Sunday, November 29, 2009

29th of November 2009


Sorry for not writing for long time, it was due to very heavy work and top of all my body got stressed our, I am feeling much better but head ache’s time to time.

This month was full of guest visiting us, On children’s day 14th November which is celebrated on the birthday of our first prime minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, we had three top most judges of the town come to the trust and spoke about the legal issues of women and girls and empowered our girls by giving information about their rights, they were Shri Ishwari lal verma(ACJM-1), Shri Devendra Singh Bhati(JM3), Shri Shankar lal maru(JM2)

Later on the Same day the second guest we hosted were Ms. Anne Vincent and her sister in law Ms. Godelive coigny who is also on board to the Global foundation for humanity ( a foundation based in the USA and UK to help NGO’s working with medical and education relief’s for poor in developing countries).

Ms. Corinne Rose wrote down a wonderful report on the success of our graduates sewing centers, i hope you will like reading about it.


In August, Christelle, a designer from France wrote to us as she had seen an article on Sambhali Trust on the internet. She was interested in the Empowerment of Women project that the Trust is running and that 11 girls who had just graduated were now making clothes and accessories in their own sewing centres which the Trust has established.

Christelle designs and produces children’s clothes and asked if the graduates could help produce her winter season of children’s clothes that she would then sell in Toulouse, her home town. We were delighted that she chose the girls to do this work for her and to give them an opportunity to produce items for a different market.

There were 3 designs, 2 dresses and one pair of trousers made from thick cotton/silk material. The designs were entirely different from what the girls had been used to, as they were specifically for the French market working with different cloth and fitting waistbands, straps and pinafore bibs, which was a new experience! So after working together on the designs and the prototypes, 8 of the 11 girls produced 23 pieces of one design, 22 of the second design and 23 of the third design (in 3 sizes), which they finished in 15 days. The different techniques and methods that were used, didn’t come without any problems, but together the girls persevered and learnt a variety of skills to produce some very smart clothes for children up to 6 years of age.

The girls were very proud of what they had achieved and although they have been making items for the Sambhali India shop since the middle of August, it was the first order they had to do within a fixed time and working with the designer to her specifications.

On the 23.November we had a group of six journalists come from big companies of UK, they were leaded by the asst. Vice president of Distant Frontiers who works in collaboration with Kuoni destination management. We did our presentation for them but they were very tight of the schedule that all we planned could not be preceded.

On the 24.November we had Jodhpur’s leading hair and body care salon people come over and did a workshop on body and hair care, two of our girls got their hair cut done, it was a very interesting day for our new participants of Jodhpur project.

A friend from Switzerland invited me over to come and visit a NGO based in Ahmadabad called Manav Sadhna. I would like to share my report and my pictures below with you.

My report of my travel:

Ms. Eva, a friend and a well wisher from Switzerland stayed with us at the Durag Niwas Guest House for a week in April 2oo9 and visited me on my presentation in Switzerland, Ms. Eva’s partner works Dave works with a very well known NGO of Gujarat called Manav Sadhna established at Mahatma Gandhi Ashram here in Ahmadabad. Ms.Eva is visiting Dave and is volunteering with Manav Sadhna for a while now and wondered if I could visit Manav Sadhna and maybe some opportunity will build up for sambhali to work with them or at least learn something from my visit to the program.

I left Jodhpur with no expectations, sat in the train with some snob Indian men who were too busy on the black berry handy that they had no time to even smile. I was carrying a bottle of wine for my friends as a present from Jodhpur in a dry state of Gujarat where alcohol is prohibited legally.

I was by accident also carrying the army swiss knife and my new laptop incase if I had to do a presentation somewhere , well you never know with the snow ball rolling.

I was feeling scared if I was to be checked by police for security reason, I am already guilty of carrying alcohol and the big swiss knife, but than making myself relax thinking, a friend’s father is a station master and also my cousin Bunty’s maternal uncle is a police officer here in Ahmadabad and in case I was caught I can get out of the situation because of knowing the officers.

