Friday, July 31, 2020

Sambhali’s production of reusable face masks

Since the main office opened again in beginning of June 2020, all remaining Sambhali teachers are coming to our Sambhali House Monday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm. The Hindi & Math teachers are sitting downstairs in the hall and office and are working on their English, Volunteer Coordination and Computer skills. They use this time to improve as much as possible so that they are ready to handle everything at work once our centers can reopen. It is especially important for them since we don’t know when we can welcome foreign volunteers again.
At the same time, the sewing teachers are upstairs in our Graduate Center and are working on remaining international orders. They are embroidering and sewing tote and saree bags, frocks, etc. and are enjoying to do what they love: sewing and being creative.

Our own Sambhali Masks

Additionally, they are now producing reusable masks in different colors and designs. We started to work on this new idea because we wanted to thank the local police for protecting Jodhpur’s inhabitants day and night.

Visit to the Commissioner of Police

Therefore, some sewing teachers and our Graduates around their Manager, Ms. Kavita Bihal, made around 500 2-ply face masks with elastic ear strings for the city’s police officers. Once all masks were done, Sambhali’s Trustee Mr. Virendra Singh Chouhan, Director Mrs. Vimlesh Solanki, Volunteer Coordinator Ms. Roxanne Naeschen and some of our Graduates & Hindi teacher Mrs. Havlesh Kanwar Khichi went to the Department of Jodhpur’s police. Over there, four of them distributed all masks to the Commissioner of the police and his team. The commissioner, Mr. Jose Mohan, seemed happy and pleased with Sambhali’s donation and got to know about our work and the NGO in general.

We are happy to give back something to the people who risk their lives trying to make sure that we are all safe. They take care of our neighborhoods and the streets. For five months now, they do everything in their power. Sambhali Trust and its participants want to thank all their sisters and brothers for doing an amazing work out there.

We will continue to produce more masks in case more people need our help to protect themselves in this difficult time. We offered to sew masks for Jodhpur’s jail inmates as well. The police now knows about our capacity to distribute more masks and our Nirbhaya Helpline, too. We are here and ready to help however and wherever we can. 

Additionally, we went to the office of Jodhpur's collector, Sh. Inderjeet Singh, yesterday to offer our services and ressources if more people need our help and for example food rations or masks. Today, we donated some masks to labourers in Jodhpur, too. They were very happy about the donation as they don't have access to good face covers.

Take care and stay safe.
Sambhali Trust

Text: Roxanne N., Pictures: Roxanne N., Anju C.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The end of our food project in Rajasthan's Thar Desert

Sambhali during the longest lockdown in history

Sambhali Trust has come a long way since the first 3-weeks-lockdown was announced by the Indian government on the 24th March. We have reached many tribal families around Setrawa that didn’t have access to groceries anymore by distributing food packages (lentils, flour, spices, chai powder, salt, sugar and oil) that lasted up to 15 days. We have been able to deliver to 544 families in the villages of Setrawa, Viramdeogarh, Dera, Happansar, Chordiya, Jetaniya, Gumanpura, Sagra, Khanodi, Ramdevnagar, Mandla Khurdi, Lawaran and the city of Jodhpur between 22nd March and 31st May. In addition to the families, migrant workers at the Bawkan Government School and people at the Abhaygarh Isolation Camp nearby benefited from this project. In total, around 2,100 ration kits were provided.
Furthermore, the field workers were able to reach more than 1,140 houses to raise awareness on COVID-19, how to protect themselves from it and to deliver soaps. More than 400 reusable masks made by Sambhali students at the Setrawa Women Empowerment Center were supplied additionally.
Volunteers out in the field

End of May, Sambhali put an end to the food distribution project in the Thar Desert. However, we decided to still keep the project going for the most vulnerable families of the villages that have no possibilities at all to sustain themselves. We are still feeding 22 families in Dechu Tehsil for the 9th time and in total 24 families this month with rations for about one month.

Our team of more than 15 volunteers, both national and international, worked very hard to make this all possible, despite many obstacles such as village politics, the blazing heat and sandstorms. All of this was possible thanks to the help of the villages’ Sarpanches, our field workers and generous donations through our fundraising campaign on Milaap. 
We are grateful to everyone who has been part of this life changing journey. It has made a tremendous difference in the lives of those people. Every donation made the difference.
A big thank you to all of you! 



Leaving Setrawa: our quarantine home 
After 3 months of lockdown in Setrawa, the last Sambhali volunteers went back to Jodhpur and left their "quarantine home". Despite all unexpected events during this worldwide crisis and the closure of Sambhali’s main projects in Jodhpur, the volunteers were able to invest their time and energy in new activities in Setrawa, such as the food distribution project, living with an Indian family and participating in household chores. They could learn more about life in the desert and its people.       
Leana O., Maigane E., Roxanne N.

