Friday, May 08, 2009

May 8th 2009 Sambhali Reports!!

Ms.Adriana's Final Impression , Setrawa Project

Final Impression Report

In the six weeks that I spent volunteering at Sambhali Trust, I grew to know the culture and especially the girls of Setrawa. Being in Setrawa could be trying at times, but the benefits and experience that I gained far outweighed those trying times. While you are removed from the Jodhpur office the amount of support that I received from everyone in the “big city” was an enormous help. If circumstances would have been different in my own life, I know that I would have opted to stay in Setrawa for a much longer time.

Before going to Setrawa most everyone in Jodhpur told me how sweet and open the girls were. I really had no idea of how involved in the project most girls were until I arrived in Setrawa. Unlike in Jodhpur you spend most of your day with the girls. This was even more so for me, as I was placed into a home stay with Usha, the local teacher’s family.

At first I was a bit apprehensive about staying with a home stay, as I had never really staying in anything of the sort, but I figured that being with a family was better than ever having to feel lonely. Usha’s family was very nice, and did everything in their power to help me feel at home. There were some issues that were, at first, difficult to deal with, but with time I grew more accustomed to the routine and began to feel at home.

One of the biggest issues that I had to deal with was the complete lack of personal space. I was given my own room, which turned out to be the family’s pooja room, and storage space area. The family in fact intended, and tried their hardest to give me privacy, but Indian standards of privacy are no where near those that we have in the western world. While I had a room, and a bed I slept with the family on the roof of the house. On any given night it wasn’t just my family that would sleep on the roof; it was also pretty much everyone else, meaning that there were whole families sleeping all around us. At first this was a little strange, but again I grew used to it.

Indian’s personal space boundaries are something that also begins to mingle with their noise level. The family usually woke up at around 6:30 every morning. Since I slept alongside of them I usually started to wake up when I heard them moving around or with the constant cries of dogs and peacocks. If all of that didn’t wake me up then the family’s calls to one another did. Every morning I was sure to hear “Eh Usha!” or “Eh Usha Mami!”. So I learned to wake up early, which in a way was better because the temperatures became almost unbearable well before noon.

After waking and taking a shower Usha and I would begin to walk to Sambhali School at around 11 o’clock for the morning sewing class. We would make it about twenty meters before hoards of Sambhali students would start walking along with us. The sewing class was one of my favorite parts of working with Sambhali because you got a chance to really get to know the girls. While Usha and the older girls would work on sewing the small girls and I would be working on various arts and crafts. The arts and crafts ranged from coloring and painting, to making greeting cards.

After the sewing class Usha and I would walk back to her house where we would eat lunch. Usha and her mother are both very good cooks, and you get a chance to see what traditional Indians eat. Lunch and dinner usually consisted of one or two vegetables, with about four or five chapattis. Because Setrawa was so hot during the months that I was there, we usually tended to take a nap during the afternoon, in order to beat the heat. Then at around five o’clock we would once again make our way over to the Sambhali School.

The five o’clock class is the large class of the girls, and on most days about twenty to thirty girls come. In these classes we would divide the girls into two groups; the big girls, and the small girls. This division was worked out due to their level of English. The small girls learned really basic things like body parts, and colors, while the big girls began learning how to conjugate simple verbs. Every Thursday we would have a test in the big girl’s class. This was something that the girls asked me to do with them. They really enjoy getting graded, and they managed to turn it into a fun competition.

All of the girls in Setrawa, and every other villager that I came into contact with, are really happy to have Sambhali in Setrawa. Because of Setrawa’s small size, and lack of foreigners everyone knows who you are right away. You’ll find that if you go to Setrawa on the bus people will almost instantaneously start directing you towards the school. Its small things like this that shows how eager and helpful the people of Setrawa are.

Living and teaching in Setrawa was one of the most valuable experiences that I have had in my life. The girls make you feel right at home, and let it known that they are grateful for your help. While it is trying to stay in Setrawa as the only foreigner, you never feel lonely because you are always in the presence of others. I am very grateful to Usha’s family for helping me in my stay in Setrawa. I would return to help out in Setrawa for a longer period without hesitation. Living and working with this group of wonderful rural Indians is something that the next volunteer should definitely look forward too, and that I will surely miss.


Ms.Becky Moyce


For Jodhpur Project from 25th of April till 20th of May


It is the end of my first week of volunteering with the Sambhali trust and I feel as though I have already seen more wonderful and interesting things here in one week than I have seen in the past few years before. When I first arrived in Delhi I was completely overwhelmed by the cultural differences and the heat, everything seemed so strange to me and I felt like I had landed on another planet. Delhi with it’s sprawling population, impenetrable traffic and extensive slums was quite oppressive and so getting off the train at Jodphur into a much calmer and less chaotic environment was a relief. I immediately knew that I would like this city, whilst it is still a busy and lively, colourful urban hub it has none of the hostility of a huge place like Delhi, people here seemed immediately much more friendly towards me.

This feeling was multiplied when I arrived at Durag Niwas guest house and met the family I would be working for and staying with. These guys made me feel really welcome and it is clear that they will go out of their way to make the volunteers experience here a good one, helping me to arrange bus tickets, change money, get my mobile phone sorted and such like. I don’t think I could have found a better place to stay in Rajasthan, the atmosphere here is so calming and after a trip into the busy city it is nice to come back to such a comfortable and tranquil environment.

Teaching children is a new thing for me and I have really enjoyed meeting the participants of both the Sambhali Trust's projects, the photography workshops I came here to deliver to the girls are proving to be a hit and everyone seems to be enjoying them. I had read before I came here about the struggles these girls endure but it is only after meeting and working with them that I am truly beginning to understand how difficult life is for these girls and for their families in the dalit community. The dalits are treated as second class citizens, not only are they looked down upon by society but their lives are actually physically restricted as there are certain areas they are forbidden to go to and various jobs that they would not be allowed to pursue. The community lacks education, health care and most of all self esteem, things that I have always taken for granted in my life and I am so impressed with the work Sambhali is doing with these people, equipping them with skills and training to attain better careers, and providing them with the support and encouragement they need to develop the hope and confidence that will help them to improve their situations.

An idea was brought up that we extend the photography workshops to some of the girls brothers in the community, whilst women in the dalit community suffer the double prejudice of both their caste and their gender, there is no hope of improving things for them if the men ion their community remain unskilled and uneducated. I was surprised at how many boys were keen to take part in the workshops and how much they enjoy just coming and being part of a group where they can talk about things they would never normally discuss. In order to get the most from these workshops for the boys we have incorporated discussions about Dalit rights and health and hygiene, including sexual health and the guys are receiving some very important information such as the laws which protect dalits from discrimination and myths around STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) that they it is clear they had no idea about previously. I have visited some of the boys families, I could not believe the poverty I saw and I am so glad that I have been able to help them in some way, even if it is just a tiny bit… as Govind says ‘Even a tiny drop leaves a stain’ and I think that is important to remember when reaching out to people like this.

I cannot choose one word that would describe my first week here, there are so many which that spring to mind… eventful, happy, successful, busy, inspired, shocked, tired and amazed. All I can say is that I am very happy to be here and I am looking forward very much to the next few weeks and to making a difference.

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