Friday, December 09, 2011

November 2011

Dear Readers,
I apologize for my late updates nowadays. I am trying my best to be as good as possible with the updates but other responsibilities are taking over my time. I hope you enjoy the interested reports.

Story about Sajiyo Devi, a tribal women of Setrawa village and member of a self help group running under our Sheerni Micro-Finance project.
Sajiyo Devi lives roughly two kilometers from the Sambhali Trust's Empowerment center of Setrawa village. Just over two weeks ago her husband , Prahalad ram, died. It was a sudden death and came as a big shock to the family. Sajiyo has seven children, five daughters and 2 sons. Three of her daughters age 13ish ,14ish and around 15ish are already married. The 13ish year old is yet to go to her husband's house, (sitting next to Sajiyo in the picture). Sajiyo therefore is now the sole provider for five children. Prahalad ram worked in the local stone mine for the past several years and during this time he became ill due to inhalation (Silicosis). As his health deteriorated he was forced to spend long periods of time resting at home. Due to the circumstances, his wife Sajiyo, had to begin working at the stone mine order to provide roof, food and cloth for the family. She has worked there for the last six years. During this time she was responsible for the costs of her three daughters weddings and the medicine for her husband, alongside the day to day costs of living. Sajiyo has been part of the Sheerni Micro-Finance project for the last fifteen months; always making regular repayments. Upon hearing the news of the death of Sajiyo's husband, we at the trust decided that the Sambhali Trust should help her and her family. The Trust will help her set up a new profession, such as purchasing an animal or running a shop, so that she does not have to return to the stone mine and potentially meet the same fate as her husband. Dear readers, you are more than welcome to come and visit Sajiyo and her family on your next trip to Jodhpur or Setrawa. We really hope to hear from yourselves to contribute for a better and risk free future for Sajiyo and her family.

30th November
Had a wonderful day yesterday, visited all of our centers in a row, went to Setrawa, it was lovely meeting the representatives of GDG (Global Development Group, Australia/America). By the end of the day the GDG team said Sambhali Trust is very credible.... Thank you my dear team because without all of your hard work nothing would have been possible....

Clothes donated to Setrawa Empowerment Center by Ms. Kim from United stated and gifted by Ms. Ernestine Badegruber from Soziale Initiative, Austria

Personal Report

Sambhali Trust Administration Volunteer: Xenia Elsaesser

Dates: October 2011

Origin: Switzerland, England

I came across Sambhali by chance, and feel very lucky to have done so. From the minute I arrived I was impressed by the commitment and passion for their work shown by the permanent staff and volunteers. The participants and beneficiaries of the scheme that I met were relaxed and at home in this very personal and intimate environment. Being at Sambhali felt like becoming part of a family. Above all I am respectful of the attention to detail and personal involvement on the part of the directors, who lead the organization with a humble and effective wisdom.

During my month at Sambhali I shared a room in the Durag Niwas Guesthouse with a friend, and ate home-cooked food. The homely atmosphere at Sambhali is well enhanced by deliciously tasty dishes, a communal eating area and the artistic decoration of the family’s ancestral home. I also made good use of the next-door grass running track, a rare treasure in a densely populated Indian city.

The work I did for Sambhali was of an administrative nature: I compiled a report for the Sheerni microfinance project, provided consultation and made some modifications to the website copy. This involved organising and combing through the trust documents, sourcing information and reports, conducting research and above all, concision. It is the administrative and marketing side with which Sambhali has most difficulty, as it is hampered by the fact that volunteers such as myself do not stay long enough to provide necessary continuity, and usually lack experience (myself included!). I have no doubt that an experienced and committed long-term member of staff in this area could improve Sambhali’s finances and public image significantly. Nevertheless despite this setback the organisation manages incredibly well. In moments when applications to big funders are not successful Sambhali survives through the support of private individuals from across the globe, convinced both by the achievements of the project, and integrity with which it is conducted.

