Saturday, 3 May 2014

CHINA Volunteers Experience in Pedhamali village.

Later I and Carona were sent to a poor village called “PEDHAMALI” to make photography of the local primary school children. I and Carona are never afraid to live in poverty so we agreed. But things were a little out of our imagination. I have really to make a brief introduction of our background before I started to talk about our life in “PEDHAMALI” and all the feelings are honest even though it may be a little offense and the changes of our minds are quite complex and emotional. I and Caronacome from a small town of Province Zhejiang which is near Shanghai. My family is middle class and not so rich but my entire life until now I can say is very comfortable, I get the best education and next year I will go to Britain to study as an exchange student. I can buy luxury goods like Channel, Gucci or other famous brands. My house is big, clean and well-furnitured. And although my grandparents live in countryside, their living standard is almost the same as us.I have come to poor villages of other province in China to do volunteer work before and the situation is within my endurance. However the first time we arrived at Jaldipbhai’s house both of us were shocked. We knew villages might be poor but unfortunately our definition of being poor seems a bit different. I don’t want to offend but I have to say the economy of China is much better than India. And that time my mind was stuck in the faith that it was a punishment for me and Carona to be sent here maybe because our work in ESI was regard terrible. At first I was tired of describing the dust and the poor facility of the house which we found later that Jaldipbhai’s house is the best of the whole village. The beginning two days I got sick because I was not used to the simple toilet and sleeping on the floor. My headache was so serious that it prevented me from thinking what I was doing and then I got a tonsillitis which made me can’t talk and eat. Now when I think of these days I still want to laugh at myself with tears. One thing makes me start to like this poor place is the kindness of Jaldipbhai and his wife Snehalban. And then the kindness of Ajay, their adopted son, the kids and the villages make us love this village. The story of Ajay made me cry once. His real mother has passes away and his father is a drunker who never cares about him. Before Jaldipbhai adopted him, he was a beggar and struggled for hunger. He got food from neighbors, and once he got something to eat no matter what it is he ate as much as possible because he knew the next meal was no guaranteed and even now he have a problem of controlling intake. In his left arm there was a horrible scar from a dog. At that time Jaldipbhai himself had no job, no money and lived in the temple, but he decided to adopt Aja because he wanted to take care of him. Now Ajay is so happy with full of love. Although our communication is limited by language I can tell from his bright teeth. And there are so many small things I observed from which I can see that they really love and care Aja when Snehalben teaches Aja homework with her hand fondling his head, she combs his hair softly and even when Jaldipbhai blames him wash clothes too slowly. It is what parents do to their child. We went to the primary schools with Jaldipbhai and Snehalban to see the school life of the kids. Here again we received warm welcome not only by the kids but also by the teachers. The kids poured into us and asked our names again and again, some of them were shy but always smile to us then run away like a wind. The primary school system here is quite different from China since China has only 6 standards but India has 10 and the subjects are not the same as we study English from the first year but here from the 8th standard. Now this school has almost 200 students but 7 years ago when Jaldipbhai first came to this village there were only 80 because at that time people thought going to school was useless compared with doing farm work to earn money. Jaldipbhai as well as the teachers made great effort to persuade parents to send their children to the primary school by going to every family with child of right age and talk to them patiently about the benefit of getting education. The villagers were persuaded and now almost every child in the village goes to school and Jaldipbhai told us the school was supported by the government so there was no charge for textbooks and meals. It’s really nice. In China we have a  nine-year-compulsory-education system and government also invested huge sums of money in the education area, but the fees is not free until now and we really hope one day Chinese government can achieve this just like Indian government did. Some days ago there was incidence in this school. Two boys fought with each other and another boy who wanted to stop the fight was hurt. The reason caused this quarrel was that in one class two boys wanted to be the leaders of all the boys, but the rest of the boys did not want to obey their oders and started to isolate the two. Gradually these two boys felt lonely and upset and began to make fun of other boys by gossiping them with the girls which was not true. Finally one boy from the rest group got angry and fought with one of the two boys. Jaldipbhai knew about this incidence and firstly took the injured boy (his nose was hurt) to the hospital and we also companied him to the hospital. The next day Jaldipbhai came to the school and talked with the teachers to figure out more details. That day afternoon Jaldipbhai called all the boys of this class out to sit in the playground and said something to them. I sat beside him and because I didn’t understand the language I just observed the faces of the boys. They were still young and they listened so carefully, it reminded me of my primary school time when I also made some mistake the teacher called me to his office and talked to me as patient as Jaldipbhai, that time I should have the same face. Later Jaldipbhai translated what he said to me. He did not blame the boys who had fight but told a story to all the boys that hundreds years ago Indian people were separated and fought with each other to win the leader position and then British came and easily controlled the whole India. Gandhi realized this problem and called for all Indian people to unit as brothers. Then without any violence British came out their country. At last he said to the boys that there should not be leaders because they were all brothers. It makes me think a lot. I always think deep talk is important and everybody in his whole life needs someone to give them some advice because nobody is perfect and good at everything. In China competition is very strong no matter in high school or in college, sometimes grade is everything so especially in high school teachers put their all energy to teach knowledge and ignored the most important part: that is to teach how to be a good person. I think it’s not an issue only existed in China but a problem all of the world.
