Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

The whole EduCARE and ViKAS Center Team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The picture below was drawn by Prerne at our last After School Program in Dosarka for this year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Moving with the Migrants

Our last Wednesday activity took us to our Migrant Community in Paro. Living on Government land they face eviction at any given time - 2 weeks ago the day came when they were asked to move.

This means packing up all their belongings including Huts, Tents and Facilities, resettling at another campsite. Fortunately enough, they were able to find another spot close to their old home. Wednesday we went there helping to clear the land, uprooting trees and shrubs, so they can rebuild their homes. An exhausting experience, during which we learned that experience with a shovel or axe can not be outdone by strengh alone.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

New updates

Due to some problems with our internet connection, we haven't been able to upload any blog updates. However, lots of stuff has been going on in the last couple of weeks so get ready for a month's worth of project updates, news from the organization, pictures, etc!

Planting vegetable garden - again

Wednesday 28 sept
Productive Wednesday in Adampur! This week’s group activity consisted of planting the vegetable garden for the local trash pickers. Although it was hard work in the hot sun, the harvest of fresh vegetables for the migrants will hopefully be all worth it. Afterwards we were invited for delicious and much needed lunch: see picture!

Girls Club Khichipur

Thursday 22 September

The Girls Club in Khichipur officially started! Today was the first meeting during which we introduced ourselves and the organization with the help of the lovely Reena (who lives in this village). We were invited to Reena’s family’s house and spoiled with drinks and many, many sweets. If this is what it means to work on the Girls Club, we could definitely get used to it!


Thursday 6 Oct
Today’s Dusserrah Festival! The Adampur house was bursting out of its vessels by all of the interns that were staying over, so we had our own little party on the roof top. From here we could see the parade passing by and wave to all the people participating in it!

Alex's farewell party

Thursday 20 Oct
This is what 12 people crammed in a Jeep looks like! We obviously had a blast at Alex’s farewell dinner J

Golden Temple @ Amritsar

The Golden Temple is only 2 hours away, so it´s frequently visited by our interns:


Wednesday 26 October
Today´s Diwali, one of the most important holidays in India. It´s also called the Festival of Lights, as can be seen on the pictures. Fireworks have been cracking for days and the streets are filled with little stalls selling candy in every color and shape imaginable. People are hugging us on the street and stuffing us with candy, so this is definitely our favorite holiday so far!

Friday, 9 September 2011

New vegetable garden for the Adampur Trash Pickers!

On Wednesday, September 7th ViKAS Centre interns had the exciting new assignment of initiating a farm plot in the migrant community in Adampur. We have been working with the migrant community of 31 members since April 2011 on various issues of health, nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, economic sustainability, waste management and education.  They face a complex range of social, health and environmental issues that we seek to address in a holistic and integrated way to improve their overall living conditions through building a partnership of trust and respect. One of the main problems faced in this community is poor or inadequate nutrition.  Many members only eat once a day in order to save money and their level of awareness on a balanced diet is limited.  Therefore, as a first step at improving their nutrition levels and awareness we helped them clear the land for planting of a range of vegetables.
The Land before cultivation
To start the job, Interns took turns cutting grass and weeds in order to clear a square plot of land located just behind the community. This task was at times challenging due to the heat but everyone persevered.
Mr B, Dan, Yvan and Hiroki all hard at work
 Once the land was cleared interns began planting vegetable seeds. Some of these included radish, spinach, peas, and chili.

Gulshan,Alex,Suzy and Dan planting seeds
Unfortunately, our organic farming team was away at a workshop and unable to give their advice, but the rest of the interns came together and used their collective knowledge to plant successfully.  However, our organic farm team will be visiting the plot later this week to give their inputs and advice on companion planting, organic pest management and weed control.

                  The next step for the land is to shield it from unwanted animals. Even while the interns were planting seeds, a heard of water buffalo tried to intrude, but we made sure that they got the message and scared them away, as well as spoke to their owner about keeping them off this plot of land.

