Saturday, September 05, 2009

6th of September SLT(servie learning trip)

Experience of Service learning trip was a masala(Good and Bad), good because of some students and FSD team's hard working on the projects and Bad because of unfriendly Team Leaders and also the miscommunication between the three companies. The Reports from the SLT team is pending and we are trying our best to keep our well wishers updated with the latest from here with these reports.

Reports by Ms.Jessica Robinson

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Sambhali Trust

Jodhpur


Press Release


Date: 10-08-09

Under supervision of Sambhali Trust on this Monday 10th of August 14 students (11 women; 3 men) from Stanford University will arrive in Jodhpur as part of a Service Learning Trip (SLT) organized by the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). They will be staying for approximately one month and will be working between Jodhpur and Setrawa with the focus being on the Setrawa village community.

They will meet with Mr. Govind Singh Rathore, director of the Sambhali Trust, to discuss the SLT project. The Sambhali Trust is an organization focusing on women’s empowerment and development and has been operating for 3 years. It runs three projects: the Jodhpur Project, which focuses on women and empowerment in the Dalit community; the Literacy Project; and the Setrawa Project. The Setrawa Project aims to eliminate prejudice and discrimination based on caste. Sambhali Trust also operates a small center in Setrawa where participants are trained in basic academic subjects as well as practical topics such as health and hygiene.

The SLT students will begin by participating in educational workshops to learn about India, Jodhpur, Safety & Health, Development & Issues, Culture & Caste and Society & Behavior.

The group will then travel to Setrawa to conduct a community assessment including observational activities and discuss ongoing data collection & analysis. They will prepare their findings and conduct a community discussion to share these findings and future preparations, and plan projects. The SLT group will cover different area topics and gather different sets of information.

After this first week they will transfer to living with a host family in Jodhpur. Here they will meet with a lot of other Non profit organizations and different government authorities.

The group will also participate in cultural events organized by their SLT program placement agency on time to time.

They will then return to Setrawa to begin outreach activities and prepare for and conduct a community meeting. The outreach activities will continue over several days and the planned activities will be implemented. Education workshops and “Clean Village Campaign” activities will also be carried out. Following this there will be community meetings and evaluations, after which the findings will be shared.

Back in Jodhpur there will be a chance to review and reflect upon the trip as well as meet with Sambhali Trust Director Mr. Govind Singh Rathore one more time. The group will depart on Friday 5th of September.

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Report-1


On Monday 10/8 the SLT students arrived at the Durag Niwas Guest House for an official Sambhali Trust welcome of refreshments and a rooftop presentation. Mr Govind Rathore spoke about the work of Sambhali Trust and how it began before screening a 10 minute film explaining the plight of Dalit women in Jodhpur and how Sambhali Trust is working to better the situation through its three programs. The student responded with a number of questions, such as what kinds of methods the organization employs to increase the attendance/retention rates at the Jodhpur project, the ways in which the girls’ responsibilities are affected by attending the program and what the main differences are between government and private schools in Jodhpur. Five of the Sambhali Trust graduates also came up to speak about their favourite activities and how their families responded to their becoming involved in the project. As a continuation of their orientation, on Tuesday 11/8 the SLT students participated in several workshops to introduce them to life and culture in India, and also had an opportunity to go shopping for Indian clothes.

On Wednesday 12/8 the students, Mr Govind Rathore, the FSD directors and three Sambhali Trust volunteers, Michelle, Leo and myself, ventured out to Setrawa and met the villagers for the first time. We split into small groups and walked around the entire village to distribute 400 leaflets explaining the project and inviting people to community meetings scheduled for the following two afternoons. The children of the village trailed behind us excitedly as we met with people in their homes to introduce ourselves and acquaint ourselves with the community. That evening, the group was accommodated in Mr Govind Rathore’s spacious and peaceful ancestral home nearby.

On Thursday 14/8 we returned to the village to continue community outreach activities. We met with a friendly sweets vendor who was pleased to speak with us and inform us of some of the issues his family faced in the village, such as poverty and the drought. We were also welcomed into a family home and given chai and snacks, where the students bravely utilized their Hindi with a “Khana acha ka!” and the women informed us of their problems with water and disease such as malaria. The young men of the house then accompanied us to the local hospital/relief centre, where the nurse generously took the time to explain that the centre’s doctor had not been available for a month and there were two other nurses like him. He noted that he saw 2-3 malaria patients per day, and that malnourishment was the biggest cause of unnatural death, despite the government’s provision of vitamins. He also mentioned that around 60-70 people come through the centre each day and must travel to Jodhpur for dental and gynecological services.