On February 2th there was a big function held in the school. All the children and teachers prepared for this for a long time. We also accompanied Snehalben to the school to help decoration. Wewove the big leaves into curtains and hanged them on every doors and halls. The most attracting part of the preparation is the rehearsal. I thought I was in a dramatic movie! The boys and girls dressed so beautiful costumes and practiced the dances with so excited songs. I used to hear that Indians were born with good dance and rhythm and now I knew it was true.When they were dancing their bodys were as soft as water, I blink and they flew away. There were so many beautiful girls with big eyes, prominent noses and small lips, they are just like elegant princesses wearing the noble sarees and shining jewelries. They even asked me to put up the orange saree and dance with them. You can imagine how excited but shy as well I was because I never dressed traditional Indian costumes before, not say to dance an Indian dance. To be honest, the saree was too tight for me, or rather, I was too fat for the dramatic cloth designed specially for slimgirls. But fortunately I became brassy and learned the enthusiastic dance from the girls. It was not easy and I always made mistake steps but I thought I was cool because all the people around me were busy at taking photos. The function was excellent. It was a ceremony for appreciating one rich people donating money for the school. Then shows were amazing and what was more amazing was that I and Carona also got an honor to receive flowers o the stages and we even got a chance to say something to all the children and guests. We felt we were respected by them even though we did only a little.
These days we also followed Jaldipbhai to visit the women of the near villages. Once there was an activity for pregnant women to appreciate their delivery. Carona got a chance to deliver a short speech and she did say well. That is her words: “Hello everyone, we are very honored to be here and to speak something to you. We know that in India the status of women were much lower than men and this was a situation happened in China fifty or sixty years ago. Now things are totally different. Women also work outside to support the families. What males do, females also can and even do much better. The status of male and female are equal! You are doing amazing work to deliver your child and feed them, it is for the whole society. Every child should thank your mother! So ladies, please protect yourself well and regard yourself as important as your husband. If he fights you, please do not hesitate to fight him back!”Jaldipbhai translated Carona’s words to all the people presented and they clapped warmly. Later there was a little interlude that in this ceremony every woman got a brunch of flower but one woman was forgotten, so she went home immediately with anger. Jaldipbhai knew this and also went to this woman’s house and comforted her. He told her no one had forgotten her on purpose and everyone loved her so much because she was one of the most amazing women. This little incidence ended with a happy ending and she even treat us a delicious lunch. There were a lot of little things Jaldipbhai had done like this one. I always thought he was an amazing social worker with no pay but help people to live a happy life. I used to think amazing was just a pet phrase of western people until I know him even though he never thinks himself is amazing. There are lots of rich people donating money to the poor areas, they are so nice. But how many people live in a poor villages himself and every day helps deal with the tiny social works? Year after year numerous tiny things make a big difference. There is an old saying in China that “Teach one how to fish rather than give him fish.” The poor can never get out of poor by getting money from the rich, they need somebody to teach them skills. More importantly, they need someone to build them rich spirit. Jaldipbhai is this person as he is so rich in mind. Now he is doing another work for the village. With the help of ESI 50 toilets will be created in this village and Jaldipbhai are investigating the whole villages and pick up 50 suitable families. We followed him to go to the village everyday talked with the situation. He told me that in past people here never use toilets because they think nature is much better and just go for the road side, even now there are not very many families have toilets. And in past they provided toilets to the villagers they just rejected. So he and ESI did a lot of work to spread sanitation knowledge to the whole village and now people started to realize the benefit of using toilets. It is a huge progress. Sometimes Jaldipbhai go inside the village not for specific reasons but just to understand the life of the villagers. For example, if someone is sick he can know it right away and take him to the hospital if necessary. What he was doing impressed us so much. I started to think about what ‘volunteer’ really means. I once said to Jaldipbhai that I was too young and my capacity was so limited, I felt guilty I can do so little thing for the village. He said to me that my presence here helps so much for the village and I bring the faith to the villagers that people from all over the world are caring them. His words mean a lot to me. I always think I am selfish because I love myself much more than others and I can’t be so nice to every stranger, that’s why I choose to do volunteer work in India. Before I came here my parents and friends told me India was dangerous and poor, I said that was exactly what I want to experience, the poorer, the more I could do. When I arrive here for the first 2 weeks I felt I upset because I found myself helped nothing and I think I was a terrible volunteer. Now I realize that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve down to others. Volunteer is not an action, it’s the faith and emotion. People can read your love if you really love them from your heart.