The current crop of EduCARE interns after a hard days work
Names from back row left to Right, Yvan,Dan, Liz, Nick, Julia, hiroki, Alvin, Rachael, Alex,
middle row: Rieke, Tono, Yuki, Shantie,
front row: Gulshan, Suzi

             Overall, the day was a success and if the community tends to the land with our help and guidance, it should thrive with vegetables for them in the future. This is a first step to help improve their diet and nutrition levels as well as save them money for the future. We hope also in the coming weeks to extend this plot to include more vegetables. We will be sure to keep you updated on the progress of this project!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Health Day in Adampur: Trash Pickers Visit Local Health Facilities

Hannah Wolkwitz, coordinator of health day, spent weeks organizing transportation, supervision, and free check-ups with local hospitals for the Trash Pickers community in Adampur.  The health day was realized several days before her departure from EduCARE. The Trash Pickers community suffer from constant health problems due to poor sanitation, water, and other conditions in which they live. The goal for the health day was to complete a general physical for the majority of the community, numbering around thirty people.
Interns accompanied three to five individuals from the community to two facilities. EduCARE volunteers were responsible for recording health information and ensuring individuals received free medicine.  The Lion’s Club offered free eye examinations and diabetes tests. The community collected basic eye medication and, for those who needed it, spectacles. The Civil Hospital provided a urine test, weight and height measurements, and blood tests for iron, along with iron supplements.  

Civil Hospital employees checking blood pressure.
An English student and friend of EduCARE, Sukhjinder Singh, extended a helping hand, as usual, by transporting, in multiple shifts, the community to both locations. After initial disorganization and delay at the Lion’s Club during the first shift, interns developed a system to oversee that each person would be attended to. At the Civil Hospital the children bravely bared finger pricks. The community’s dog, Tiger, accompanied them for moral support, at times over-extending that support by lounging in the lobby.
The day required the attention of each member of the EduCARE team. As a much anticipated event and one in planning for awhile, it proved to be quite successful for a community plagued by a plethora of health concerns. The information recorded will be of avail to assist the community in understanding its own health and sanitation issues, as well as to go on record for future interns working to improve the general health of the Trash Pickers. Furthermore, the day spent in two health facilities will hopefully spread awareness among the community that there are local resources available to them that should be utilized.

Krishan receives a free eye examination at the Lion's Club.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Things Are A-cookin' in Abhowal

On Sunday, July 24, Girls Club in Abhowal held an event for the entire Abhowal community.  The event showcased artwork by the girls, a skit about nutrition, a dance that promoted physical fitness, and an inspiring song about humans and the Earth! 

Girls Club Abhowal, which began in early June, has focused on the topics of personal hygiene, nutrition, food safety, and physical fitness in its first month.  While the event served as a way to show off what the girls had learned over the past month, it also was a great way to connect with the girls' mothers, siblings, and community at-large in Abhowal.  Taking place at the Gudwara, it began with an introduction of the girls and an explanation of why Girls Club exists. 

After the introduction the girls performed a skit written by our very own Yiwen Hsia, focused on the importance of healthy eating.  The crowd was delighted by the heart-warming tale of five sisters who all had different diets.  One daughter only ate fruit for healthy hair, the second ate only dairy for healthy skin, the third only grains for a strong body, and the forth only vegetables for a good figure.  Only the youngest daughter ate everything her mother prepared.  When all the other daughters suffered from poor health due to their limited diet, the mother asked for help from the wise old women of the village. The wise old woman realized that the girls' picky diets were to blame for their health problems and she decided to teach them a lesson. She gave them two solutions to their problems: to either change their diet or to hop on one leg repeating “dippy dippy doo” three times. While the older sisters hopped and chanted, they envied their youngest sister for her long healthy hair, her strong body, her beautiful figure, and clear skin. They finally realized that she was so beautiful and healthy because of her balanced diet, reflecting on their own poor choices.

The skit ended with an uplifting dance choreographed by the girls. The audience was dragged to the dance floor and everyone joined in on the fun and physical fitness! Volunteers displayed art projects from previous Girls Club meetings, including plates of healthy meals and posters on personal hygiene. The event was a huge success; the Abhowal community took pride in the girls and all they had learned.  The sense of accomplishment the girls felt and the joy they took in showing off to their friends and family was a great step towards empowerment!  Thanks to all who came out to the event and supported the girls! 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Five interns, two buckets and a pile of gold…brown gold!

