By: StreeNews Network
A group of four women- Aruna Anand, Mahrukh Bandorawalla, Asha Iyer & Barkha Punjabi– from their own personal experiences within their homes, realized how essential it is for the children to get the motherly cuddle. They realised that children in orphanages were deprived of such warmth. They, along with their close friends, decided to start a baby cuddling project, which they named as ‘Jaddu Ki Jhappi’ to enable infants and toddlers to feel the warmth and human touch on a one on one basis for a few hours in a day regularly.
“We wanted to give pure unadulterated love such as a parent has for a child – in this case, infants and toddlers who came into the adoption home due to various circumstances and would go to families where they would find the love and care to grow up to be fine young individuals,” says Aruna Anand.
“Many babies and young children all over the world still grow up in environments where touch and emotional engagement are lacking. Many children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up,” says Mahrukh Bandorawalla.
These trends point to the lasting effects of early infancy environments and the changes that the brain undergoes during that period. Below the surface, some children from deprived surroundings such as orphanages, have vastly different hormone levels than their parent-raised peers even beyond the baby years. For instance, in Romania in the 1980s, points out Asha Iyer, by ages 6 to 12, levels of the stress hormone cortisol were still much higher in children who had lived in orphanages for more than eight months than in those who were adopted at, or before, the age of four months, according to a study from ‘Development and Psychopathology’. Other work has shown that children who experienced early deprivation also had different levels of oxytocin and vasopressin (hormones that have been linked to emotion and social bonding), despite having had an average of three years in a family home. Says Asha, “This environmental change [into a home] does not seem to have completely overridden all of the effects of early neglect,” the researchers, led by Alison Wismer Fries of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison noted in their study, published in 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Research is now revealing that experiences with touch – especially in infancy – do indeed shape brain development,” adds Asha Iyer.
Movement takes shape
Within a short time, more women joined hands who were willing to give two hours of their time, twice a week, on a regular basis on days of their choice. The movement was rolled out with 17 volunteers on November 14, 2017 and the children’s Adoption Home selected was based in Navi Mumbai. “While the Home where we planned to initiate our ‘Jaadu ki Jhappiyaan’ or cuddling project, left no stone unturned in looking after the babies, but there is only so much that a Caregiver can provide – in the midst of feeding, bathing, changing, medicating (if the baby was unwell) and making infants to sleep, in a ratio of 2:10. Which is why we wished to step in as a group of volunteers and help bridge the cuddling gap,” says Barkha Punjabi.
In the span of one year, the project currently has around 40 volunteers. “Many of the children who found families displayed remarkable changes in the time this movement has been on,” says Asha adding that they have now got more smiles, more impatience, more carry me ‘demands’!”
The Adoption home too has experienced a great positive change in the children’s responses. “We hope, in time, we will be able to hear from the parents of these children about the growing up years of the children we have come into contact with as part of the Jaadu ki Jhappi movement, and to attribute some of that to the cuddles they got from the volunteering group,” she adds.
The team now desires the movement to catch more steam so that they are able to reach out to many more babies – a positive step in this day and age where there is so much to worry about.
Founder: Aruna Anand, Mahrukh Bandorawalla,
Asha Iyer & Barkha Punjabi
Location: Navi Mumbai