CLEANLINESS, He who is truly clean within, cannot remain unclean without.- Gandhiji

Volunteers work@Amiyapur by Tsc Volunteers

On 5th April, few associates from Tata Consultancy Services visited ESI and were inspired to witness the work ESI is engaged in. Jayesh Bhai spent some time with about 15 TCSers and spoke about values in heart
to heart connection. It was wonderful to observe the culmination of hard core professionals and about 10 girls from loving community (village in Vastral where leprosy impacted people stay). Aruna a leader from loving community shared her journey that how she come from parents who are impacted with leprosy and how the faith instilled and shown in her from Jayesh bhai is now blossoming in the community. There is loving team consisting of about 20 girls from the community, all  inspired by her and all the gearing towards taking responsibility and continuing education. Listening to Aruna, moved many TCSers. Mohita Trivedi, an engineer reflected about the values she learned from her parents, Sujeet Chhanpura, shared how he assisted a cancer patient from Amritsar who came to Ahmedabad relying on him, whom he didn’t know at all. 
 The seeds were already sown, ESI campus and team assisted in nurturing. On 12th April, about 20 TCSers came together and visited Amiapur and Sugadh village to understand the issues at hand. They conversed with teachers, parents, principal and village leaders. Towards the end, they assembled at ESI campus and reflected what can be done. An outcome of that was to focus on education, particularly primary education. Amit Maheshwari, an engineer and MBA, was already volunteering in Sugadh primary school, he took the lead for Sugadh and Mohita, Ashish and Sujeet took the lead in Amiapur school.
Considering the summer vacation, volunteers decided to conduct summer camp from 21st to 26th April. Currently, about 30 volunteers are engaged in hosting the summer camp in Sugadh, Amiapur and DhaulaKuwa villages. The theme of the summer camp is to have fun while engaging the children in drawing, painting, playing  and value based video showcasing around the theme of my world.
 On 21st April, there were ony 30 children in Sugadh and about 20 in Amiapur but on 23rd April there were about 80 children in Sugadh and about 70 in Sugadh. Its inspiring to witness small acts making a difference in lives of both children and TCS volunteers. ESI, being a catalyst is instrumental in providing a space to reflect
to ponder and to learn what can be done with love and compassion.