I slept in the train for few hours with the laptop and my bag close to my reach that if someone touched them (for stealing) I will get awake. I reached my hotel at 3.30am and in half an hour I could get a place to sleep in after some young Indians living in USA checked out.

I slept till late and than took an Auto rickshaw to the Gandhi Ashram where my friends were waiting, I was taken into the Manav Sadhna communal hall through the areas(rooms) occupied by Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi. I didn’t believe at one time that I am at a place on the banks of Sabarmati River which I have read and learnt in my school history.

We went into the communal hall where I met with the founder Mr. Jayesh Bhai and his wife Mrs. Anar Ben, I sat there with my friends, there were many others who were part of Manav Sadhna and they were participants, volunteers or the staff. They were all very friendly; they welcomed me by giving me a traditional welcome and a welcome song. I was garlanded by a beautiful smiley flower made by their participants who were in one of their projects, we did meditation, shared stories, experiences for one hour and half or something. It was a wonderful experience for me. I also had time to talk to Jayesh bhai, he knows a lot, he has his own way of working and he has his own principals and goals. He has invited our team of participants and staff to come and live with Manav Sadhna for few days and learn some structural administration and see how the both sambhali trust and manav sadhna could work in collaboration. It would be nice if we could work with them on some level, later Dave and Eva took me to the Tekra , here we saw slums and some projects that Manav Sadhna works with or are building. I was soo impressed, projects I plan to implement in future were already running here such as a communal hall where people could come in to see a dentist, school for non school going kids, crèche for babies, Anganwadi, gymnasium, playing area for little children etc, I also met with a very interesting lady Vandana Ji, she is from Rajasthan and works with a income generating program of Manav Sadhna called GramShree, this program is looked after my professionals and the participants do communal work of making clothes and crafts, than they are sold locally and internationally in their own outlets. They pay their participants well and looked amazing.

I am learning very much in the few hours. I was taken to Dave and Eva’s home here in Ahmadabad, a cozy house with a balcony overlooking a garden. Young professionals, wonderful ideas, big team of passionate people……….

Next morning I had to meet with co-founder of gramshree and manav sadhna, Ms. Anar ben, we went to her house for breakfast, she is very nice and a friendly person, she has a beautiful boutique home, we spoke about sambhali trust and its initiatives , I made presentation of the sambhali documentary and came to a final decision that some team members of gramshree will come to train women and girl of sambhali’s jodhpur, setrawa and sheerni projects and the strong leaders of these projects will be brought for extra training at the Ahmadabad gramshree, I was later introduced to the team of gramshree where I showed them the documentary and spoke to them about sambhali and its participants, they welcomed my friends Eva, Dave and myself, the ladies of gramshree are strong candidates and outspoken, I was soo happy to meet with them and sharing my idea of training, teaching quality control to sambhali participants, they were enthusiastic about visiting sambhali and sharing their skills, they were happy to bring some of the participants back with them for a follow up.

After a good lunch at a fancy restaurant I went off to rest for a while, this evening Eva, Dave and myself meet again and go to Dave’s friend Ms. Manjari who works with Save the Child project and more interestingly we meet with Ms. Manjari’s mother Dr. Mrs.Pushpa Srivastava who is professor at the department of Botany at University of Rajasthan in Jaipur and a Emeritus Fellow-UGC, Mrs. Srivastava has been working on Spirulina for many years and have achieved a lot with this green gold. I have never heard soo much about the Spirulina before and have never met such an interesting yet simple Indian lady before. She has been working in Jaipur and rural areas around Jaipur, we had dinner with the family and spoke about the NGO’s and their work. I had another interesting day in Ahmadabad.

The third morning I checked out of my hotel and took my luggage to Eva and Dave’s home, I stored my stuff here and we went out for lunch, it was good, today we had appointment with the person in charge of MAM Movies “media for social change” I met with Mr. Madhusudan, he was a young professional from Mumbai now based in Ahmadabad working on documentaries for social cause. It was n saw our nice talking to him; he saw our documentaries and really liked them much, I asked him to help me with making one documentary which we can use all the time with changing projects. He gave me some ideas about volunteers interested in helping make documentaries, he was very informative, helpful and friendly and he has offered any help we require from him. We walked around the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati Lake and visited the museum, it was a wonderful informative day, I enjoyed every moment of it, we came back to their home and I had a nap, this evening I am leaving back for jodhpur full of impressions and help that the Gramshree has extended and I will never forget the friendly, helpful people of Ahmadabad.