I hope that in the future Sambhali will remain true to what I believe makes it so successful: a patient, personal approach with small goals, focused on creating sustainable systems, and always open to considering new methods and ideas.

Jodhpur Empowerment Center participants at a dance workshop for 7 days, learning traditional and Bollywood dancing from Dance Choreographer Mr. Sagar of Jodhpur.

Thank you very much dear Lonely Planet for helping the trust by generously contributing to the empowerment of women and girls on the occasion of your company's recently held an internal staff fundraiser to celebrate the launch of Lonely Planet in India and that our organization Sambhali Trust was recommended to yourselves as a worthy one to support.

Volunteer Report –

Caroline Chapman

London, UK


My Story

My name is Caroline Chapman and I have spent the month of November 2011 volunteering at the Setrawa Empowerment Centre. I am 35 years old, a primary school teacher and I live in London, England.

For many years I dreamed of visiting India and I knew that when I did, I wanted to spend part of my experience volunteering. I spent a long time researching different charities and NGOs before I made my decision to come here. I chose to volunteer with the Sambhali Trust because it was a grassroots charity set up by a local man, Govind Singh Rathore, and the charity’s primary concern was the empowerment of women. Also, I wanted to help an organisation which was in need of, and would value, my teaching experience.

My month at the Setrawa Empowerment Centre has been fun, challenging, joyful, hard work, humbling, frustrating at times and enlightening. A multitude of contradictions, just like India itself; but ultimately, an incredible experience which I will never forget.


During my month here I reintroduced the day-time class for girls (primarily from the Dalit caste), which had apparently been disbanded due to the crop season. This class, for me personally, is the most important and should continue to be the main focus. The girls attending often need a lot of care and attention with regard to hygiene, self-esteem and education. As well as teaching Hindi, English and Maths we included activities that nurtured the girls’ emotional development, creativity and practical skills, for example, sewing and embroidery.

A considerable number of children attend the After-School programme at the centre; these children are a mixture of castes and most attend either government or private school. Alongside the more traditional English tuition that the children receive daily, I created a new class – Peacock Class. I introduced this class because I felt strongly that during my month here I wanted to extend and enrich the children’s general education and impart some of my knowledge of different learning methods to the full-time staff here. Peacock Class included activities that develop the children’s thinking skills, confidence, emotional literacy (acknowledging, accepting feelings and learning how to deal with them in a healthy way) communication skills, creativity and health and well-being. I hope that future volunteers will be able to continue this class and add to it with their own experience and skills.

The English tuition classes are split into 4 ability groups and I taught the Advanced Class. This was a lovely group of girls and by the end two boys, who were keen to learn and really impressed me with their knowledge of English. Over the weeks my aim was to extend their ability to speak and write English correctly. The class were adept at reciting grammar and facts, but I wanted to put this learning into practical contexts in order to challenge their skills. The work we did together including the girls writing their own fictional stories, which they read out loud to all the children and an information book about Setrawa village.

I really enjoyed running the workshops on Saturdays. It is challenging because you have a large group of children with a variety of ages, but they loved everything we did together. I chose to do workshops on staying healthy, art and drama and a “sports day”, where the children had to work in teams and had various different races to complete. I feel there is scope to introduce further workshops which involve parents and the community (which I am aware has been done in the past) and would help to continue to forge relationships with the local community and show them the value that the Sambhali Trust is adding to their children’s lives.

Finally, I spent some time in the mornings painting more rhymes and signs on the walls.


My main difficulty has been the fluctuating attendance of the children, which is something the staff have told me that they consistently struggle with too. There have been many different reasons given for this during my time here: weddings, deaths of family members, the distance some of the children have to travel, illness, family responsibilities at home and lack of parental concern for their children attending school. Some parents decide they don’t want their children to come anymore. The lack of regular attendance is of particular concern for the girls attending the day school here – Butterfly Class. Furthermore, the time the girls arrived for Butterfly Class was an issue which I discovered was due to the fact that many of them do not have clocks at home. Taking all this into account it seemed like a miracle when we did get a full class! Usha, Mool Singh and I regularly discussed how we could encourage children’s attendance. Strategies already in place include biscuits given to the Dalit caste children every day, free clothes provided at various points over the year and the staff visiting houses persuading the children to attend.