An experience sharing from a volunteer at Sugadh primary school : by Dipen Adroja : I have been going to
Sughad from last three days and it was a great experience that I had. The kids are involved too much in all the activities and they are also enjoying it thoroughly. I think todays sanitation drive is going to help inspreading awareness among all the students as well as people around them as it is going to be a word of mouth.Though these are very small kids still few of them are holding full responsibility of the school assets however there are certain challenges that we need to address such as many students of 5th - 6th standard are not able to write many words in Gujrati which is the medium of education so we can imagine the level of other fundamentals/basics.So, If we could do something to uplift this then it can help them in many ways.  Though it is a great start but there is still a long way to go and it is very important for us to keep on going with this enthusiasm and spirit.

We do believe in removing dirt from out rooms. But we also believe in throwing it in the street without regard to the well-being of society. We ate clean as individuals, but not as members of the society of the nation of which the individual is but a tiny part.

-     Mahatma Gandhiji.

Anganwadi Renovation at Amiyapur village.

Anganwadis are the primary centers of learning for preschool age children in the district.  In Amiyapur's
school, an anganwadi space was created but without any of the beauty necessary for true learning.  Shailash decided to contribute to the anganwadi by creating a content-rich, beautiful environment.

It is only that unclean which appears to the eye as unclean? If there is even a little dirt on what is white. We feel annoyed; but the black may have any amount of dirt on it and we care not at all!-Gandhiji

Our goal is to create a learning space with values at the school.  We've begun an Anganwadi Beautification Project.  Instead of ugly walls, we're painting the walls with slogans and pictures.  We're putting up the
ABCs, pictures of saints, flowers, organs, the basics...and writing their names underneath in Hindi and English.

The government has many free education resources for children.  We're making sure the children have access to them.  Although the children had access to good nutrition through the government, we also want to make sure they get brain and motor nutrition through toys.  We're collecting donations and we hope to have a beautiful anganwadi center for the children of Amiyapur. 

Pedhambali Village visit with volunteers from France with NANDINI VAN

3 of friends from France visited India for the first time to volunteer at ESI. None of them had visited any village and they had a strong desire to witness rural India. Sureshbhai (from ESI) decided to take them to
village in Nandini to offer an opportunity to explore India from a different perspective with an experience to understand work done by Nandini in rural India.
The visit starte with a graceful meeting with veteran Gandhians Vasant Dada and Kanti Dada, who have dedicated their lives in living on Sarvodaya principles. It was inspiring to have a visit of organic farms taken care by Vasant dada, who is on vegan diet since last more than 40 years.  He took around the naturopathy center, where they grow herbs and medicinal plants and offers naturopathy to villagers.
After that we headed to the village school and had interaction with children and teachers.  Following that Suresh bhai took volunteer friends to a village tour and showed newly built toilets in the village.  ESI built 25 toilets for 25 families. We interacted with families to understand their
needs and to ensure if they are using the toilets in proper manner. In late evening,we hosted a village gathering.
A documentary on sanitation was showcased. Sureshbhai shared with the villagers about the purpose of the visit of our friends from France. He shared their humble and compassionate intentions about an equanimous  society. Dr Harsit Pandit, naturopathy expert from naturopathy center run by Vasant Dada, shared his experience about good eating habits for a healthy lifestyle.The gathering was concluded at 11 PM with prayers.

Next day, at 5 : 30 AM, the day begin with Prabhat Pheri followed by cleaning of a public place by all the volunteers with help of villagers.  At 10 AM we visited the school and
interacted with students. All the seven volunteers were hosted by villagers for sumptuous lunch.