Marika's Final Impression:

After five weeks working with the beautiful girls and women of Setrawa village I am filled with so many emotions. Our time in village has been so special and slightly challenging. The girls and women, though especially the girls were so welcoming and by our second week there we were being lavished the hugs and kind words. From 11 to 1 each day we would go to the school and work on handicrafts with the women and girls who did not attend school. During this time I feel that they taught me more than I taught them. I learned to embroider and made a beautiful skirt, and more importantly I learned the beauty of sitting and enjoying some good company and music over simple creative work. There is no need to rush about or be concerned with what is happening tomorrow or in a week or month, it is time to just be present. Rajasthani and I am sure all Indian women are innately creative and it is remarkable the stuff that they can come up with, with the greatest ease. Unfortunately there are very few women coming to these sessions and it would be wonderful if there was a proper class or project that they could work on together to draw more in.

In the evenings we would return to the school and teach the school going girls English. Ever eager and excited to learn this was a very interesting experience for me after teaching in South Korea for a year. Unlike in Korea the children here have ample time to play and actually don’t often get a proper education when they are at school. So the girls were ever so happy to sit and read, write and do a very different style of lessons than I taught in Korea. But as little girls they do still love to play games and we definitely did play many, though their attention was much hard to maintain and they were not as well mannered when not seated and writing. We chose to teach a different topic each week, as we had a short time in Setrawa. Our first week was spent getting to know them and doing introduction games and activities, our second week focused around team work and unity, our third week focused on health and the body, our fourth week dealt with dreams and our final week was spent wrapping things up creating a photo collage and having a goodbye party.

The rest of our time was spent mainly at Usha’s home or going to neighbour’s homes for meals. The food in Setrawa is amazing, all vegetarian and super healthy and basic and if you like spicy like I do it is heaven. As it is very hot and sunny in the afternoon usually we would stay inside and read, write, play with the little kids or rest. The end of our second week and our third week Usha went to visit her pregnant sister and we were left to our own devices more or less as Usha’s family doesn’t speak a lot of English which made things a little more challenging and interesting.

Our time in Setrawa was amazing and I will remember it forever, but some things could be improved. It became evident to me while Usha was away and in trying to prepare lessons and determine what the girls already knew, that the project is in need of a proper teacher or administrator. Usha is a great asset and has the trust and respect of the girls and women but as she will be married off one of these days and will leave the village, I think it would be useful to have a full time permanent teacher to administrate and make sure lessons grow on each other and expand the girl’s knowledge. Also in our last week there was a serious problem with Usha’s father who after returning to the village on the weekend began drinking heavily and refusing to allow Usha to return to the school. This problem continued to grow throughout the week and turned into some very angry and painful screaming matches between Usha’s father and the family. There was a great deal of pain and grief in the house and my heart goes out to her family. I would say that I still enjoyed staying with Usha’s family a great deal and think it is very unfortunate that this had to happen in our last week. I do not mean to write this to discourage any volunteers from coming to Setrawa it is an amazing place and anyone will be greatly rewarded for going, but something should be done to prevent continued incidents.

My love and thanks go out to all involved at Sambhali; Govind and Mokta, Usha and her family, Ramu and Mulsingh and all the beautiful girls and women of Setrawa and all the awesome staff at Durag Niwas.

Catriona's final impression report:

Final Report.