We also met with the manager of the local police station who explained that the heat and busy times such as the pilgrimage made effective management a challenge and also put further strain on many other ailing systems within the village.

In each afternoon for two days we then held community meetings in the Sambhali Centre. The attendance was excellent; whilst mainly women and children, many people had also taken the time to voice their concerns in written form on the backs of the leaflets we had distributed to them. The women were very open and helpful when discussing the issues that faced them: accountability and funding issues in schools, government grants/aid money not reaching the village, sewerage problems, water sanitation, illiteracy and a lack of rights awareness amongst people in the village came up many times as major problems. One gentleman explained that a lot of people accept that hardships are simply God’s will and are not aware of ways that they can seek assistance for their problems.

The children in the meeting told us how they wished to continue studying so as to become professionals and contribute to the prosperity of India, but that it was difficult for the girls because many parents did not approve of their daughter attending male-dominated higher education. We learnt that many girls do not remain in school past 8th standard; they begin work in the household after this time.

The SLT students asked whether people were able to prepare for droughts somehow and the villagers explained that this was not financially possible. Around 10 of the people attending the meeting admitted that somebody in their family was forced to leave Setrawa to find work, which usually involved difficult commutes or extra money for alternative living arrangements.

The SLT students were consistently mindful of the notions that people in the village could have about foreigners and development work, and regularly discussed in de-briefing sessions the need to be respectful and objective when gathering information.

On Independence Day the SLT students took a break to attend ceremonies at the local government school and the Setrawa school. We witnessed beautiful performances of marching, prayer, dancing and singing and gave our own Bollywood-style dance show at the Sambhali school, much to the amusement of the children. At the government school 6 of us gave small speeches introducing ourselves and the project and thanking the community for their hospitality.

In discussion sessions following these few days in Setrawa, the SLT students considered the interconnectedness of the problems in the village and what the root issues might be. FSD director Garret Wong guided the group to think about how their projects could inform, empower and mobilize the community to find solutions that are congruent with culture, acceptable to the people and can be continued and committed to.

Whilst considering these points and preparing for their projects, the students will spend the coming week meeting with various local organizations to build a picture of the other issues people face in India, including the Mine Labour Protection Campaign, People Living with HIV/AIDs Swansthan, the Department of Water & Sanitation and the Department of Women & Child Development.

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Report-2

The second week of the SLT Trip was spent in meetings with various NGOs and departmental officials in Jodhpur.

The first NGO we met with was the Mine Labor Protection Campaign, which involved a presentation and an excursion to three field sites. According to the campaign’s website, their aim is “..to promote environmental justice through organizing the unorganized mine workers in the state of Rajasthan and building their capacities to protect their rights and environment.”[i] We were shown two different mine sites which people were working in, and then a day care centre funded by the campaign for sponsored children of mine workers. There we got to meet the children and learn about their backgrounds and the conditions for children who are forced to go to work with their parents.

The students then met with the Jodhpur Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS Sansthan in their Jodhpur office. We learnt about the challenges facing people living with HIV/AIDs in India and how organizations such as this are working to combat stigma by changing societal attitudes and providing support networks and counseling for people who are affected by this disease. Many people who have HIV/AIDs are discriminated against by society and indeed their own families. We spoke to some HIV positive women who attended the centre, some of whom were widows, or had been banished from their homes after their husbands had learned that they were positive, despite having passed the disease on themselves. They bravely told their stories and were happy to answer all of our questions.

On Wednesday we met with the Honorable Deputy Director of Jodhpur Mr. Shakti Singh Ji at the Department of Women and Child Welfare. Here were learnt about the various schemes that the government has in place to support women and children, such as grants for self-help groups - which empower women by providing a community network, and enabling them to begin a group enterprise such as a small business selling crafts or clothing. Other departmental focuses included the abolishment of child marriages, crèches for mothers participating in the NREGA national employment scheme, pensions for widows and the posting of Sathines, female messengers who visit/live in rural villages to educate locals about government policies and provide general community support.