Statements of the three last volunteers who went back to Jodhpur in beginning of June:    
Maigane, French Service Civic Volunteer from Haiti: “Being in quarantine in Setrawa was definitely a roller coaster experience. Between the 46°C heat, the frequent power cuts and the everyday heavy sandstorm, my wheel of emotions was all over the place. However, we wanted to maximize our time there at its best. We tried to stay positive by focusing on our work for Sambhali around the villages & enjoyed and learned as much as we could living there with an Indian family. We are really thankful for their hospitality. And we certainly have a lot to talk about and a lot to remember”.
Leana, French Service Civic Volunteer from France: “The quarantine in Setrawa was very emotional and powerful with the many power cuts, the heat and especially the limitation of resources. Being there in the international crisis put all things in a different perspective because we were deep in the Indian culture thanks to the hospitality of Govind’s family. Thankfully, we could continue a little bit our mission with Sambhali’s beautiful new project: the food distribution and also our Admin work. It was is a big adventure and a challenge.
Roxanne, volunteer coordinator & administrative assistant from Germany: “We spent more than two months of the lockdown in the Thar Desert and it was a crazy adventure. On most days, the heat, long power cuts and heavy sandstorms controlled our days and nerves. Thankfully, we had Sambhali’s food donation project that got us out of our comfort zone and straight into the field. We have met many people in the last weeks, from orphans, widows to poor families in bungalows made out of sticks.  Some stories and living situations shocked us and reminded us again how life can be and what we can do to help those who weren’t that lucky. Additionally, I learned much more about Indian families and their culture by living together under one roof in a time like this. I am thankful for this experience and very grateful to my Indian family that takes care of me like one of their own.
Back to the office in Jodhpur: The next step 
End of May/beginning of June, the Sambhali office reopened with limited staff and the new regulations. On 8th June, the 3 last volunteers joined as well. Very different from the desert, the volunteers had to adapt to the city's much stricter way of life regarding COVID-19. Everybody is aware of the higher risks and is taking all necessary measures. The office is open from Monday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm. Everyone who enters the office must wear a mask; antibacterial sanitizer is available and we all maintain social distancing. 
Despite the closure of Sambhali’s empowerment centers on 14th March, reopening the office has allowed us to launch new programs to improve the skills and knowledge of our staff. This project includes Computer training, English classes and Volunteer Coordination Workshop for our Empowerment Centers’ teachers. They are given training to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the hall of Sambhali House. Such skills are essential for their work in the future, especially because we don’t know when everything will go back to ‘normal’ and volunteers can join us again. From now on, the teachers will be able to write their monthly reports, attendance sheets, prepare workshops, etc. independently.
Roxanne on the new timetable at Sambhali: “I am glad to be back in Jodhpur and to work again. Next to my usual Admin work in the office, I am teaching the staff in computer skills, volunteer coordination and English. They are very motivated and their improvements in the last 4 weeks are amazing. Like that, we can use this time in a useful way. I am happy I stayed and that I am still able to help as much as possible.” Manju S., Hindi & Math teacher at Shakti Women Empowerment Center and Laadli Primary Education Center, agrees: “It is very difficult for us right now without the centers. I miss my students and teaching. But it is very nice to learn how to use a laptop properly, especially because we have to be able to write our reports, etc. on our own and not depend on the volunteers so much. I am learning a lot."

Thanks to all the people that have supported us in all those years and especially in the past few months. We are happy that we were able to help so many people in the desert and that we can continue to help 22 very vulnerable families. We hope to come back even stronger. Stay tuned for our next newsletter and events – we are all in this together! 
Sambhali Trust

Pictures credit: Emma Deutscher, Roxanne Naeschen, Veronika Goepfert
Text: Maigane Etienne, Roxanne Naeschen 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sambhali during the time of COVID-19

Welcome back, our dear Readers, Supporters and Friends!

First of all, we at Sambhali Trust hope that all of you are fine, healthy and safe. It is a difficult time for everybody at the moment but we are all in this together. We do pray that everything will calm down in the near future and that we can welcome you at our main office and projects again soon.

What have we been up to at Sambhali?

After the first cases have been reported in India, the Indian Government reacted very quickly. Shops were closed and people were asked to stay inside more.