On a July weekend the members of the Sotla Interns house were presented with what can only be described as a mountain of a task.  Something that would test their metal, harden their spirits and leave them covered in animal poo.

Modestly equipped with a pair of buckets and spades, the five of us set to work to transport the pile of cow dung the ten meters to the stirring pit, mix it with water, and coax the slurry down into the bio-gas plant.  Why were we doing this?  Locked up in the cow manure is methane gas, which will be piped from the plant to our kitchen, providing a clean and renewable source of energy for us to use for cooking.  

To make our task even more dramatic, methane gas was leaking out of the pile as it was lying there for two days in the open, making it a race against time to get the manure into the hole as soon as possible.  Progress initially was slow and we felt the job would be too time consuming without the help of additional labour, which can be found around Sotla.  Alarmingly no labour could be found as they were all committed to working on the farms, and in an amusing inversion of the principles of ViKAS and SEVA, we found ourselves in a situation where we had money but no labour! (Our principles are labour first, materials second and money last).

There was nothing left to do but begin work and get as much completed as we could.  After four hours of unyielding toil, five manure covered bodies were lying limp on the ground, but the pile was no more.  We had won…It was gone.

Many thanks goes to Tom, Yiwen, Jerah, Martha and Julia.  Your valiant efforts will be etched into the minds of the other team members and local villagers, and you will always be remembered as the strange white people who left their lives of comfort, luxury and privilege, to come to India and play with the cow poo.  

(Courtesy: Renewable Energy Initiative - ViKAS, Bhunga-Dosarka)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Poet girls

Caryn, our intern from USA has started a poetry group with the Manderan Village Girls Club at ViKAS Centre Adampur. With a background and passion for many creative persuits, Caryn believes in the power of poetry to facilitate creativity, expression and improve the language skills of the girls.

With the help of Lauren and Natalia (the other two interns from US & Columbia for this project), the first Poetry session started in Manderan in the last week of June 2011. After creating some engaging discussions about friendship they named the new club 'Kavita' (which means poetry in Pubjabi). Bringing this poetry element to the Girls' Club gave the girls a chance to practice their English and to have an expressive outlet to communicate their feelings, desires and issues.

The girls were asked to write a poem about a friend. Caryn remarked: We were very pleased by their ability to articulate/read and share their poems in pretty good English as well as being impressed with the sentiment of the poems.”  Overall the girls were very engaged and enthusiastic and it was a great success!

This poem is by Akbir, she is twenty-five and her friendship poem was about her teacher:

"To my teacher:
I was a drop of rain,
You made me a nectar.
I was less than a man,
You made me a human.
People say that God is one,
But I say that God is two:
One's in heaven, and another on earth--that's you."

Another poem written by an adolescent girl named, Jasmit Kaur speaks of the various facets of her friendship with her best friend:

"I have many friends, but Hargot is my best friend.
She always speaks the truth; she is a good girl.
I see every quality in her which I want in my friend.
Sometimes we get angry with each other, but then we start talking.
She loves me and I also love her very much."

Apart from this Maria, Silvia and Guilia worked with members of other centres to start a new Girls Club in Janauri with initial activities focussing on cultural diversity and global awareness.   The interns gave presentations on their home countries, sharing with them some interesting facts about their cultures and life styles. The girls were happy to have new activities to participate in and to have a chance to practice and improve their English. The meeting finished with “musical chairs”, all the girls and the interns danced together fighting for the chairs!  A fun day for everyone!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Teach me more!

Lauren teaches her lesson to an enthusiastic class
Turns out that our students can't seem to get enough of our spoken English classes here at the Institute for Global Awareness, Adampur. Class sizes are booming at present, after an unexpected surge of interest in lessons in the past two weeks. We have so many keen and eager new starters that not only do we have our usual class between 10:00 - 11:30, but we have now had to put on an early bird class at 08:30 - 10:00. Sadly for our interns this means no more lie-ins in the morning!

