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In the slums of India, a family finds a purpose

Sanjay and Seema Jejurikar with their daughters Nivu, Neha, and Nikita.

“Our family has truly enjoyed joining the PATH community,” says Nikita Jejurikar (right) with family members Sanjay, Nivu, Neha, and Seema.

“My parents are from India and I’d traveled there many times, but until we visited PATH’s Sure Start project, I had never been to a slum,” says Neha Jejurikar. “It was the first time I’d seen the real poverty firsthand, and I realized there was such a huge need.”

Neha, her younger sister Nikita, and her parents, Sanjay and Seema, visited the Sure Start project—a cornerstone of PATH’s maternal and child health work in India—in 2008. For two days, they shadowed a community health worker as she counseled poor women in the city of Pune on how to have a safe pregnancy and childbirth.

“The women were just a couple of years older than I was,” says Neha, who was 17 years old at the time. “They were about to give birth, and they knew that they and their babies might not survive. It was hard for me to imagine that it could have been me in their place!”

Nikita, who was 15 years old, was impressed by PATH’s ability to deliver practical and personalized care to a large population. “The community health worker had relationships with all of the mothers in the slum. She understood the dynamics of each household and the taboos surrounding women’s health. It was amazing to see what a profound impact the program had on families’ lives.”

The experience was life-changing for the Jejurikars. “PATH taught us a lot about the country we’re from,” Neha says. “And that PATH does so much for India—it touched us.” When they returned to their home in Bellevue, Washington, “The whole family got energized.”

Nivu Jejurikar and the members of their Bollywood dance troupe perform at PATH's 2012 Breakfast for Global Health.

The youngest Jejurikar sister, Nivu (right), helped bring Indian culture to life at PATH’s 2012 Breakfast for Global Health.

Sanjay and Seema became members of PATH’s Catalyst Circle (supporters who pledge at least $1,000 a year for five years). Says Sanjay, “We are extremely grateful for the wonderful work done by PATH.”

Neha and Nikita were so inspired by PATH’s work that they decided to pursue careers in health care. And they and their youngest sister, Nivu, are still involved in PATH activities. At the Indian-themed 2012 Breakfast for Global Health, Nivu performed with her school’s Bollywood dance troupe, and Neha asked the nearly 700 attendees to join her family in supporting PATH by making a gift to the Catalyst Fund.

“There is so much need in India and the other countries where PATH works,” Neha told the crowd, “and PATH is doing amazing work to meet those needs. It’s clear to my family that our gifts to PATH are valuable.”

Photos, from top: Courtesy of Seema Jejurikar, PATH/Christopher Nelson Photography.