I felt that introducing different activities to the school programme in Peacock and Butterfly Class would motivate children to attend due to the variety and their enjoyment. I introduced “Good News Assembly” on a Friday to encourage attendance, self-esteem and confidence. Children are chosen from each class to receive public praise and a sticker for special behaviour and effort. This is a strategy used in British schools for the same reasons.

In my last week the numbers in the Butterfly Class really declined. Usha and I decided that she should try giving any child that attended Monday to Friday a small reward, for example, a colouring pencil or nice rubber. Apparently a couple of volunteers in the past had tried this and it seemed to work. My recommendation is to try different strategies and observe the attendance. If something appears to be working, stick with it!

Presently I can think of only two other ideas to try. One is a “walking bus” (which we have in England), whereby an adult is employed to pick the children up and walk them to school together every day. Or to try providing a lunch for Butterfly Class, which obviously has financial connotations.

A minor irritation was the lack of professionalism at time, compared to what I am used to in the workplace back home. I f you are experiencing this you need to be flexible, accepting of another’s culture’s ways and continue to behave in a way you believe is professional and correct. In other words, set a good example so that others have the opportunity to learn from you. In my last week Govind asked me to write job descriptions, which I think will help clarify what everybody’s responsibilities are, including behaviour and conduct.

Finally there was the odd petty village squabble which provoked gossip and paranoia invaded the Centre by sapping time and energy. My advice to you is to stay out of any situation like this and ignore it as much as possible, unless you feel it involves the welfare of the children or the reputation of the Centre. Then inform Govind and he will direct you further. This was just one instance and hopefully nothing you will need to deal with.


Although young and relatively inexperienced, all three tutors at the Centre were always very keen to try out my suggestions. They readily accepted my ideas and took them on board immediately. This really impressed me. I feel confident that they will continue some of the strategies I implemented and use the learning methods I showed them. They were all extremely helpful and whenever I had any kind of problem it was sorted out as soon as possible. Usha, Mool Singh and Pooja are friendly people who really want the best for the children in their care.


Throughout my time here I was lucky to stay with Usha Sharma’s family, one of the teachers at the Centre. The home-stay was one of the aspects of my volunteering that I was most nervous about and was very pleasantly surprised. Although in a rural village, the house was bigger than my flat in London and I got my own bedroom! The house was incredibly clean and had an outside toilet and bathroom (tap, bucket and jug). There was even a contraption to heat water for a ‘shower’, which looked incredibly dangerous, but I was always willing to use! I was treated kindly and with respect by all members of the family. Usha’s father and brother were away a lot. I was given three delicious vegetarian meals a day and didn’t lose any of the weight I thought I might! Usha and her mother really took care of me during my month’s stay and I cannot thank them enough for this. It made being away from everyone I love much more bearable. It also gave me the opportunity to truly experience village life and observe the lives of Indian women.

Overall Experience

As I reflect back on my month here, I feel very privileged to have been able to experience all that I have. In the desert, life is simple and there are not the excesses of the Western world. It seems obvious writing this now, but this experience has shown me what is important and meaningful in my life and what I can live without. For this I am truly grateful!

The children I came in contact with every day were happy, lovable and incredibly hard-working. They were always keen to learn and ready for fun! They have so many wonderful qualities, as well as an abundance of humility; many of the British children I have taught could learn a lot from them. And ultimately, this is what we are here for – the children. So my final advice to you is to always think WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CHILDREN. Consider the learning that they are experiencing at their current school, if any, and think about what you can offer them to build on this. Be bold, creative and think differently. The Sambhali Trust was created to help empower women and here you have the opportunity to help empower the future generation. This may sound grand, but even if you can make a difference to just one child – to raise their confidence, make them believe in themselves, develop their thinking skills or their ability to solve problems – then you would have achieved a lot. Do not underestimate the good you will be able to do.