When the first schools had to close in Rajasthan, Sambhali decided to close all Centres, both Boutiques and the other projects on 14th March as well. Only the office remained open but limited to work inside as visitors and tourists were already prohibited. From 16th March on, all volunteers joined the office staff and worked on Admin tasks. They were divided into small groups and concentrated on the Trust’s fundraising, branding and social media. The atmosphere was relaxed and small meetings were held throughout the week so that nobody felt alone.

Nevertheless, due to the increasing complications in the volunteers’ home countries and India itself, most of them left us spontaneously. Additionally, the Trust decided to close down the main office on the 20th March, 2020. Since then, all our projects stay closed and the remaining volunteers work on Admin tasks in Setrawa. Only in beginning of June, they could move back to Jodhpur.

Our newest project in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan
Since Sambhali’s main operations stopped on the 20th March, Govind, his family, some friends and volunteers moved to his family house Dev Bagh in Viramdeogarh, Setrawa.

There, all people worked together to have a daily routine. Mukta, Govind’s wife and one of Sambhali’s Trustees, saw the current situation as an opportunity to bond and become closer. “We all worked together as a team, hand in hand and heart to heart. What we had there would not be possible in the city as everybody has its own life. There, we had to count on each other. It worked very well. My husband was like a big tree, we all were branches around him and our children were the wild birds chirping here and there. We had many animals around us, from cows and chickens to a horse, that brought new energy into our lives and my family.”

The Guesthouse Durag Niwas and Sambhali’s Headquarter were offered to the local administration in Jodhpur for isolation camps.

After the first 3-weeks-lockdown was announced by the Indian government on the 24th March, Govind found out that some tribal families around his home didn’t have access to groceries anymore. Therefore, Sambhali helped 22 families with food packages for two weeks on the 31st March. One package includes lentils, flour, chili powder, turmeric powder, chai powder, salt, sugar and oil. For a family of 5 to 6 people, it will last 10-15 days and costs around 14 Euros.

A few days later, more and more families asked for support and even walked many kilometers to talk to us in person. With the help of Viramdeogarh’s Sarpanch, our field workers and generous donations, we managed to get all their information and could start to deliver more food kits.

By end of April, we have reached 255 families in the villages Setrawa, Viramdeogarh, Dera, Happansar and Lawaran and have already given second packages to all. The third round started beginning of May. We were able to not only deliver food to families but to also share some with migrant workers at the Bawkan Government School and people at the Abhaygarh Isolation Camp nearby.

Besides that, some field workers go to each and every home to speak about the pandemic and distribute soaps. Back then, they have visited over 850 houses.

Around 270 families have been added to a WhatsApp group for legitimate information. The NGO’s toll free Nirbhaya helpline number and some additional ration kits are placed at our main office in Jodhpur for distressed people as well.

Even though it was hard in the summer heat and there’s lots of paper work, our field team and volunteers, both national and international, were doing their best every day.

Bheru Singh, one of our main field workers, was very happy to participate in the new Sambhali project. “I liked to be a part of it. It made me happy to help the people around us who really need it. I liked to see them smile and how thankful they are for the work we did. 
Sambhali Trust does an amazing job”.

Furthermore, Sambhali and Dev Bagh people engaged in other activities as well. Following the rules of social distancing and hygiene restrictions, they played cards and volleyball and helped in the household.

One of our volunteers, Maigane, has been living in Setrawa since the beginning of January and was then adapting to the new situation: “Our project and aims in the desert have changed since the Government schools have closed. We then participated in the food distribution project which made us feel useful in this crisis. It was very inspiring to be able to help the vulnerable families in the villages. To see their smiles made me happy. Co-living with the family and having our own duties in the household allowed us to learn more about the Indian culture and their way of living”.

We are thankful to be supported by so many amazing people, whether they are here in the desert with us or anywhere else. It means the world to us and all families around.  

A big thank you to all of you!
To be able to maintain our newest project in the Thar Desert, we updated our Setrawa fundraising campaign on Milaap. We are beyond grateful for all your support. It has made a tremendous difference in the lives of those people! With your help, families from all castes, religions and backgrounds in need receive regular food packages, hygiene articles and general information on COVID-19. One family of 5-6 people is supported by a kit of 90 Rupees a day.

Every donation can make a difference. Our work here is not finished and we still need more support to continue this important mission. Stay tuned for new updates on our campaign and posts on Sambhali’s social media.
Thank you so much!

NB: On some pictures we don’t wear masks because it is just us being together at Dev Bagh. As soon as people come from outside, we put on masks and keep social distance. 
Photo credit: Amelie Hocepied, Emma Deutscher, Roxanne Naeschen, Veronika Goepfert
Text: Roxanne Naeschen