Our time in Setrawa is up and we are back in Jodhpur getting ready to head home to Canada. The last week was a strange way to end our experience in Setrawa but eye opening to see what some women face in their private lives at home. Upon our return to the village last week we were welcomed by Usha’s father who had arrived home from working in Jodhpur, our first encounter with him. The entire household fell into a very deep silence, with a language barrier we had to wait for a few days to understand what was actually happening. After four heavy and dark days, we discovered that Usha’s father was drinking and angry with Usha for working at Sambhali as the full time teacher, it is unacceptable for daughters to be working in the village rather they should be at home taking care of the household and not in contact with men. In the end Usha was brave enough to move into her grandmother’s house, probably until the father leaves again, and we decided to head back to Jodhpur one day early. We witnessed Usha’s household transform into a quiet, sad and angry place from a happy, vibrant, loud, social and warm environment all because of the presence of their father, a tiny man. I don’t know what will happen with Usha, as this has been happening for many years but I do sincerely hope with the help of Govindh that the situation will improve for the best. This experience did not ruin our time in Setrawa, nor would it prevent me from returning to the village.

Our relationships with the girls and our routine quickly developed from the first week onwards. The girls, well accustomed to volunteers now were confident and open with us, and full of energy. They were quick to let us know if they were comfortable with the material of our lesson and ready to learn something new. As well, it amazed me how the older and more frequent students looked out for the younger and newer students. The girls were competitive, in a healthy way, and would fight with each other for a front row seat ready with the books open and a sharpened pencil in hand. As our time was short, we decided to choose a weekly topic and teach it via various daily activities. For example, if we were teaching about the body, we would teach an intro class with a vocab review, an arts and crafts class, a games day and have a test. It worked well, perhaps a little boring for the older ones but a great review for them.

The arts and crafts class we attended for two hours a day in the afternoon was very interesting, this is where the young women taught me how to sew and embroider for the first time, proving to be very difficult to do such detailed and precise work but I managed to complete a bag. The women are extremely gifted with their creative abilities, what seems to be very easy while watching them is in fact, very challenging when I attempt even a simple technique. This time provides a social space for whoever shows up and allows them to create clothes, projects for themselves, family or for selling purposes. Unfortunately, not many women or girls showed up for this class but from what I can see with the materials that already exist and sewing machines, if inspired to create or learn specific skills with an enthusiastic Setrawa teacher, I can imagine more women will attend and on a regular basis.

While not attending classes there was plenty of time to go with the flow, everyday unfolded differently, many days we were invited to people’s homes for dinner, celebrating the ending of a fasting period for the wives , the purchase of a new home or just to drink chai and eat biscuits. People were curious by the only foreigners in town and some were enthusiastic to practice their English, or just sit and enjoy each other s company. At night, the children from the neighbourhood and some students from Sambhali would stop by the house to play games, dance in the living room or go up onto the roof to talk. All of these experiences and interactions with the villagers helped us integrate easier into the village life rather than always feeling like strangers, even though, you never forget that you are a foreigner in a small village.

In the end, I am so thankful to have found Sambhali and experienced teaching and living with the girls and women in Setrawa, as it is difficult to interact with women as a tourist in India in my experience. The project is young in Setrawa and already I see these girls with such strong and vibrant personalities that I hope continue to be nurtured and encouraged to reach beyond their limits to have the ability and awareness to make the right decisions according to them. I encourage anyone who is reading this at the moment to come and share whatever gifts you have and to learn some very valuable gifts from the Setrawa girls and women. I am already missing the quiet and simple life in the village and the roaming cows, donkeys and goats.

Durag Niwas Guest House:-

With not having many guest, it is still rolling, highly recommended by the guide books it is a pitty that not many guest turn up, this shows how good the monopoly of the touts and rickshaw drivers is in the city, we do not entertain the rickshaw drivers with the big and fat commissions that it is very difficult to survive a guest house with 12 rooms in such heavy and dramatic competition.

We are always bringing in new ideas and new stuff to make our budget guest house look its best.


Mumy and Grand ma are usually in their rooms, hibernating because of the winter months, it get cooler by the night. Ayush and Mukta are good besides ayush who is studying hard because of his half yearly exams coming soon.

Shakti is fine and I am recovering from the ache’s and pains in the body.

Thank you for reading the blog, I hope to put in more interesting materials this December.

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