School opening in the Thar desert

•February 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

A large group had gathered for the opening of this school in the Thar desert.

One of the leaders of this Muslim village explained that they were committed to ensuring that girls were educated along with boys. All of the projects we visited aimed to bring justice and equality to the women of the villages and it was interesting to learn how much progress had been made,

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Jain Temple

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This was the Jain Temple in Ranakpur
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A new water source

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The green field near by is a sign of successful irrigation

Meeting in Parevi

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This was our first village meeting – under the mango tree

Men and women always sat separately

The scene outside our hotel in Udaipur

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last Post

•February 13, 2009 • 2 Comments

My Pani Yatri is now over and, do you know, it is a little chilly back here, a little bit monochrome and the behaviour on the roads is positively antiseptic. I am missing the radiance of India – sun, sari, bougainvillea- and the vigour and cheerful chaos. The fortnight has been vivid, intense and rewarding and it has been a privilege to meet people whose lives are so markedly unlike my own.

I expected that I would feel gut wrenching pity for these people living on the edge, but to my surprise this has not been my experience. Conversations with villagers were all about solving problems and next steps; the theme of fruitful and sophisticated collaboration within communities was strong. I trusted the project workers insistence on “capacity building” and creating strong structures which had to go hand in hand with environmental development; I trusted their focus on empowering women and developing health and education; I believe I met hope and without doubt I saw progress towards a better life.

If anyone is willing to listen I can knock you out with my knowledge of WHSs (water harvesting structures of course – pay attention) and I could possibly ramble inadequately about some of the politics, local and global, which affect the lives of people on the margins. Just now, though, I am most conscious of the fact that I went a journey and met people who shared their stories – and as a result I am richer.

A couple of final points:

-If anyone is interested I will be uploading a few photographs before next weekend (21/22 Feb)
-I represent a number of donors to Wells for India including the congregation of St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow and the Balmore Trust, and will be delighted to give more in depth feedback than is possible here.
-Thanks to many – to my friends who cheered me on my way when I was feeling anxious about the trip; the wonderfully wise and kindly group who followed the Pani Yatri with me, without whinging and with abundant humour; and last of all to my lovely family who sponsored me on my trip.
-AND, all of you pessimists out there- digestion was PERFECT!

Three nights in the desert

•February 10, 2009 • 8 Comments

This is an intense learning experience without a doubt. As well as learning about these very impressive projects, there is also the steep personal learning curve as we move through very different experiences. For the desert nights we stayed in the Field Centre at Kalron. Much whinging – I am sorry to report- occurred after it was discovered that married couples were to sleep on beds (well perhaps that is an over optimistic expression) while eight women travellers were to sleep on the floor on four mattresses. Much whinging and little humour. However we sorted it and I don’t know if we all got wired to the sun or what but it is amazing how easily we adapted to pretty frugal conditions. It seemed a great treat that I had two whole bedrolls to soften the concrete floor; I was positively chirpy when I trotted out across the compound in the morning with my bucket to get a whole jugful of hot washing water from the cauldron and best of all, when I poured it through my hair the combination of desert and water gave me the most fetching hairstyle which would normally only be achieved after the application of gallons of product. As well as that the food was sublime – beautiful, simple, fresh. The real thing. I have so far jumped over the food fence that I drooled at the pakora we got for breakfast yesterday. Only a week ago pakora seemd a weird sort of thing to eat in the morning.

The days in the desert were very rewarding. Although we had seen people living on the edge of poverty in the Aravali hills, these people lived notably harsher lives. The desert is unforgiving. A good monsoon year produces five days of rain; only three or four years in every ten has a ‘good’ monsoon. Who knows what wil happen to these figures as the world becomes warmer. Special tanks are built (and many of these are funded by Wells for India) which in three days of rain will hold enough water to keep a family for a year. Several families showed us these with great pride; the materials are supplied by the project but the family themselves, helped by other members of the community are the ones who build them; I have been very impressed by the commitment of the project leaders to working in a holistic way which will support the people in the villages to become self reliant.

We met a woman who is the guardian of pasture land on behalf of 250 families. I talked about pastureland before but had only a hazy idea what this was about. The families have to agree to fence off this land for three to five years, to keep their animals away from it and to help with watering the trees as they grow. Local grass for animal fodder and bushes for fuel are also planted there. Given three to five years it will be well established, will stop erosion and will support the families well. To develop this degree of co-operation requires patience and skill from the project workers.

We met some women who still have to walk 16k round trip to get water; they do not yet have tanks because tanks were first given to those who had to walk even further. I cannot comprehend what that would be like day after day.

We attended the opening of a couple of schools, one of our party put a garland on a bull at its inauguration, awards were presented to village helath workers – it has been hectic and such a privilege to gain some insights into people’s lives.

I am now lazing around in luxury in Jaipur – last post coming at the weekend!