When Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program did a training at Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), one of Holt’s longest-standing partner agencies in India, *Saleem’s life and health were dramatically changed for the better.
Saleem was 2-and-a-half years old in 2014 when he first came through the doors of Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), one of Holt’s legacy partners in Bangalore, India that focuses on family strengthening. Saleem has special needs due to seizures that he experienced shortly after birth. The asphyxia during the seizures caused him to be visually impaired and to have cerebral palsey. Saleem belongs to a middle-class family and is his parents’ firstborn child. His father works for a software firm and his mother as a consultant at a slimming center. They were devastated and sad when they learned that their child had these challenges and did everything that they possibly could to help him. They spent hundreds of thousands of rupees and visited and consulted with many doctors with the hope that Saleem would be alright. But this was all in vain. The young couple wondered how they would juggle looking after Saleem with managing their careers. That’s when they found out about VCT’s daycare program. They were more than happy and relieved to find a daycare for their little boy.
When he was first admitted, Saleem was very cranky and did not like being carried. He cringed and cried when anyone stroked his face and his body was stiff and he would not open his mouth during feeding. But during this time, the staff at VCT received training on nutrition and feeding practices from Holt and the SPOON Foundation. Beth, SPOON’s occupational therapist, instantly fell in love with Saleem and wanted to do all she could to help him. She instructed the caregivers about sitting Saleem up in a highchair and helping him get used to being fed in a sitting position. Beth also demonstrated and taught the caregivers how to massage his face and the insides of his mouth in preparation for feeding.
When Saleem was first strapped in and made to sit on a chair, he definitely didn’t like it and he cried when they tried to massage his face and mouth — gritting his teeth and refusing to open his mouth. But this was all because sitting up and being fed differently was an entirely new process for him and it would take some getting used to. It took some time for Saleem, but eventually he began to cooperate.
Throughout the process of working with Saleem and his family, we learned that at home his mother would add a lot of sugar to his food so he would eat. We had to educate the mother that it was a bad idea to add sugar as it would lead to a lot of other problems. In the beginning, he would gag all the food out as he did not like the bland food. But as the days passed, he got accustomed to the food that was less sugary and more nutritious.
It has been over a year since Saleem first came to VCT and started a life of better nutrition and feeding — and there have been tremendous changes in him! Now he loves sitting in his chair, opens his mouth when he is fed, doesn’t gag and eats well. He loves it when people comfort him and stroke his face. He is able to recognize voices and responds when spoken to with a smile or gurgle of glee. He receives occupational and physical therapy to help relax his muscles and make him more flexible and special educators are teaching him to be more aware of his surroundings and recognize different sounds. He loves music and enjoys listening to songs and rhymes. He is also very attached to his caregiver and enjoys being with her. Saleem is thriving physically and emotionally as he receives the care he needs to be healthy.
Joyce Ranjan | VCT’s Educational Coordinator
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* Name changed