Both Lauren and Natalia have been sharing teaching duties, as doing three hours of lessons back-to-back can be quite demanding. However, they have taken these developments in their stride, and have continued to discuss many key topics and issues including, culture shock, wasteIns management, drugs, and politics. Students find the classes fun and engaging, and all this extra revenue being generated is great for our social projects, as we are able to direct more finances towards them.

What's equally encouraging is that Jerah, who is working very hard on putting together a proper curriculum of sorts, is making great headway and should have a structure for lessons in place by the time that her internship finishes! Meanwhile the lessons in Dosarka are still just as successful as ever, as fees are being paid on time (always important), with students taking a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from lessons! 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Organic Farming: Update from Sotla II

Jerah, her ginger hair and her green fingers...
For all of you out there, and especially those who participated in our last farm meeting, and worked so hard preparing soil and sewing, you will be pleased to know that all is well at the Sotla farm. The lady-fingers and tumeric are get taller every day, despite a few pesky cotton bugs. The crop should be bearing fruit by our next farm meeting in July.

Other plans for the near future involve a farm sign, sewing peanuts and neem trees, and two top-bar beehives to keep our plants pollinated, and the honey flowing. Let’s also hope that our proposed 4th of July party is not flooded out by the coming monsoon!

We would also like to say many thanks to three of our recently departed interns, Edith Welker, Javin Smith and Jessica Burgess. Their insight, hard work and determination did wonders for the progress of the farm project, and their good humor kept us laughing. We will miss you guys!

Building recycling storage

Project blueprint - recycling facility
As always, we have been busy plotting and planning something new! This time it is back to Janauri. Manuel has been meticulously labouring over these drawings, which are the blueprints for a new bamboo framed Waste Separation, Storage and Recycling Facility (WSSRF). It is being built for (and largely by) the migrant community in Paro, a neighbouring village of Janauri. We thought that we would leave the construction side of things to the locals who have the best knowledge on building these type of huts.

Plan for the interior shelving of the facility
The purpose of this new WSSRF unit is so that when the monsoon rains come, the trash can be kept dry and retain its value, as such things like wet cardboard do not sell. In addition it will keep the migrant community clean, tidy and organised. Operations have got under way with the build. Last week all the interns ventured across to Janauri and spent a hard days work stripping all the bamboo from knots. Most of our blisters have just about healed, and now it's time to erect the structure!

More to follow. Check back next week for the finished article.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Making cleaning both cleaner and greener

Our newly devised range of cleaning products
The first of our REstore project initiatives has launched, with a service providing environmentally friendly cleaning products to the different ViKAS centres and intern houses. Gone are the days of bleach, sulphates and other invisible menaces. At hand are the days of locally produced, natural, package-free products to clean even the dirtiest of intern houses (OK, maybe not the Adampur house :p)

This new range of cleaning products includes:
  • Natural soap - to use for washing dishes and laundry Rs. 40/kg
  • Baking soda (Rs. 15 per 1/4kg) 
  • White vinegar (Rs. 20 per bottle) 
  • Lime juice 
  • Borax (Rs. 110 per box) 
  • Spray bottles (Rs. 50) 
  • Sponges (Rs.20)

    With these environmentally friendly products at hand, cleaning can be done easily, but also at a much cheaper rate. All-purpose cleaner, floor cleaner, carpet stains, mold and mildew remover, drain cleaner, disinfectant, and even toilet bowl cleaner can be made by mixing these ingredients in certain quantities (for details of recipes please enquire).

    REstore aims to get to grips with the logistics of retail by first supplying goods to its most reliable market, the interns. Once this has been achieved we hope to venture out into the hardnosed and unforgiving world of public retail, guided by the torch of SEVA and driven by the power of will.

    Tom Kee (REstore Manager) said, 'We are currently working on procuring cleaning products for the houses whole sale, to give the interns the best price possible'.

