Posted by Sujay Joseph | September 1, 2020 | Touching Lives

Today, I neither smoke nor consume any tobacco

SO PROUD and GRATEFUL that — long before the COVID19 pandemic — Butterflies leveraged its Child Health and Sports Cooperatives to promote safe personal and communal health practices to the urban poor in India. Read how ROHIT broke his severe tobacco addiction and, with other Butterflies kids, “used door-to-door contact, rallies, and street plays” to educate folks in his community about health and hygiene years in advance of the current government public ed campaign to forestall the spread of the virus.

“Prior to my involvement with Butterflies, I was addicted to smoking. I used to have a pack of 12 bidis (local tobacco) and four to five cigarettes every day. I also used to take one or two packets of gutka (chewing flavoured tobacco).

I used cash I took from home or I borrowed it from my friends. When these sources failed I resorted to selling iron rods that were in an old, vacant building in our area. I was quite unaware of the bad effects of my habit until I was a participant in one of the health sessions by Butterflies. The videos they showed had images of mouths and livers of cancer patients, caused by smoking tobacco. It was horrifying and an eye opener for me. I decided to distance myself from smoking and although it was quite difficult in the beginning, within three months I was able to overcome my habits. Today, I neither smoke nor consume any tobacco products.

This was only possible because of the counselling, support, encouragement and guidance of the child health educators and the staff of the Child Health Co-operatives, particularly Nausheen Didi. “Distancing myself from smoking and the intake of substances has helped me to concentrate on my studies. It seems to have had its effect on my health in general, as I rarely fall ill now. Today, I feel like a better person.

With my parents’ meagre income, it was always difficult for them to take care of us. Our clothes were torn and we were unclean as we played in filthy surroundings near our jhuggi (shacks). We rarely took a bath and rarely wore clean clothes. There was an open nala (drain) in the village info, which I often fell into but never bothered to clean myself afterwards. It risked my health and I fell ill frequently.

My membership in the Child Health Cooperative had a huge effect on my unhealthy behaviours. It has helped me not only to stop smoking but was instrumental in promoting several healthy habits, both on a personal and at the community level. “At the personal level, my earlier behaviours included not washing my hands before and after meals, not taking baths, not wearing washed clothes, not combing my hair or cutting my nails, not having a clean bed and eating unhealthily. Now I take regular baths, I change my clothes when they are unclean and wash my clothes regularly, I cut my nails, I brush my teeth every day and also comb my hair. I no longer play in unhygienic surroundings anymore.

At the community level, Butterflies taught us that we should not throw garbage outside or litter our surroundings. There used to be heaps of garbage in various places in the community, including right in front of my house. I never bothered about it – my attitude was “if others litter, why should I clean it?” Through Butterflies I have realised that it is the responsibility of each one of us to keep our surroundings clean. It prompted me to clean the garbage in front of my house and I asked my friends to do the same around their houses. Along with other children in the community I help educate people about health and hygiene with door to door campaigns, rallies and street plays. Recently we performed a street play on Dengue Fever and Malaria.

I am convinced that I can contribute something to the community in which I live. Whatever I have learned and done to myself and to the community is because of the Prevention and Promotion Programme of Child Health Co-operatives. Looking back to the last four to five years, I can name a number of remarkable changes in my life because of my involvement with Butterflies,” says a beaming Rohit.

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