My final, final advice is to bring lots of books. This is the desert after all! I read five in a month!

Guests from France, Salsa with Jodhpur Empowerment Center girls

In the picture we have Ms. Erika, our volunteer, the three daughters of Manju, the eldest is Pinky and the two brides Sunneta and Pooja waring the garlands. We went to see them this evening and handing over some sarees etc. Today is the first day of their marriage celebration. We tried to help Manju with as much as we could for her daughters. Thank you very much for making us capable of helping.

Today Ms. Jacqueline De Chollet of Global Foundation for Humanity joined us to visit the Sambhali Sheerni Micro-finance project in Setrawa.

Final report from Christa Holland

Since 1st of August until14th of Nov. I worked with the girls and women in Prithivipura and Payalcenter.

My duty had been first of all quality control in Prithivipura because those women are working for the Sambhali Boutique and the workmanship should improve.

In Prithivipura I started to show how to sew hidden seams in Kurtas and taught them to use more often the tapemessurement and pins.Before they never used pins!

To their amusement I made some pincushions and especially Seraswati found out, that pins can be a great help.


Furthermore I tried to make them understand that pressing in-between is not only helpful but necessary for clean workmanship, but because of the lack of space they have in there little room – I failed.

Because of not having room enough to cut out big pattern, they should go on with smaller things like bags, cushion-covers, tablerunners.

They are very good in making the elephants and camels, but should take care of the finishing since they give some work ( like the embroidery) away to other girls of the family.

I told Seraswati that she has to look after the finishing because she is responsible for that.

She is the best in sewing and should correct the others more often. Only she is able to make Kurtas and the handbags in Prithivipura.

The cosmetic bags still are not perfect – the sidepart often has pleats.

Cushion covers improved a lot but the girls have to concentrate and measure more and correct.

Furthermore I highly recommend that they have to learn to work with bias stripes in many cases.

Because of language problems a lot of things I could not explain how I wanted.

In Payalcentre I startet new products like little dolls and small bags and showed them to make the Kurtas and a simple western trouser with hidden seams and cushion covers with buttonholes.

Tamanna was a great help since she could translate and knows everything about sewing and Indian pattern.

Although most of the women asked for every step, they should know in the meantime what to do.

I think they are afraid to do something wrong and it is better to ask and in fact it is.

They do not have the feeling for some things or it doesn’t ´t matter to them, if the seam is not straight, the stitch to big or weather the dolls neck is too long.

But a lot of them use pins now and try to work more precisely. They are very interested to learn new things.

Most of the embroidery is high quality and should be used for different products.

Because every centre has got one electrical machine I showed the woman how to use it.

Most of them are afraid to sew with that machines but a few women in every centre are able to make buttonholes, over locking seams and zick-zack-stitch although to change the different feets, the needle and the bulb.

Especially Pushbar ji is very good and I think it is ok if not all are using the machine, because a lot can go wrong if the women are not able to use the machine properly.

Since there is only one, it can only used by one at the same time and there is no run for.


The women now are able to make simple kurtas and trousers, different bags, dolls, cushioncovers, camels, birds and elephants as well as tablerunners.

We have pattern for all these things and they know how to cut it.

Most of the work improved so much that the products now for selling in the boutique.

I would recommend for the next volunteers to go on with the quality control and improve the things the women know already. Don’t change the things when they are good enough only because we do it in another way, that would confuse them.

Sometimes even we can learn to do things different.

New ideas are always welcome for the women in Payal centre. Make a sample before, it helps a lot.

Heather, Janet and Erika our volunteers painting our Jodhpur Empowerment Center today.

Very Happy to announce that we now have the job descriptions of the staff and volunteers.

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