    For this project to be sustainable, we have realised that the right incentives need to be in place. Let us move forward together, and provide natural, locally produced cleaning products at competitive prices for all peoples. Mr B has seen the future, and he has told us it was green.

    Thursday, 9 June 2011

    A lovely launch in Abhowal

    The girls pose for a photo!
    On the back of the success with the Abhowal After School Programme (ASP), Yi Wen, Centre Manager for Dosarka, has managed to form a new Girls Club in the same village! People are seriously starting to question when she has time to sleep!

    On the launch of the new club, a really buoyant group of fifteen turned up to mark its inception - from which more than half of the girls attend ASP too. So, there is a nice sense of continuity within the group that Yi Wen has to work with. 

    Yi Wen's account of the launch is as follows:
    We started off a little bit later than scheduled, but as we are in India and we have to take into account IST (Indian Stretchable Time).

    Our first stop was Amrit’s house, where we waited for the girls, as well as two of our interns – Natalia (Adampur) and Maria (Janauri), who joined Martha, Julia and myself who all came to support the launch. At Amrit's we had some tea and refreshments, and then went to the village Gurdwara.

    With the girls, we started off with a short introduction of the organization, what we do, and what we want to achieve with Girls Club. The girls were listening very closely and were very enthusiastic. Chenni was the translator. Although her English is not perfect, I think she got the essence of what was being said, and relayed this information accordingly.

    Afterwards all the girls had to introduce themselves, by saying their name, age and what they liked to do. Although some of the younger ones would repeat what the older girls said, it was clear that the majority of the girls liked to dance. It was a good way for the girls to get to know one another, as well as a perfect opportunity for them to practice their English too.

    Listening intently...
    This was followed by some icebreaker games - name games - where we had to memorize each others names. It was a good way to interact with the girls and to learn each others names in a fast and fun way. It also made us bond more with the girls. They were a bit shy at first, but afterwards they became more confident with speaking English and speaking to the other interns.

    We then had a break, which I definitely think is a good thing. To have a small break in the middle of each session is nice, so that the girls will feel that they are in a fun and relaxed environment, where they feel comfortable. We had chai and snacks, and then went to Chenni’s house to meet her family.

    After this, we went back to the Gurdwara and did our final activity. We split the girls in five groups, and each of the interns supporting the launch, had to ask the girls what they wanted to become, and how they thought they could achieve it.

    Chenni was extremely helpful in translating for us, and she was very diligent. With this activity the girls experienced some troubles in expressing themselves, but I’m confident that with the English classes, they will improve fast. 

    After this we presented our future dream job to the other girls. And many of them aspired to become a teacher or a nurse. We will keep these documents, and after a month or two, we will take them out again and see if anything has changed, and if so, how and why it has or has not changed.

    The girls saving 'bye' as the interns get the bus :)
    By the end of the launch the girls were extremely excited, and the interns were left very happy with the success of the days proceedings. 

    Finally, Yi Wen enthused, 'I’m really happy with the results. It was a good introduction and there was a good atmosphere and positive attitudes. We are all looking for the next Girls Club, next week Friday'. Great to hear!

    Making a stove, to make a difference!

    Finishing touches - smoothing out the stove

    One of the problems that the migrant communities face within daily life is the access to combustible material (primarily wood) in order to burn for cooking purposes. In India, you often see communities that heard cattle making patties out of the cow or buffalo dung, which they then dry out to use as fuel. However, with the Trash Picker community in Adampur, they have few assets, and certainly do not have the finances to procure the most cherished of animals, a cow. With limited resources and little availability to cow excrement, we had to come up with a solution to try and make cooking less burdensome.

    Here at ViKAS we are pretty resourceful folk, although, it is still crazy to think that you can make a fully working, fuel efficient stove in under two hours out of, well... poo, mainly. Structurally, all you need is two plastic buckets, to form the basic mould of stove around. Then for the material: natural clay (5 buckets per stove) FRESH cow dung (3 buckets) natural sand (1 bucket) and water... Oh, and of course, lots of enthusiastic interns, and some local know-how!