In the afternoon, village leader (Sarpanch) and village admin officer along with villagers gathered for a discussion.  It was acknowledged that sanitation is a way of life, and the village needs toilets for better hygiene and sanitation. The successful implementation of 25 toilets by ESI inspired villagers and village leaders requested to build 50 more toilets. A consensus was there that everyone can contribute in taking this collaborative effort, and ESI is instrumental in taking this effort to the next level.

Multipurpose Hall Inauguration at Pedhamali School

International volunteer visit:
On 3rd Feb international volunteers from Japan, New York , California and from different parts of India visited Pedhambali village. For many it was the first ever visit to a village.

When there is both inner and outer cleanliness. It becomes next to godliness- Gandhiji.

The underlying purpose of the visit was to strengthen the echo system while encouraging Jaldeep bhai’s work and engaging with school teachers. The visit provided a platform for sharing and learning amongst volunteers
and villagers.
ESi is working in the village with women, youngsters and children since last 10 months. We have witnessed promotion and inculcation of good habits in students.
One of the generous multimillionaire Kantibhai shah, who belongs to the village gifted certain amount to construct a multipurpose hall for students. Inspired by Jaldeep bhai and Snehal behn’s devotion, Kantibhai contributed for the welfare of the students of the village. ESI teams frequent visits coupled with transforming sharings moved Kantibhai and many other villagers who also contributed their share in the construction of the hall.
On the inauguration function, which was attended by
ESI volunteers, kids performed on stage and exhibited their enhanced confidence. Efforts of Jaldeep bhai, Snehal behn and school teachers were  visible in form of dance, drama, poetry and singing done by students.
Organizers of the program invited  all the volunteers of ESI on  the dais and introduced. We shared the humble efforts we are putting in the village. Suresh bhai  shared ESI’ goal to make Pedhambali an ideal village while making every program driven by local people only. ESI is also creating opportunities  for learning and sharing amongst each other.
Mia Tagano, a volunteer from California built compassionate bonding with students and villagers. On request she did a peacock dance on stage. Everyone enjoyed and cherished the humility and cheerfulness of Mia.

Uncleanliness of the mind is far mote dangerous that of the body. The latter, however is an indication of the former.

 Followed by that, volunteers engaged with villagers. It was wonderful to witness how smiles became a mode of interaction as many villagers couldn’t understand English but Smile indeed. 
A householder invited everyone in her home, a simple gathering turned into an auspicious satsanga, wherein many village ladies joined in and sang devotional songs and bhajans.

It was a day to witness the spirit of surrender.

Amiyapur Medical Camp for Women

On 3rd January 2014, 35 women from Amiyapur took part in a free medical camp that ESI, in
Partnership with Kanoriya hospital, organized. No men were included in this program, as we specifically wanted to focus on the gynecological needs of women.

Women in Amiyapur are busy throughout the entire day, tending to farming and home duties. It is rare for them to have free time, or any time to consider how their health is faring before a problem arises. Given their labor-intensive schedules that prevent them from leaving the house and lack of health awareness and values, the
women are prone to developing preventable diseases that could be challenging to treat given their poverty level. In addition, given the prevalence of male doctors in the area, women typically shy away from sharing their gynecological issues. For this rea

son, we took the initiative to bring a team of female doctors from Kanoriya hospital to the community, sparing the women the expense of transportation, time away from home, and embarrassment of having to share their problems with male doctors. The purpose of the medical
camp was to give as many health check ups as possible, catch illnesses, and follow-up with treatment as necessary.

In preparation for the camp, I went door-to-door in Amiyapur with two female volunteers sharing with all the women in the village about the program and importance of it. Generating interest was a difficult process due to the lack of health awareness, education, and busy schedules. In all, 35 women took part in the camp. Though not a large number relative to the amount of households, we expect those who are feeling better now and who had a positive experience, will encourage others to come during the next camp.

