School is impossible.  I might imagine that there may be someplace like this place in the United States, but I find it hard to do so.

I’ll share some images of what I found.  There are far too many to post here and when I come back you should take the time to come and see me and get a better idea how life is here for these people.

In talking I found out that they wake up around 6 am and get the morning started with washing clothes, cooking the morning meal and then off to work where they will make about 300 Rupee, 50 of which they will pay to the person that found them the job.  Every two days you go and get your water in at “crossroad” type location.

Woman, assisted by children, getting drinking water.
Woman, assisted by children, getting drinking water.

After getting water this little girl followed me down an alley of the slum, curious about me and my camera.  She was a bit shy, but stopped long enough when I turned around for this snapshot.

Beautifully dressed Indian girl in pink contrasted by the living conditions she is surrounded by in the slum.
Beautifully dressed Indian girl in pink contrasted by the living conditions she is surrounded by in the slum.

When you take your meals in the slum once a week – if your lucky and you work hard – you can afford chicken or even fish from the local market, but normally your meal is rice with a leaf like spinach plant and tomatoes all boiled together.  Indians eat with their fingers and you would sit outside your hut and enjoy the meal, much like this lady.

This woman was taking her morning meal and allowed me to take her picture.  After approving of my work she went back to her meal.
This woman was taking her morning meal and allowed me to take her picture. After approving of my work she went back to her meal.

Working in the slum is not easy.  Men gather scrap from nearby neighborhoods and sort it, bringing it in on tricycle carts by the mountain full.

This man on a tricycle cart was hauling plastic to be sorted and eventually sold for recycling.
This man on a tricycle cart was hauling plastic to be sorted and eventually sold for recycling.
This man is sorting refuse for recycling.  It's long, hot work, but it's work in the slum.
This man is sorting refuse for recycling. It’s long, hot work, but it’s work in the slum.
Metal is stripped from discarded items to be recycled.  Boys learn how to strip the metal from the objects from their fathers.
Metal is stripped from discarded items to be recycled. Boys learn how to strip the metal from the objects from their fathers.

This woman motioned to me as I walked down her alleyway.  She wanted me to come in and see where she lived.  Her hut could not have been more than 8 feet by 10 feet.  I had trouble figuring out how to take a picture of it, even with a 17mm lens and 180 degree view.  The image you’ll see below is actually 6 images stitched together so you can get the entire view inside.  But first she proudly shows me her sewing machine, the way she makes a living.  It sits at the entry way to her hut.  Here in the slum, she is among the best off because she has a trade.

This woman proudly showed off her sewing machine and home to me.
This woman proudly showed off her sewing machine and home to me.
This is the woman's hut.  It is amazingly small.  This is all she has.  How many days could you live here?
This is the woman’s hut. It is amazingly small. This is all she has. How many days could you live here?

My time in the slum was drawing to a close.  I felt  pretty hopeless.  I was holding back tears, as I am now writing this.  250 Rupee is just $3.83 USD.  But as I wound my way out of the slum I came across this boy playing in the dirt alley.

This boy is playing in a dirt alley in a slum in India.
This boy is playing in a dirt alley in a slum in India.

I thought maybe there is hope for him.  Hope that he won’t learn to salvage metal from spent bullets, like his father next to him.  There is hope for him because earlier I met his mother learning to sew in an economic development community center here in the slum.

This woman is learning to sew in an economic development community center in India.
This woman is learning to sew in an economic development community center in India.

If she can earn enough money to help that boy get an education, who knows what the future might hold for him and the rest of this slum in India.

To Market

I woke up this morning and found that I had come down with a slight cold.  After the morning festivities, which actually lasted through the afternoon meal, I went to the local market to buy a few things to nurse myself back to feeling better.  The local store is about 1 km away and walking is about the only form a transportation available, so walk I did.  Along the way I tried to find an appropriate image to relay the excursion. I could have taken pictures of loose dogs rummaging in a dumpster for food, or mopeds zipping up and down the road where I walked, but those seemed to commonplace for this place.  The real picture was this one as I was about to turn the corner for home.

Mother and piglets are completely unphased by the rush of traffic on the street just feet away from their road side feeding ground.
Mother and piglets are completely unphased by the rush of traffic on the street just feet away from their road side feeding ground.

Music has been playing over loudspeakers most of the afternoon and into the evening.  It seems very festive here as night comes and my second day in India comes to an end.

Flying Out Today

Finally singing: “I’m leaving, on a jet plane…”

After a delay of several days due to airline ticket changes I am finally flying out today to India.  I left home this morning at 6 am and flew to LAX where I am writing this entry from the International Terminal waiting at the gate for the departing flight to Hong Kong where I will have about a 2 hour layover and connection to India.

I’ll arrive at just after midnight local time in India and have spent more than 28 hours traveling.  I’m excited to meet the people of India and experience the culture.  I’m told there is an incredible botanical garden near where I will be staying and those of you that know me know well I can’t resist photographing in a botanical garden.

Today I finished my eVisa Application and Bought Travel Insurance

Today the trip has really started to become real.  I finished my eVisa application and bought my travel insurance.  I researched flight times and determined the the total flight time to India is 28 hours with layovers in either LA or Chicago and London.

There is a sense of excitement mixed with serenity.  I’m eager to see what plans have been laid for me, but amazingly have been granted an unusual peace and calm I normally don’t have when coming up on a new adventure.

Just a few short days to get the last few things done before departure.

Application Process for IDEAS

I’ve started the application process with an organization called IDEAS.  Their application process involves recommendations from people who know me and a background check.  I’ve begun the process and passed the background check and submitted all my references already.  I’ve applied to go take pictures with IDEAS.  My chat with the person in country will be Wednesday July 29th in the morning.  Please be thoughtful of me during this time.  I want to put my best foot forward and I want them to see the real me!

I’ve already paid the application fee, but want to give you the opportunity to contribute towards this $95 fee.  After the final interview is approved I’ll begin the final fundraising effort for this trip. This trip to India show have a total cost of about $1750. There are $750 my stay costs and about $1000 of additional costs that include airfare, visa, insurance and other costs. Below are four options to contribute.

1. Give directly through the IDEAS donation website.  Please put my name (Erick Johnson) in the box labeled “IDEAS Associate” so they know where to apply your gift.

2. You can donate through PayPal using the button below.




3. You can send Bitcoin to the QR code below.
IDEASAppFeeDonationQR

4. You can contribute to the Go Fund Me campaign for the entire trip to India. here is the web address to that campaign: http://gofundme.com/erickjohnson

Thank you for your support as I begin this process and a new chapter of service in my life!   Please check back in here to see how our conversation goes and find out is I’ll be going to India for a couple weeks in August 2015 (yep, that’s next month) to take pictures for IDEAS.