    Every stove has to start somewhere...
    So, it all sounds simple enough. Here is the procedure:
    1. Set the wider of the plastic buckets on its end, and the narrower bucket perpendicular against it (this will form the negative space where the fuel is inserted and burned).
    2. Combine clay, dung, and sand, and mix it at first with a shovel, then thoroughly by hand until there is an even consistency. Add small amounts of water as needed, to bind. 
    3. Take 'snowballs' of the mixture and throw it against the two-bucket structure in order to expel all the air from the material as you build. 
    4. Hold boards around the area to define the stove's shape as you throw.
    5. 4-6" up, place a stick perpendicular to the upright plastic bucket (this will form the negative space where the smoke will escape from - a chimney).
    6. Continue throwing balls of the mixture, and sculpting with the boards until the stove reaches 8-12" tall.
    7. Place the family cooking pot on top of the upright plastic bucket and continue throwing the mixture around the base of the pot - to form a custom fit of the pot to the stove. 
    8. Smooth out the shape of the stove with boards, and by hand, decorate if you want!
    9. Allow the stove to dry for two weeks with no use whatsoever. Cover well with tarpaulin in order to prevent any moisture getting to the completed stove.
    The finished article. Now to let it dry!!
    This was the process that we followed for the first of our stoves that we built, which turned out to be a great success. We managed to engage with the local community, as our willingness was met by the whole of the Trash Picker community who came over and offered advice, suggestions and praise! 

    Everyone involved - the community loving the new stove
    Looking forward, hopefully we can replicate this activity with the marginalized communities that we work with in both Janauri and Dosarka, as well as amongst the Snake Charmer's who are settled in Adampur too. With this project, involvement is key, as the more the community helps, the more they will learn, and the more they will gain a sense of belonging over the end product!

    And for us, well, we are just pleased that we can help introduce:
    • A 60-70% reduction in fuel consumption
    • Faster cooking times
    • A reduction in carbon emissions 
    • Fuel cost savings
    • Less time spent collecting wood for fuel
    • Forest tree conservation
    On the weekend the members of the Sotla Interns house were presented with what can only be described as a mountain of a task. Something that would test their metal, harden their spirits and leave them covered in animal poo.

    Modestly equipped with a pair of buckets and spades, the five of us set to work to transport the pile of cow dung the ten meters to the stirring pit, mix it with water, and coax the slurry down into the bio-gas plant. Why were we doing this? Locked up in the cow manure is methane gas, which will be piped from the plant to our kitchen, providing a clean and renewable source of energy for us to use for cooking.

    To make our task even more dramatic, methane gas was leaking out of the pile as it was lying there for two days in the open, making it a race against time to get the manure into the hole as soon as possible. Progress initially was slow and we felt the job would be too time consuming without the help of additional labour, which can be found around Sotla. Alarmingly no labour could be found as they were all committed to working on the farms, and in an amusing inversion of the principles of ViKAS and SEVA, we found ourselves in a situation where we had money but no labour! (Our principles are labour first, materials second and money last).

    There was nothing left to do but begin work and get as much completed as we could. After four hours of unyielding toil, five manure covered bodies were lying limp on the ground, but the pile was no more. We had won…It was gone.

    Many thanks goes to Tom, Yiwen, Jerah, Martha and Julia. Your valiant efforts will be etched into the minds of the other team members and local villagers, and you will always be remembered as the strange white people who left their lives of comfort, luxury and privilege, to come to India and play with the cow poo.

    (Courtesy: Renewable Energy Initiative - ViKAS, Bhunga-Dosarka)

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011

    Trash talking with the Local Schools

    School kids learn about the importance of a clean environment
    In order to make the S.W.A.S.H. project in Janauri sustainable we need to change peoples behaviours. This happens through making waste disposal easy and practical. In our case, we firstly introduced the recycling bags scheme within the village, and then followed this up with projects, such as restoring the public restroom and undertaking groundworks in the water gutter area. Much to our delight, all of these S.W.A.S.H. efforts have drawn increasing interest and cooperation from within the local community.

