Sunday, 17 April 2011


Poor water quality in Janauri
Plastic bags, wrappers, cans, batteries, coke bottles. One would hope you would find these items stashed away in a green recycle bin on a street corner. But in Punjab, and the village of Janauri specifically, this is sadly not the case. Batteries lie in river basins, plastic bags clog gutters, and broken glass litters cricket playing fields. Even worse, some of these items are even set ablaze as a means of the eradicating waste, polluting the surrounding air, water, and soil. It is a short-term solution with drastic costs. 

This is why the S.W.A.S.H. project (Sanitation of Water, Air, and Soil for Healthy Villages) was founded in Janauri. The S.W.A.S.H. project is addressing waste disposal challenges at the village level to tackle issues such as toxins in the air, water, and soil from burning waste, poor/undrinkable water quality, and general mismanagement of waste. Janauri is a particularly important location as much of the polluted water that passes through the village continues westward into the irrigational system of the lowland farming districts.

Problem and solution (waste in the background, bag in the foreground)
Thus far, S.W.A.S.H. has implemented a recyclable waste management system to discourage the community from burning their waste and littering water basins. Currently, twelve bags are located in central Janauri, including near shop fronts, high pedestrian traffic areas, and in two schools. The community has shown much support for this initiative, including some members already taking the initiative to assemble more recycling bags to meet the current demand. S.W.A.S.H. is also committed to using nearly all re-usable materials for the assembly of recycle bags. This includes old cement bags serving as recycle bags, and everything from plastic lining to old electrical wires as rope.

Community support
The recycling initiative in Janauri experienced initial success and is currently at a consistent level of waste disposal and collection. In the next month, S.W.A.S.H. is planning to expand the recycling program to the temple district of Janauri. It has been our constant goal to see that our motto, “Clean Janauri, Beautiful Janauri”, is being realized through the empowerment of the community.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Girl Power!

Punjabi dancing at Girls Club, Mandeiran
There are currently two Girls Clubs being run in villages near to our centre in Adampur. The main goals of the Girls Clubs are to promote the empowerment of girls and women, endorse gender equality, improve self esteem, build leadership skills, provide education about various issues pertaining to health, the environment, and general life skills, and to supply a space for girls to discuss and share ideas, participate in recreational activities, and most importantly have fun!

In January of this year, intern Angie started up the Girls Club in Ramdaspur, and since her departure it has continued to be run successfully by interns Appoline, Krista, and Natalia. More recently, a new Girls Club was started in Mandeiran Town, and has so far had two successful meetings. The first meeting in Mandeiran Town was attended by approximately 15 girls between the ages seven to twenty three. 

Girls thinking big
The meeting began by each girl introducing themselves to the group by stating their names, their interests, and their dreams. Next, everyone played a game of charades where each girl took a turn acting out different words such as ‘confidence, beauty, healthy environment, and pollution’ while the other girls had to guess what the word was. In both activities all of the girls participated enthusiastically. Afterwards, Natalia and Krista discussed with the girls what sort of activities they wanted to have in the Girls Club. Many girls provided their ideas and stated among the many answers that they wanted to clean up their village, improve the environment, talk about health related issues, play sports (as the boys often exclude them), and of course... dance Punjabi style! 

A colourful first meeting
The following meeting was held the next week on the day of Vaisakhi. Natalia, Krista, and the girls first visited the village Gurdwara and then spent the rest of the time visiting some of the girl’s families in order to introduce themselves and the concept of the Girls Club. Next week, the activities for the Girls Club in Mandeiran shall commence with a friendly game of football planned between the girls and hopefully the boys. Until then, here are some pictures from this week’s meeting in Mandeiran Town.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

After School Programme: Adampur

Rohit with his cat
Yesterday we introduced the migrant kids to colour. We have been drawing pictures with them for a while now, either them drawing alone or by an intern penciling an outline of an animal, for example, which they then colour in! It has been running smoothly so far, and the kids really enjoy expressing themselves and being creative. However, it felt like the right time to introduce them to something new.

As we have recently part-moved office here in Adampur, we now have a new facility (as well as the office in town) down near the migrant communities dwellings, so we can now do more structured teaching with them. Having a classroom environment makes a big difference, and we can give the kids more attention here, whilst we feel that they can focus better too.

Learning colours
Local volunteer Ravi, who incidently is a wizard with a pencil, has been helping us bridge the language barrier, and helps to explain to the kids what we would like them to do! So, colours - the basics at least. First we had a game showing them a colour, and then they had to first tell us the Punjabi, then the English. It was great, as many of the kids knew their colours and were even able to spell them out in English too. Terrific stuff!