The SLT students inquired about the villagers’ requests for a separate girls’ school but were informed that these are only possible when there are at least 250 female students in a village. The department’s stance is that parents have the responsibility to put aside their conservative attitudes towards their daughter’s education and not withhold them from an education purely because it is in a co-educational school.

On Thursday the SLT students met with the Honorable CEO Mr. Rajeev Jain of Jodhpur at the Department of Water and Sanitation. Following the students’ presentation of village issues, we were told that the government was already aware of them because they are common issues across all villages. We discussed the NREGA program, which is a national employment scheme which guarantees 100 days of work per year to any person who applies. One complaint in the village was that workers participating in the scheme were not receiving their full wages. The official explained that the work is task-based and monitored strictly by senior technical officers who determine the level of work that has been attained by each employee. We were informed that if workers wished to dispute this outcome, they could either write a letter or phone a 24-hour toll-free number, 1077, to lodge their complaint.

The SLTs also inquired about the programs in place at schools. We learnt that there is a free health card distributed to all students which entitles them to monthly check-ups at the district hospital. Each student is also provided with a daily meal of at least 600 calories, set by a medical officer/nutritionist. One of the reasons we discovered for the teacher shortage is that many teachers do not wish to remain in villages and would rather move to cities for work.

In regards to sanitation, the government has a toilet sanitation scheme whereby houses are selected to have toilets built within them. The government also ensures that every new building completed is fully equipped with a toilet. Despite this, we heard that many villages still prefer not to use the facilities.

In terms of accountability, we heard that the government has an Anti-Corruption Department (ACD) which works to keep administration as transparent as possible and provide opportunities for people to lodge their corruption complaints. This includes an audit system with surprise visits.

The Sarpaanch system was the other point discussed. We learnt that training for the Sarpaanches is mandatory.

Our final meeting was with the Honorable District Magistrate Mr. Naveen Mahajan of Jodhpur. He graciously gave us an impromptu timeslot to meet and the students were able to introduce their work and ask for general advice.


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Report 3


In their third week, the SLT students divided into smaller groups to research and devise individual projects. They then met with Mr Govind Rathore to introduce these projects and seek advice.


Micro-Finance and Banking Project

Sharada, Kiki and Anna-Maria

This project is around the women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) with the focus to educate the women about these schemes. The project’s aim is to increase the financial independence of women through education. The main questions to consider are “What are SHGs?”, “What is the outcome of an SHG?” and “What kind of SHG is more successful?”. The project will use small scenarios, teach basic math and share success stories from previous SHGs.

The students will be looking at Sambhali Trust’s SHEERNI project. The women will be informed of the types of training they can undergo within an SHG, such as candle making, textiles, food and spirulina production.

Community Forum and Trash Disposal Project

Dennis and Karo

The community forum project is about creating sustainable meetings, potentially using the Sarpaanch, Sathines, Anganbari and community members. A possible meeting place is the Setrawa Rajput Communal Hall, located behind the Khonia Kheptal Ji Shrine. Community participants could include elders, and usually also wealthier people although there are few/none in Setrawa.

The trash disposal project is about cleaning up the village and finding a permanent place for trash. The proposal is stone trash bins with a slanted bottom and drainage hole, that can have trash burnt in them, positioned around the village. One day or one half-day is proposed to be committed to physically cleaning up the trash, an activity participated in by anybody/everybody including children from the local school.

It is also proposed that the sides of the trash bins be painted with the names of everybody who participated in the project and motivational slogans for the village people, such as child marriage awareness information. This can be a group project and children can help to paint.

General Health and Womens’ Health Project

Jessica, Eileen and Evelyn

The aim of this project is to educate and provide health care for all people in the village. The first aspect is a two-day health workshop for local women which will cover general health as well as specific womens’ issues. A health camp with an eye doctor, our priveledge was that Dr.Desai from the Tara Bai Desai Hospital in Jodhpur, came personally to take the eye camp in Setrawa, dentist and general practitioner is also proposed to provide check-ups and any necessary further treatment to everybody in the village. The Eye patients were also transferred to Jodhpur for eye surgery and were looked after by the trust.

The workshops will be advertised via distributed flyers and will teach home remedies as well as basic hygiene and health advice. A female translator will be present and the women will be divided into two groups – married, and unmarried. This is because it is not appropriate in the village to teach unmarried women certain topics.