    Changing age-old habits is not going to happen in the short-term. We recognise that we won't be pulling up any trees overnight, but with the success of these projects, coupled with a great visual presence in the village, this may take a while, but we will change peoples attitudes over time!

    With the idea of 'legacy' in mind, for the long-term success of this effort, the S.W.A.S.H. team decided to sensitize the minds of the future decision makers - the children of Janauri. We are currently working with four schools, three in Janauri - the Girls Middle School, the Mixed Middle School and the Modern Public School - and one in Paro (neighbouring village) - the SDM School. The general idea is to give presentations and workshops at these schools, to raise awareness, so students learn about local and global environmental problems. With a problem, there needs to be an remedy, so we discuss and propose solutions with the children and teachers too. Together we work to identify how the locals can strive towards achieving the goal of a clean environment to live within!

    There have been presentations in three of the schools with the Modern Public School already scheduled for July. In the future we are looking forward to create one presentation/workshop per month and present them at the schools, one school a week. This series of events will start in July as the kids are on holiday throughout June.

    The plinth - just before the Janauri team address their masses!!
    The children have been enjoying our presentations and showed great interest. With games like the 'trash game', where the children have to guess what kind of waste is shown to them, and the 'good/bad plays', where we act out different good and bad habits concerning waste. We are trying to make learning about the environment as fun and exciting as possible. It is a serious health issue, which is sometimes difficult to raise the children's interest towards the topic. However, by making the presentations interactive and exciting, we seem to be capturing their attention!

    We have to keep our presentations very basic and simple so the translation into Hindi/Punjabi is easier for the teachers. Having experienced good translation so far and having increased the general knowledge of the students about environment, we will try to go into more detail and address more complicated topics in the future. So far so good!! :)

    Wednesday, 25 May 2011

    All the way to Uttarakhand... Organic farming!!

    Success!! Interns had a great time at the organic farm camp!!!
    It was a long trip. An overnight train, a day on the bus, a three-hour taxi ride and a 40 minute hike up to the SARG farm near Nainital, Uttarakhand. But we were rewarded by stunning mountain views, excellent home-cooked meals and a wealth of knowledge on bio-dynamic farming – a very unique method well suited to the Indian culture and environment.

    Our teachers were experts in the fields on organic and bio-dynamic farming, some working for the government training centers of Uttarakhand, and some farmers themselves. They were kind enough to share with us their knowledge of the field and let us ask copious amount of questions.

    Eight members of EduCARE completed a three-day course which included lectures and practical lessons on the basics of bio-dynamic farming – which in the very simplest terms means “How to make cow poo work for you”. The method was developed in New Zealand, and later brought to India, where it has caught on widely in some regions, and presents a promising alternative to conventional, chemical farming. It uses cow dung and urine, green manure, compost and vermiculture systems to create a completely closed-circle sustainable farm, complete with natural growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers and seeds, all produced on-site. The bio-dynamic method also incorporates the astrological calendar when determining dates of sewing, harvesting, fertilizing and general farm activity.

    Although it is empty at the moment, the farm hosts a bee-house where honey is produced, and 4 cows which produce enough by-product to sustain the entire 24 acre farm. It is also the largest producer of vermilian extract in India.

    We were introduced to several different composting methods, seed storage methods, and pesticide recipes, and of which we would like to see working on the EduCARE farm in Sotla in the future. We were also surprised and happy to hear that bio-dynamic and organic farms produce just as much crop as a chemical farm – which we know is a huge concern for farmers who sustain themselves and their families on their land.

    We are sincerely grateful to the organizers and teachers of our course for giving us some of the tools we need to make our farm a productive and sustainable example for local farmers in the Bhunga Block, and throughout India. 

    Here is another really interesting website on organic farming and organic products from Uttarakhand!

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    Going with the flow

    The disgusting state of the muddy hole/run-off water
    As part of our ongoing S.W.A.S.H. project in Januari, this Wednesday, those interns who were not away on a the bio-dynamic farming course (more to come on the blog soon), gathered to take on the so-called water gutter problem that is being faced by the village. 

