Nagpur’s NAMS project – “Newborn And Mother’s Shield” – provides a bag full of new clothes to babies born in the Maharashtra tribe, where even mothers do not have proper clothes to wear. This little idea has saved more than 1,000 children from hypothermia in the past three years
When Alka Jog retired as the principal of the government’s leading nursing university in Nagpur, her plan was to use her experience and expertise for a social cause. While reading ‘Prakash Wata’, a biography of Padma Shri Dr Prakash Amte, she came across an incident in which a baby from Hemalkasa suffered fatal burns. The baby crawls to a lit fire inside their hut as her mother falls asleep after a long, hard day’s work. By the time her mother wakes up and tries to save her, she is suffering burns with one of her legs completely burned.
“People in the remote and tribal areas of Gadchiroli and Melghat don’t have enough clothes to wear. Winter is intense in this part of the state. These people burn bonfires inside their huts and sleep around them to keep warm. Can you imagine the condition of pregnant women and their newborns in such a scenario? says Alkatai, named after his colleagues Lata Thakre, Kalpana Dhamnekar, Kirti Saptarshi, Lalita Nazar, Archana Kulkarni and Sunita Lakhe.
Mostly housewives, these women decided to do something for the tribal newborns. As a nurse, Jog knew exactly what mother and child needed.
“Keeping the baby and the mother warm after delivery is the most important task. Lack of clothing can lead to hypothermia, a medical term for abnormally low body temperature. This further develops the infection. We can stop this by providing appropriate clothing,” she said.
Although poverty is the main reason for the non-availability of proper clothing, it is not the only reason. In many rural and tribal areas, bad traditions, superstitions and ignorance of parents are also responsible for not providing proper clothing for babies.
“Together, we enlisted the most necessary types of clothes for the baby and the mother. We collected the initial amount and brought the raw material. We decided to hire women attached to the Aroha Multi-purpose Society to sewing,” recalls Jog.
In 2018, the first batch of some 125 gift bags was delivered to Lok Biradari Prakalp headed by Dr. Prakash Amte. The second batch was sent to the SEARCH project led by Dr. Abhay and Dr. Rani Bang. The MAHAN Trust headed by Dr Ashish Satav in Melghat also received the goody bag parcels. So far, 1,735 tribal mothers and their babies have received gift bags.
“The concept is wonderful. The contents of the bag have been thoughtfully decided. We are distributing it to needy women in our area,” said Dr. Rani Bang.
Dr Ashish Satav said words were insufficient to express his gratitude. “We distribute these gift bags to pregnant and breastfeeding women in Melghat. The bags bring positive change for sure,” he said.
Dr. Rajkumar Kiratkar, who recently took over as president of the Nagpur branch of the Academy of Paediatrics, said he has been following the project since its inception and now plans to provide significant assistance.
“We learned that NAMS only works with the help of individual donors. AOP plans to procure a large number of kits to distribute to people in need. We will welcome companies that wish to support this project,” said Dr Kiratkar.
Sharmishtha Gandhi of Aroha company, which is coordinating this project, said women in Nagpur got sewing jobs in Covid times through this project.
“We also save money in different ways. We call on people to donate the shawls they receive at congratulatory functions. These shawls are used for sewing baby blankets. We are also calling on women to donate blouse pieces to sew bags for these treats. We buy the best quality materials from the wholesale market and our seamstresses sew the clothes at discounted rates,” Gandhi said.
Maharashtrian households are familiar with the concept of ‘Balant Vida’ (a bag of gifts for a new mother). Many households donate 10 or more gift bags per year. However, the project needs corporate support. “Until we get a major boost via corporate CSR, we will continue to appeal to individuals to donate ‘Balant Vida’ for your invisible children and grandchildren. We We will continue our efforts to stop newborn deaths from hypothermia,” says Alka Jog.
GOODY BAGS CONTAINS…
* Two nursing dresses for the mother
* A baby blanket made of shawls
* Two baby sheets
* Four baby long sleeve tops
* Three caps of different sizes
* Two flannel jackets
* A set of wool sweaters
* A cotton towel for the baby
* Set of baby wipes
* Cloth bag to pack the set
* Soaps, masks and disinfectants
A goody bag costs us around Rs 1,500. We provide it free of charge to people in need through reputable social organizations. Thousands of babies and mothers in tribal and rural areas need help. Our project is supported only by generous donors. You can also sponsor such gift bags for your invisible children and grandchildren
Alka Jog, Former Head of Govt Nursing College and Founder of NAMS