Thursday 26 December 2013

“Maitri” Volunteer Stay in Amiyapur Village

Amiyapur village is one of the three villages where the Amrish Sanitation Project (ASP) is being run with the support of Rishibhai, along with Pedhamali and Vantal.  Amiyapur village is a village of about 1,800 people, composed almost entirely of quite economically disadvantaged members of one caste, the Takor community. Education levels are also quite low. 

Over the last two months, Shaileshbhai has been working in Amiyapur as the Safai Sainik.  The Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey has been conducted during the time.  Additionally, with the help of the government, we have renovated and rejuvenated the primary school, and we are currently working on changing the personal hygiene habits of the children.

                                                           Nandini Van
The Nandini van was parked in the central public place of the village. We set up mobile exhibition composed of 55 panels about the themes of sanitation and water use.  Nandini van was also on display as an “ideal home” that villagers could visit.  All day, both were visited by village women and children, and 2 maitri volunteers gave tours.

Sureshbhai’s Nandini van, its purpose and method attracted multiple volunteers from several cities in India, including Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, etc. 29 of these volunteers gathered together for a 2 day program in the village of Amiyapur, near gandhinagar district. The spirit of the retreat was an act of shramdaan –(Labour love) offering one’s effort with love. This effort was facilitated by the Amrish sanitation program, which means ‘nectar’.

Through Amrish, a family of donors is striving to make their dollars reach the poor in Gujarat. Amrish has been implemented in 3 villages and in each village, the purpose is to spread the message of sanitation, though a combination of inspiration, information and instrumentation.

Through these activities, the goal is to promote awareness of sanitation, and make them self-sufficient. The primary goal was to sow the seeds of interest in sanitation and cleanliness, respect for the task and nurture these seedsover time to ensure sustainable cleanliness. In Amiyapur, the residents were familiar with Nandini and Suresh bhai, and welcomed the group, but did not know the specific agenda of the retreat.

The internal journey of each of the volunteers was to give their heart spontaneously to each person they interacted with, to keep their hearts open in all circumstances and to surprise everyone with love.

In keeping with this spirit, the group started the day with prayer. This was followed by discussion on how to remove uncleanliness from the village, and how to encourage creation of clean habits, using the instruments of love and inspiration.

Shri Jayeshbhai and Sureshbhai created 5 teams from the volunteer group, over the 2 day period:
  • Sadhak (worship) team Shri Jayeshbhai is also part of this team and he gave amazing way to entire team. This team undertook the tasks of sweeping and cleaning the entire village. The 6-7 people who were part of this team cleaned all areas of the village, including the banks of the lake (a site for multiple activities including bathing and washing clothes) and the village school. The volunteers dedicated the whole day to cleaning the village. Seeing the volunteers (some of them highly educated) cleaning the village for over 8 hours created curiosity, interest and inspiration in the villagers.
  • Sahaj (spontaneous service) team This team was guided by Suresh-bhai who played the role of an older brother to the other members. Their first task was at the village Otalo. An Otalo is the central meeting place of a village, usually centered around a tree or group of trees, with a low platform around it where the elders of the village meet often. The team cleaned the Otalo and painted it with slogans.  Second, public walls were also cleaned and slogans about sanitation, clean water, etc. were painted in beautiful letters to attract people as well as convey the message. The third action was to create dustbins from old discarded oil barrels. The team created 22 such barrels, and painted attractive designs on them to beautify and attract the passerby. These dustbins were placed at crucial spots in the village, especially near the roadside shops. The team requested the shopkeepers to promote cleanliness by encouraging villagers to throw trash into the dustbins and not onto the street. Thus the shopkeepers and others (such as school teachers and anganwadi workers) were involved into making the rest of the village use the dustbins.
  • Karuna (compassion) team – This team engaged the villagers by going door-to-door and talking to the villagers. At each house, the volunteers engaged the children of the children of the house with love, playfully cutting their nails and washing their hands, and explaining to them why they should wash hands after each activity to not let germs spread. By offering love to the children, the volunteers naturally engaged the parents, and they also offered their thoughts to the parents on how hands should be washed after all activities, particularly because their hands participate in the act of preparing food. Provided personal hygiene care to villagers. Went door-to-door with soap, bucket and towel to wash hands and cut nails of all of the villagers. Also gave head massage with hair oil, applied oil to dry, chapped skin, and bathed the elderly.  This team was headed by Mukeshbhai, a renowned monk from Santramandir Nadiyad monastery.  Because of his love, compassion and deep spirituality, the villagers accepted the Karuna team into their homes for such intimate service.
  • Shanti (peace) team Embodying the spirit of karma-yoga, this 4-5 member team put in the hardest work as laborers to construct waste water disposal facilities. Until then, the village had no mechanism of disposing of waste water, which would be left in the open. The shanti team explained to a few families in the village how the open waste water could lead to mosquitoes and flies, leading to germs and disease. They suggesteda soap pit as a healthier option, and demonstratedit through construction at one house. This involved hard labor, using bricks and cement to create the soap pit. Each action in the construction proved to be an action of educating the villagers. A number of villagers came to watch the construction, and offered their help and tea and water. The reaction to the construction of the soap pit was immediate, with the home members expressing happiness at having the on-site waste disposal.
  • Saunderiya (beautification) team To represent the beauty of the task of sanitation, this team translated their inner spirit to outer beauty. They went to a home in the village, and humbly offered, in the spirit of service, their services of cleaning and beautifying the home. Most of the family members were surprised at the unusual request, but were also agreeable because of the loving nature of the request. The team followed three steps: (i) swachchata (cleanliness) – they carefully removed most of the articles in the house and cleaned the entire house; (ii) vyavastha (organization) -With the input of thefamily, they re-organized the items back in the house; and (iii) sundarta(beauty) - decorated the home with slogans and art. 
Each of these activities complemented each other to create a beautiful ecosystem in Amiyapur. The combination of inspiration and love, along with information and instrumentation created a situation that empowered the village. The villagers who became interested and involved were designated as itskeepers, leading to a self-sustaining ecosystem. 

