What it's all about….I thought blog post number 2 would be a good time to introduce the charity I will be working for over the next six months Action Village India. AVI is a small uk based charity thatsupports 6 well established partners in India that work with rural communities in several states around the country. I will visit each of these partners over the six months to write a bit about the work they are doing and how it is benefiting India's rural communities. This writing will be used in AVI's newsletters, on their website and hopefully also in a 20th year anniversary brochure that will hopefully be produced next year. For me this trip is going to be a massive learning curve in Indian culture and traditions and also how charities that we support from the UK can help rural India.
Here is a basic plan for my six months in India:
Delhi and support for Janadesh, a protest march that has been going on since the beginning of October. 25,000 landless villagers from all over India are walking from Gwalior to Delhi (340km) in pursuit of land reform and an end to their state of poverty and hunger. I will join the march for the last five days on Tuesday.
Lakshmi Ashram in Uttaranchal - Representatives from all of AVI's six partners are going up to the Ashram for a week long forum on educational and environmental issues. I will stay on here for another week after the forum to experience more of life on the ashram which is also a girls school. I will be here for the Diwali (festival of lights) celebrations on the 9th November.
NBJK, Bihar and Jharkhand - In mid November I will travelling east to Bihar and Jharkhand, one of the poorest areas on India that suffered from the recent floods. The partner based here, NBJK focuses on community action, such as women's economic development programmes and girls education and works on a range of programmes throughout the state at a grassroots level. I will be taken to visit a number of villages that are being helped by the programmes and write a bit about the work they are doing and what has been achieved. I will also report on the flood relief work that is continuing in the north of the region. NBJK stands for Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra (New India Awakening Centre).
Ekta Parishad, Orissa - Ekta Parishad is an organisation that works across India. It is dedicated to helping the marginalized people of India gain control over their rightful livelihood resources such as land, water and forests. AVI supports one EP programme in Orissa on Lake Chilka. 20,000 families live in 150 villages around the lake and have looked to it for their livelihood for hundreds of years. In recent times this community's problems have increased as large sections of the lake have been privatised for commercial fishing. Many of these changes, such as intensive prawn farming,are destroying the sensitive eco-system of the lake. The project here aims to unite the villagers from the area and press the state government to think of their needs when putting together their plans for the lake. Ekta Parishad works on the Gandhian principles of non-violent action and was central to the organisation of Janadesh.
ASSEFA and CRUSADE, Tamil Nadu - In the new year I will travel down to Chennai in the south of India. There are two AVI partners based here that focus on women's economic, social and political development and women and children's healthcare. The partners set up health camps, where women and children can be screened and treated for various health problems and trained in health and sanitation. They also help the people of these, mainly dalit, villages to start new business enterprises such as milk production and vegetable farming to provide new sources of income. There is a lot of local level work going on in Tamil Nadu to help their poorest communities and I'm not sure that I am even aware of everything that is going on but I will be taken to visit several villages to see the work and witness how these organisations can help to empower the most marginalized sections of rural India.
KGSN, Kerala - This will bring me to around March time next year and after a quick trip over to Sri Lanka to renew my visa (hopefully!) I will be moving onto the last of the AVI partners in Kerala. KGSN is an organic farming project that promotes the use of organic methods within local farming communities. By learning more about these more sustainable methods of farming farmers can expand the number of products they produce and increase their yields and incomes.
So I would guess it will be mid march by this point and after finishing at KGSN I am intending to do some independent travel for the rest of the trip. Not sure where yet but I will probably stay in the south for a few weeks to see more of Kerala and Goa and then perhaps up the coast to Mumbai and Rajastan before going back to Delhi for my flight home.
It keeps hitting me that I will not be returning to the UK for quite a few months. I know once I have settled in this time will pass quickly but at the moment (six days in) it is still a bit of a daunting prospect. I am missing you all lots so please write and let me know all your news whenever you get the chance.