Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ending of April

Sambhali News:

April has been good for practical information for our Jodhpur project girls, besides our girls taking off for marriages both in Jodhpur and Setrawa projects.

Ms. Johanna came back with Mr. Gabriel (boy friend) for a few days, we are happy to see them.

Ms. Corinne Rose left for few months; we look forward to hosting her again late June 2009, most probably with business visa.

Waiting for my visa from the Austrian Embassy, hopefully they will be kind and give me permission to do the presentation.

First Impression Report - Adriana Contreras (Setrawa project volunteer)

While traveling around Asia for the first time after graduating university I had the strong inclination to volunteer in India. After much time on the net I found Sambhali Trust. I was told beforehand that I would be going to work in the village of Setrawa; which left me with some doubts. I have been volunteering with children for quite some time now, but had never worked with teenage girls, or lived in a small community where I don’t speak the language. I first arrived in Jodhpur where I stayed for a few days and observed English lessons.

Everyone in Jodhpur was so nice and helpful that I was sad about leaving when the time came to go to Setrawa. I was afraid that I might start feeling lonely once in the village. The fear of feeling lonely soon vanished as we were greeted by about ten girls upon our arrival. Being the only foreigners in Setrawa it’s easy to know where you are from. As you walk down the few lanes in the village you are greeted with “Hello, Sambhali?!” All of the girls were so sweet, and before the end of the first day I had about three offers to go eat dinner at the girls’ homes.

The warm welcome from all of the girls in Setrawa really helped me ease into the culture…until I came down with the flu, that is. Everyone recognized that being sick in Setrawa wasn’t a good way to start off volunteering, so I got out of bed and got onto a bus. I returned to Jodhpur for a few days, and as soon as I felt better I was again anxious to get back to the girls and resume my life in Setrawa.

Before I arrived there were two volunteers that stayed in Setrawa for about eight months. Their presence in the community was strong, and all of the girls kept telling me about the things that I did with them. One of the obstacles that I am continuing to struggle with is the amount of presents that the previous volunteers gave to the girls. In no way are the girls in Setrawa spoiled, but they do seem to expect a lot of gifts from the volunteers, which I’m not ready to give. So I found that the best strategy to avoid this is pretend not to understand what they were asking for, and even outright ignore them at times.

Another aspect of life in Setrawa that changed with my arrival was that I began to stay with Usha’s (the local teacher) family. After some problems with the landlord, Govind decided that it would be best if I went to stay in Usha’s home. At first I was a bit apprehensive about living with a host family (which I have also never done), but so far the experience has been nothing but pleasant. While the house is not equipped for a western ideal of privacy, the family does try and allow me time to be on my own.

The more I stay with the girls the more I get to know them. They are all very eager to learn English, and to have as much interaction with the volunteers as possible. Since my name is a little too long for all of the girls to remember, they have shortened my name to Ana, which at times takes me a few shouts to recognize.

Setrawa has thus far proved to be one of the best volunteer experiences that I have had. I am completely immersed in the project, as well as in the culture. Everyone in the area knows who we are, and what Sambhali is doing for the community, and are ready to help or even practice a little English with you. Setrawa is a wonderful village; vibrant in its own way where native peacocks roam around, and two rouge monkeys terrorize the village. I look forward to completing my time in Setrawa, and to further getting to know the girls and take part in their lives.

Women’s Health and Awareness Workshop By Ms. Eliane and Ms. Johanna (Jodhpur project)

Inspired by previous work done by volunteers, Johanna and I attempted to evaluate the need for a second workshop on sexual health and reproduction. The new batch of younger girls had not participated in last year’s workshops and the older ones, who had, expressed an interest in reviewing the subject. Staging this workshop would also allow me to raise issues such as rape, abortion and prostitution in the Women’s Rights workshops I was planning for later.

All of the material produced by the previous volunteers, Meghan and Fayette, had unfortunately disappeared entirely from the classroom for reasons that no-one was really able to explain. Johanna and I were obliged to research the subject again and produce new material. We produced anatomy diagrams, printed out posters and pamphlets on various means of contraception, and bought condoms so the girls could practice. We also downloaded several audio and video files to make the workshops more interactive.

Following the girls’ requests, we held the workshop behind closed doors in the sewing room to ensure maximum privacy. We decided to stage a condensed workshop over three days, with three hours of workshops per day. It was necessary to do this as we were unavailable for many days due to the Market Stall and Johanna’s departure was approaching quickly.

Our schedule was as follows:

- Day One: Anatomy, Reproduction & Menstruation

- Day Two: Pregnancy and Contraception

- Day Three: Sexually Transmitted Diseases & HIV/AIDS

The schedule was thrown off on the first day, when over lunchtime, one of our girls was sexually harassed outside of the guesthouse. All of us went down to the police station to file an FIR against the boys. Afterwards we all sat down with Govind and he asked the girls what they had learned from the experience. It turned out to be a good experience to use as a springboard for the Women’s Rights workshop to be held later, and as we’d planned some extra time for games at the end of the Sexual Education workshop anyway, we were still able to discuss all our subjects within our three-day time frame.

Govind’s wife Mukta took time off her busy schedule running the guesthouse to translate for us. We were very grateful for her help and presence, as it is quite obvious that the girls trust her a lot and feel comfortable around her.

The outcome was very rewarding. On the first day - probably due to the delicate first subject - many of the girls were shy and didn’t dare openly participate in the workshop. To get them talking, we had them fill in and label diagrams in groups. By the second day, however, the girls had become very open and were asking us many questions. Some of them were of such a medical nature that we had to research them afterwards! We were kept quite busy during those three days, looking up additional information, emptying the question box and consulting Mukta on the girl’s work and progress.

The gaps in knowledge between the various girls were enormous. Some of the girls from the middle batch were extremely knowledgeable on everything, including the details on HIV transmission, whereas some of the girls from the first batch were still confused as to from where a newborn baby emerges from a woman’s body. Finally, the very new girls had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the subject. It was challenging to consolidate all these levels of expertise, but we found that group work was the best way to go about doing so.

Some of the girls were very grateful for the work we had done, which was very satisfying for us. One of them even hugged us at the end and said “Thank you for my future”! Overall, we were just very happy to have been able to arm them with the crucial information they will need in their day-to-day life and decision-making.

As Meghan and Fayette before us, we hope that future volunteers reuse what we did, improve it, and feed this critical knowledge to the girls that will arrive at Sambhali during the next cycle. We have left all our electronic documents and support on Govind’s computer, and all the paper support in the computer room, where we hope it will survive!


Mumy has been having a course of 15 days Ayurvedic massages by a professional masseur as suggested by doctor, she is feeling good and is feeling more active.

Gradma is alright, she has some liver infection but with the time it’s getting better.

Shakti is doing well and is quite busy looking out for helping people buy/sell homes and lands.

Ayush has always been very sensitive to weather changes and specially cold, Mukta took him to the doctor and after some tests we found out that Ayush is suffering from cold infection and has allergies with dust been prescribed inhalers and antibiotics for a month.

I have just been back from 2 days in the hospital due to Food Poisoning (I ate at some street side cart selling Masala Dosa) NEVER AGAIN!!

Durag Niwas Guest house:

Not many guests at home, time is coming when all the decorations would be removed for the offseason months, plants would go in shade. There are still a few long term guests volunteering with Sambhali or studying in Jodhpur.

We hope to have a good tourist season ahead starting July 2009.

Some more interesting news and pictures to come in a day or two.

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