Silence above all- Gandhiji

Easily treatable problems were treated on the spot with free medication and advice. More serious issues were diagnosed and the doctors conducted the necessary follow up directly. All in all, it was a successful program that we were happy to undertake.

Background Information:

ESI has been conducting sanitation, health, and hygiene related programs in Amiyapur for over a year. I visit the community every week to conduct follow up, often with volunteers and MSW students.

Our basic program structure here (and generally) contained the following activities:

  Showing of inspirational movies with community members that support sanitation and hygiene values, and discussion around them.

  Bhajans and satsanghs with residents.

  Gram safai. Sweeping of public spaces, trash collection, and distribution of dust bins made from empty oil cans.

  Painting of positive sayings and slogans.

  Private meetings with residents for discussions on how to improve conditions in the community.

Sanitation (Safai Abhiyan ) Campagin with kids from Primary school.

“Whenever I have time, I go to Amiyapur,” Shailesh tells us. “Even though I don’t live there, people consider
me to be one of them.  I could even go there in the middle of the night, and be welcomed.”
For the past one year, Shailesh, a member of E.S.I, has been working on the Amrut Sanitation Project at Amiyapur (Gandhnigar District), 1 km from the Institute.  He has been dedicating his time and heart to uplifting the sanitary conditions in the village and educating the children about proper sanitation. 
Imagine, once a month, all the children of the village come excitedly to take part in all-day festivities called “Safai Divas” (Day of Cleaning).  Waking up bright and early, the children have the chance to come to school by 7 AM.  After a morning prayer, 200 school children are ready with brooms, bags, and dustpans in
hand.  They are excited by the competition that is about to take place: whoever collects the most trash and brings it back to school wins!

For 3 hours, the children sweep the village, collect trash from their homes and surrounding areas, and fix broken plumbing. When approached by elders, the children fold their hands politely and say, “Gramjano Namaste, khachro na feko raste (Namaste people of the village, do not throw trash in the way).” They share their spirit of cleanliness with village. A little dirty, but happy with excitement, they compare their piles when they come back to school.  Who has collected the most trash?  After sorting, Shailash awards the top three winners with prizes.  The top 3 winners are the proud Safai Seniks (Cleanliness Captains) of the month.  Following the award ceremony and picture session, the entire group hauls the heaps of trash to the local landfill.  Instead of throwing trash outside their homes or
in small heaps throughout the village, the village now has a dedicated place for trash.  The trash will either be burnt or composted…and we hope, one day, recycled.

The children’s hands are dirty, and now Shailash is provided with a perfect opportunity to teach about hygiene.  Soap and water buckets lined up, the children learn to thoroughly wash their hands before going home.  After their baths, they will be ready for the next part of the day. Safai Divas is not yet over.  Several boys are huddled around Shailash.  They are practicing for the speech competition to be held after prayer.  “What is the importance of cleanliness?”  After the second prayer, boys stand up and take their
turns.  Loud claps and cheers follow the boys’ speeches.  Three winners return to their seats with prizes in hand.  The power of cleanliness is evident to all.

Noon-time comes, and children are busy admiring the artwork several of the schoolgirls have done.  “What does an ideal village look like?,” was the competition question.  The girls have spent the past one hour drawing and coloring a perfect Amiyapur.  Beautiful sunsets, clean streets, and smiling people accompany the village scene.  In admiration, three of the girls are selected as the prize winners of the month.  Beauty and art are
an important part of the clean up process. “Building the trust has been a process." Shailesh says.  "I’ve done small acts like cleaning the streets myself, cutting the children’s nails, visiting children’s homes.  This project is about building trust and relationships,” he adds.  "I'm here to share the importance of cleanliness and inculcate good habits in children and the villagers through these drives.  I love the children.  Through their work, we will have a beautiful Amiyapur."

I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew…… and so are all of you.  Non- violence is the first article of my faith it is also last article of my creed.-  Gandhiji