During a visit to India with the SPOON Foundation, Holt’s former director of strategic initiatives, Jennifer Goette, got to hear numerous stories about children whose lives have been saved from nutritional intervention. Below, they describe one little boy named Rajeesh*, who was an especially tough case.
Rajeesh* is a staff favorite at his school in Bangalore, India. A 4-year-old charmer with deep brown eyes that gleam with an impish twinkle, Rajeesh bounces around from one activity to the next and often offers to help his teachers in class.
Rajeesh was 2 years old when he was found abandoned and referred the care center. Rajeesh’s initial medical examination diagnosed him as having severe anemia and moderate cognitive delays. At the time, Rajeesh was not able to speak and could not sit up without assistance. He had a protruding stomach, often a sign of protein deficiency.
This little guy was immediately given a blood transfusion for anemia and started on iron, zinc and calcium supplements. With a balanced diet and regular monitoring of his anemia, it took more than one year in care before the staff noticed significant improvements in his energy and his iron tests reached normal levels. A few months before his third birthday, Rajeesh was transferred to Bangalore, where he now lives with a loving foster family and has access to speech therapy twice a week. Although Rajeesh continues to struggle with concentration and has some difficulty speaking, signs of the irreversible damage caused by early malnutrition, he has shown vast improvements in his energy level and overall health.
I [Jennifer] meet Rajeesh when he comes to the care center for informal school. He is quite the character, teasing the other children while bouncing around from one activity to the next. His deep brown eyes have an impish twinkle. He knows how to charm the caregivers — you can tell he is a staff favorite. As the mid-morning snack is passed around, he is quite the helper, passing out orange wedges and collecting plates when snack time is finished. As the other children wash their hands and return to classes downstairs, Rajeesh is the last child remaining. We giggle as we watch him take a cup out of the cupboard, help himself to a drink of water, and then place the unwashed cup back in the cupboard. He flashes a big smile and skips off. One of the cooks shakes her head and smiles as she retrieves the cup and washes it. What a cheeky kid!
At the time, Rajeesh was matched with an adoptive family and has since come home to his family in the United States. He is one of the lucky ones — a child who has survived and thrived in spite of the difficult circumstances of his early life. While we may not be able to counter all of the ill effects of malnutrition in children coming into care, we want to do whatever we can to give children the best start in life. Rajeesh, and other children coming into care, deserve the very best treatment we can offer.
Jennifer Goette | Holt’s former director of strategic initiatives