It is also proposed that there will be a free demonstration by an ambulance crew on dealing with an emergency (emergency number is 108). Health education in schooling is present but minimal.

The most important message in the workshop will be one’s own safety. Major issues to be discussed include tobacco-related cancer, cooking outdoors so as to prevent lung damage from smoke, AIDS, malaria, menstrual hygiene, pregnancy, menopause and anemia, including information about accessing free iron tablets. An anonymous question box will also be provided overnight, and the answers discussed on the second day of the workshop.


Government Accountability Project

Jackie, Andrew and Melissa


The aim of this project is to increase the accountability of the village leaders and provide a voice for village people. It is proposed that a Student Council will be established, made of one boy and one girl, who can act as student leaders and approach the school Headmaster or any relevant authority when there is an issue. These students can also work from the platform of Sambhali Trust and support the work that the organization is doing.

Both elected students will need to provide a written application, run for election and were provided with a scholarship upon selection. Over 90% of girls do not stay in school past 8th standard because of the conservatism of their parents, so it may be necessary to choose a girl from 10th or 11th standard if there are none in 12th.

It is proposed that the elections be run akin to Indian Government elections, with an ink finger-mark for each voter. This will generate more enthusiasm and expose the students to real democratic processes. As a celebration following the formation of the student council, 50 trees will be planted around the school, to be maintained by the students.

Sambhali Students President of the Government School and Sambhali Setrawa project Teacher Mr.Mool Singh

Sambhali Students President of the Government school and Sambhali Setrawa School teacher Ms.Ram Kanwar Rathore

The students will be educated in all the issues facing the village and will act as role models, raising awareness about issues such as the caste system. They will also have their pictures in the local newspaper. Both the students were given paid job as Hindi teachers at the Sambhali Setrawa project from 4.00pm till 5.00pm tentatively on contract of six months.

Myself, Mool singh, Ram Kanwar and Usha Sharma, Our trust's Setrawa project's team.

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The Service learning trip(SLT) of Standford University even didnt care to come and see our team in the end to say good bye, nor they care to talk about the reflection, instd the group leaders wanted to go out shopping(as per FSD) but as per our knowledge and Duty we wrote to FSD and SLT of Standford University the letter of thanking and reflection.


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Friday, September 04, 2009

Letter for Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) Team, Jodhpur

To Whom It May Concern

We would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon the Service Learning Trip and express our gratitude for your involvement and contributions.

Despite the issues faced, this venture has been a valuable experience for all involved. The contributions made by the students have been overwhelmingly positive and Sambhali Trust hopes to continue the projects they leave behind.

It has also been an honor for Sambhali Trust to be able to work with students from such a renowned university. It is of great benefit to us in terms of the skills shared and the awareness created for our organization.

We must acknowledge that this project would not have been possible without your support and in many other senses. FSD has been a reliable source of organization and information for both the students and Sambhali Trust.

As a small grass-roots organization it is a valuable opportunity to be able to work with an agency such as FSD. Your contributions have enabled us to continue our important work, and we thank you.

Warmest regards,

Sambhali Trust

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Our second letter which we sent to the team leader of SLT program


Friday, September 04, 2009

Letter of Reflection

SLT Group Team Leaders

Stanford University

Dear Student Leaders,

Sambhali Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time spent working with the project, as well as reflect upon the successfulness of this venture and address some of the issues that arose during this time. We extend all messages of gratitude to the group.

Firstly, we are grateful for the efforts and enthusiasm brought to the project. It is a privilege to have students come such a long way from an institution as well-known as Stanford University and we are honored that you chose our organization with which to work. It is a brave decision to leave one’s own culture in the hopes of understanding other parts of the world more fully, and noble to actively seek out humanitarian work. We hope that you have a better understanding of the role you as individuals can play, both here in Jodhpur and Setrawa, and back at home, as part of a vastly different but equally as significant society in terms of the issues you have seen here. It is important that you not forget the people, places, obstacles and joy that you have witnessed and experienced here. They are intricately connected to your own lives in many ways.

We understand that you have had to give up various comforts and much of your time to come to a place so immensely different from your home country, and have sometimes been disappointed or inconvenienced by the conditions or discoveries you have made. It is always difficult to get accustomed to a different place, different people and different customs, even within your own country or within the Western world. Coming to India would undoubtedly have been an extreme culture shock for most of you and it is natural that this would have impacted upon the effectiveness of the tasks you came here to carry out.