Maitri Volunteer Stay
On December 1st and 2nd, we arranged the two day program at Amiyapur village with the help of Nandini van (link) and “maitri” volunteers.
On December 1st, 28 ESI volunteers from all over India walked through the streets of the village, singing bhajans.  When they arrived at the village central square, they sat with the villagers in prayer and introduced themselves.  Sureshbhai and Shaileshbhai took the maitri volunteers on a tour of the village, to show them the types of facilities are present and to explain what the ASP project is trying to accomplish in Amiyapur.  The villagers were invited to light diyas at the doorway of the Nandini van along with the volunteers.
The maitri volunteers slept and ate with host families in the village.  For their work of “action and interaction”, they were divided into 5 groups. Each team took on a different type of service work in the community.  Each team was also headed by one “captain,” a person very experienced in spiritual and village development.
Made and distributed dustbins.  They collected 25 empty oil cans throughout the village, and cut off one end with the help of a local blacksmith.  After washing the tins, they painted them with the words “Give me Garbage” and distributed one to each of the village shopkeepers. When they distributed them, they made a sacred request to each one of the shopkeepers to put their waste in the bins, and to teach everyone else to do the same.  They also wrote 15 slogans about water, sanitation and spirituality on walls in public places, such as the “all religions” logo painted on the wall of the primary school.

Evening Program:
In the evening, we gathered together the villagers to introduce ESI and ASP.  Each of the maitri volunteers introduced themselves. Jayeshbhai and Sureshbhai also talked about what they want to accomplish over next 2 years, and what support they hope to get from the villagers to accomplish this work. We performed a skit and put on a multimedia show about sanitation and rural development.

Amiyapur Visit with Dollybehen and Mangleshbhai
On December 12th (12 / 12 / 2012), Dollybehen and Mangleshbhai came to visit us at ESI Sughad to experience firsthand the work of ASP. Sureshbhai and
Shaileshbhai met with them to give them an overview of the work being conducted in the three villages over the last months, and the plans for the months ahead.  They were also greeted by Jayeshbhai, who was holding a space of sacred silence and meditation for the day.
Dollybehen and Mangleshbhai then came with Sureshbhai and Shaileshbhai to visit Amiyapur.  They were greeted by the children of the community,
with whom they spoke about the importance of cancer prevention.  Sureshbhai and Shaileshbhai took them on a tour of the village to show them the work that had been carried out during the “Maitri” visit – the dustbins, soak pit, etc.  Dollybehen and Mangleshbhai were very moved by witnessing the deep connections that they Safai Sainik had made with the villagers in such a short period of time.  They were inspired to carry out similar activities in their hospital, especially to help families suffering from the effects of alcoholism.

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