    The problem: The used run-off water that is guttered along the side of the street (mainly from the kitchens and showers of peoples homes) had become stuck in front of the Boy's Middle School, due to a muddy hole that had formed in the street. This, combined with trash flushed in by the rain, coupled with the extreme heat, had led to this disgusting patch that the school kids had to confront on a daily basis - both aurally and visually.

    Additionally, this area had become a more problematic issue for the whole village at large. Not only had the area become aesthetically unappealing, but now the stagnant water that had formed was slowly seeping into the ground, which is one of main causes of the bad ground water quality, the water that people drink and use to irrigate their farmland - a real issue for concern!

    Appoline and Annette picking up the trash
    What happened: The days work started with the ladies bravely taking on the dirty job of cleaning out the water gutter, and ridding it of all the trash that had been thrown carelessly into the area. Meanwhile, simultaneously, the men dug out the canal on the other side of the road, to make it ready for the plumbing of the pipe under the road that had become blocked over the years with trash and sludge. 

    There was plenty of support from the locals
    Right from the start the interns experienced a lot of community support, which was fantastic for us! To see that the community were interested and willing to help was really nice. We had up to four community members helping at one time - support that was very welcome on such a hot day!!

    The all-important plumbing - with bamboo!
    After the plumbing was done, we needed to rebuild the original canal in the water gutter section of the project and then level the rest of the hole. After moderate success using the leveler (a cricket pitch roller), it was clear, that the leveling could not be finished, as the ground was still too wet under the layer of dry mud and sand that all the interns had dug up. This particular part of the project, the leveling, will be continued during the next week by the S.W.A.S.H. team members in Janauri, as the land will dry out and become more stable.

    Leveling out the area with sand, mud, and feet!
    Yet, having everybody thinking that the work was done, the project manager for the day, Manuel, happened to have his heart set on the idea of moving the extremely heavy concrete pipes. His desire, to use them to protect the new canal we had dug-out from preventing trash from gathering their again. 

    Despite the fact we were all tired, after another hour of hard and sweaty work, the first part of the canal was successfully covered by one of the big concrete pipes - a great success. Covering the canal properly will now prevent the water from future blockages due to trash, mud and plants that had previously caused flow issues.

    The new canal, a job well done!!
    Pipe down - the new drainage system in place
    From the side of the S.W.A.S.H. project team in Janauri it has to said: Thanks for the great support from the interns in Adampur and Dosarka for helping out with what was a very hard, very hot and dirty days work.

    Tuesday, 10 May 2011

    Pandori's football frenzy!

    Talking tactics, before the game
    On Wednesday afternoon, the ‘International Hunters’ football team once again squared off against the always dangerous ‘Pandori Tigers’. Our team was made up of Will, Javin, Manuel, Ethan, Daikin and myself (Tom). The game was played on Pandori soil, on a new pitch far larger than anything played on before. The sheer size of the pitch was a rigorous test of cardio for all players. I personally found myself insisting on being goal keeper in the second half, and with a benevolent show of mercy, the other players let me.

    Stand out performances came from Daikin and Ethan, who did not shy away from battling, with great success, with individuals far larger and older than themselves. Daikin took a few knocks, but with an admirable display of resolve, was quick to shake them off and head back into the thick of the action. Manuel had to leave after the first half, which was unfortunate because he was our main goal scorer. He had the uncanny ability to score goals using what seemed like pure strength. It was as if the ball was in a snow plough being driven straight into the goal, with bodies being flung from all sides. Praise also goes to Javin and Will, who were the rocks of the team, grinding out the hard work and keeping the Tigers at bay.

    Leslie's view of all the action!!
    Thanks to Yi Wen and Leslie for coming and showing support. About twenty five players and spectators came from Pandori village. Even though we ended up losing 7-4, it was a fun way to get to know more of the young people from the village, and they were very eager to schedule in the next game. I hope in the near future SWASH will be able to launch a project in Pandori, for which activities such as this will play a vital part in promoting. The environmental message of SWASH, and RuralDEV values of volunteerism are most easily promoted amongst the young, and I look forward to future activities to further build the relationship between the Dosarka Centre and Pandori Village.