Marlboro College

NewsPress Release: 12/2/02


MARLBORO, VERMONT – Twenty-year-old Noah Levinson wasn't new to travel, other cultures, or people of different beliefs when he first set out to India. In fact, he had worked in places like Mexico, Thailand, and Ghana and seen more places than most middle-age adults. In that same spirit, the young student has found a calling that has reached out to thousands of third-world youths. Levinson first began his journey after listening to a peer, Sohrab Noshirvani, at Northfield Mount Hermon School talk about his work in India.

"I listened to him, called my father, and asked him for a plane ticket to India. He said, 'no.' I asked him if he would split the cost of a ticket to India and he agreed," Levinson said, adding that he wound up joining Noshirvani on his first trip to the country.

Image (caption below)

Noah Levinson with the street children in Calcutta.

It was two years ago that Levinson first stepped foot in India, working with the poorest of the poor through a program started by Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitutes. This trip came the summer prior to his freshman year of college.

"Mother Teresa's work was based solely on love. Her greatest love was for God, and her greatest fear was that she would one day appear before God and be introduced to those whom she had neglected or had not loved enough," Levinson said. "As a result, she gave of herself completely to those who no longer had people to love them."

"As I walked into Nirmal Hridoy for the first time, I was exposed to a reality I had never before imagined. Before me were 100 men and women, most of them nothing more than skeletons with a thin layer of flesh covering their bones. They had nothing; and they were desperately in need of the love which Mother Teresa and her workers were there to give," Levinson said in a speech at a local synagogue recently. "We spent nearly 6 weeks at Nirmal Hridoy and I was blessed with the opportunity to be with people as they made their journeys from life into death. Never before had I felt so close to God. Never before had I felt I was experiencing the face of God."

Levinson said returning home and entering Marlboro College as a freshman was difficult for him. He said he left his heart in India. He returned the following summer. While he found the work at Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitutes fulfilling, he said he wanted to do more than comfort the dying.

"I asked myself, was this going to be enough for me?" he said. "I believe that God's answer came to me in the form of a young man about my own age who had been brought to The Home for the Dying Destitutes because he was dying of an infection on his head which had entered below the skull. The boy's name was Sudip. After just a moment in his presence I recognized him ­ and the memory of those circumstances took my breath away."

Levinson relayed a story of Sudip standing in line for medical care at a treatment facility but eventually being turned away because aide workers had run out of bandages. Sudip had bumped his head against a rusty nail but was unable to get treatment. He wound up dying in Levinson's arms shortly after their second run in.

"The pain and anguish this caused me were excruciating. On some level I felt responsible for Sudip's death. And it did not seem mere happenstance, in a city with a population of 13 to 15 million people, that we had met again," he said. "I took this death as a sign from God that our wrestling was over; that indeed more could be done and needed to be done."

It was through this encounter that Levinson decided to start up a mobile health clinic. The plan was to drive around the poorest slums near Calcutta, providing medical treatment to street children in need. Levinson knew he needed to return home once again to gain the support he would need for the project. Within two months, he had raised more than $30,000 for this purpose. In January of 2002, Levinson returned to Calcutta with a single suitcase, spending money, and the $30,000 he had raised for his clinic. This money came from relatives and friends. Levinson particularly credits his grandfather, Aaron P. Levinson, who recently passed away, and gave great support toward the project.

"Grandpa was a compassionate man who never forgot those who were less fortunate than himself," he said. With both financial and family support behind the project, Levinson was able to hire a doctor and a nurse and bought a vehicle and medical supplies. The mobile health clinic now provides medical treatment to about 650 street children per year outside of Calcutta. It provides monthly checkups, medicines, surgery, substance abuse treatment, and braces for the handicapped. The Mobile Health Clinic is affiliated with Ashalayam, an organization that has been working to help the street children of Calcutta and has been recognized by UNICEF for its excellence in service.

"The Ashalayam Mobile Health Clinic is a project set up to reach some of the poorest children in and around Calcutta with quality healthcare. This healthcare is quite comprehensive," Levinson explained. "One of the most satisfying aspects of this project has been the development of an Indian team with both the commitment and capability to carry this project forward. This will permit me to move back and forth between Calcutta and the US over the next few years as the project becomes institutionalized and I finish up my undergraduate degree and Marlboro College and move on to medical school."

Back in the US until just after the holidays, Levinson is now focusing on his studies. A Marlboro College sophomore, he plans to write his Plan of Concentration on the program and come up with a way to monitor its impact and success to the people of Calcutta. He is also looking to garner more support for the new program. He will be speaking shortly at the World Bank Center in Washington to gain support for the program. Donations are needed to keep Levinson's program up and running. Donations can be sent to Friends of the Mobile Health Clinic, Attn: Noah Levinson, 31-C Jay Street, Cambridge, MA, 02139.

To contact Noah Levinson directly call (802) 254-2652 or email nlevinso@marlboro.edu.

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