However, as a small, grass roots organization which depends largely upon foreign volunteers, Sambhali Trust has found that it requires a certain level of organization, communication and dedication from anybody working within it, and many volunteers have had to adjust their perspectives and put aside discomforts in order to contribute to their full capability. This might mean having to summon the courage to involve oneself more fully in activities, ask more questions, change one’s point of view and think in a more innovative or less conventional way in order to fully understand the new culture. Cultural immersion is the simplest and quickest way to get to the root of a community’s problems and begin to understand what people within the community truly require, from their own community, the community’s leaders and from foreign volunteers.

Sambhali Trust is of the view that this Service Learning Trip has not been as successful as it could have been in this regard. As you are aware, we have faced issues on all sides, some that have taken too long to be resolved.

One issue which arose was that of the behavior, notably enthusiasm and focus, of some of the students. Upon witnessing an interaction with a government department official, Sambhali Trust was disappointed by the disinterest showed by some students. This was noted in the absence of questions posed by students and the seeming lack of desire to fully follow and understand the conversation. It was embarrassing for a small organization, which has to depend completely upon its public reputation, to have its representatives showing apathy towards such important discussions.

At other times, Sambhali Trust has felt that the organization was being overlooked unnecessarily. This has occurred on at least two separate occasions; initially, when the Sambhali Trust was not mentioned in an introductory letter to a government departmental official, and later when it was omitted again in a letter prepared for a local health organization.

One final problem that Sambhali Trust needs to address lies in the structure of the trip. We feel as though the expectations for this venture, from all sides, were too high for the short time frame arranged. It is possible to learn a significant amount in four weeks; it is perhaps a strain, however, to research and implement projects during this time as well. Health issues, such as sickness attained from the heat, new diet and general stress, have impacted upon this also.

With more adequate preparation, a narrower focus and the resolution of issues addressed above, future trips could possibly be more successful. However, Sambhali Trust feels as though further Service Learning Trips would not be beneficial for the organization. This is an unfortunate conclusion and has been considered quite carefully.

Despite this sentiment, Sambhali Trust would like to thank all of students once again as we are genuinely grateful for all of your time and work, despite the difficulties faced. Please know that there are no hard feelings. As an experimental venture, there was always a possibility that this would not prove to be a success. It is all that we can do to take the lessons and experiences and move onwards to more successful projects.

All of your work here has been valuable and we have been impressed by your enthusiasm in the project planning and implementation stages of this trip. We will, after obtaining documentation from you, strive to keep these ideas alive and continue the projects on your behalf.

Thanking you for your understanding, contributions and efforts,

Sambhali Trust

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August2009


Michelle Kaminski

I had an enlightening experience with the Sambhali Trust project. These courageous young women really deserve a chance to better their lives through their own achievements. Their bright smiles and smart eyes reveal their potential to fulfill their dreams.
The Trust has given them hope for a better future and the practical skills they will need to realize their goals. You can see their self-confidence growing daily – whether in speaking English or sewing. They are curious and anxious to interact with foreign volunteers and guests.
My short time at Sambhali Trust has made me reflect and be grateful for what I have and the opportunities that we take for granted in the west. It has also impressed me how unselfish these girls are: They want to learn new skills so that they can support themselves and not be a burden on their parents.
I believe the Trust is preparing them to stand on their own feet and is giving them the skills and self-esteem they need to make a comfortable life for themselves, niot being dependent on others or expecting handouts but feeling the satisfaction and confidence that only good honest work can give.
I have definitely taken away more than I have given!

Leo Turini

Departed from the frantic western lifestyle, we have run into, almost by luck, this heavenly corner, where we found some exceptional people, who give their time and energy to help these disadvantaged girls. Girls similar to any other girls in the world but with the bad luck of being born feminine in the Dalit (Untouchable) caste.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to them, to hear their moving stories and to tell them about myself.
In their eyes I saw an incredible energy; the desire to change their destinies and to learn new skills. This energy is often missing in the eyes of western children brought up in a spoilt society.
I hope I will never forget these images and the atmosphere at Sambhali Trust.
With best wishes for the future success and goals of your students and this inspired Trust!


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