Kids drawing animals
Afterwards, as a treat, we then handed out the pens and paper to the kids and watched them scribble and shade more great pictures (new wallpaper for the office!) It's fantastic to see them using the animal cards (that we have been making for them, even if a couple of them did go walkies?!) copying them, the word and its translation. Furthermore, they are that proud that the kids always ask how to spell their name - as great artists do - they love to sign their work!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Working with marginalized communities

Very basic living within marginalized communities
We have been visiting two migrant camps in Adampur for a few months now. The migrants here face a range of complex social, economic, health and discrimination issues. We have been using our visits to get to know the community and their needs using applied research principles. It has been a wonderful experience to spend most days eating, playing and dancing with the migrant community, getting to know them and building mutual trust. 

From this interaction we have come up with a few ideas and plans to improve their social and economic wellbeing. We are using a holistic approach that addresses their issues in an integrated way. We envisage that these approaches will include microfinance, health assessments, sanitation, swash and organic farming.

Rachael and Isis with the migrant children
It is exciting to be establishing and creating this project from scratch in such a broad way. We look forward to letting things naturally evolve and develop as we get to know the communities deeper and working with them to help improve their living conditions.

Organic Farming: Update from Sotla

Manuel raking away
Today was the first EVER coalescence of EduCARE interns on the organic farm plot in Sotla, Punjab. Thanks to all the 14 heroes that turned up today at 7am to help out, we now have 100 square feet of dirt primed for folding in manure and planting seeds, a working compost system, and only one broken hoe. There were lots of ups and downs, though mostly ups in terms of temperature. There were surprise guest appearances from Mr. Bhullar (with chai and cookies), a giant spider, and various local spectators. Despite the distractions we hoed like mad all the way to midday.

Our patch for organic farming in Sotla, Dosarka
The organic farming project has come a long way in only three weeks. We've expanded our plot from 30 square feet to 100, removed all of the weeds, wildflowers, and abandoned carrots, and aerated the soil by hand. Thanks to Tom Kee, EduCARE's waste management intern, we've got a 2- bin compost system built, and lots of organic waste to fill it with. There's a completed survey to conduct among the local farmers so we can start building relationships with them and understand the lay of the land here in Sotla. Channels of communication are open with other organic farms in the region, and through them we've already got local, organic, heirloom seeds of okra, gourd, amaranth, and cucumber. We're also hot on the trail of organic green manure seeds and red wigglers for composting.

In the next 2 months we're confident there'll be little organic seedlings of oat, okra, gourd, cucumber, cantaloupe, amaranth, and beans braving the Punjabi sun, and a big batch of rich compost ready for the soil. By June there should also be a wealth of information about the farming community here in Sotla, as well as increased local understanding about the organic farming project. We're looking forward to the next round of interns who will keep this ball rolling, and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the labor done so far. 

Yi Wen and Isis help clear the land
To newcomers, the plan is simple: start an organic plot, spread to hundreds if not thousands of acres and thereby save the world by reducing pesticide use in Punjab, then India, and then the world. Obviously, this is far easier said than done. In order for the organic farming vision to take hold in the region, there needs to be a paradigm shift. The immeasurable value of organic farming needs to be embraced by the community. Luckily, with this first assembly of dedicated interns this process has started. With every morning spent in the field, Punjab, the breadbasket of India, gets a step closer to organic. When asked by the locals, “What are you doing with those tools?” we reply, “We’re farming.” This has changed the perceptions of what the interns are here for and this will open the door for the merits of organic farming to be heard, and hopefully embraced in the community.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Toil-ets in Janauri

Cleaned out, new roof, banked entrance - Great job
Before (above) and after
The SWASH (Sanitation of Water, Air, Soil for Healthy Villages) project in the village of Janauri has taken on a new initiative to clean and restore the public restroom near the village bus stand. The restroom has been out of use for several years because of previous monsoon rains that flooded the floor, leaving a 40cm layer of mud behind. 

Currently, due to a great effort from EduCARE interns Bryan and Manuel, the mud has been removed, a temporary roof installed, and a barrier constructed in front of the entrance to prevent further flooding. 

Bryan and Manuel - proud of their brickwork
SWASH is in the process of installing brick steps, a new roof, laying down grass, organizing the plumbing, and making the final touches in cleaning the facilities. The initiative has experienced much support from the Janauri community, and has helped to bring closer ties between ViKAS interns and the community.

Welcome! Namaste!

Lets spread the word
This is our brand new blog, letting you know all the great things that all of us here at ViKAS are getting up to. It is a chance for us to share our projects as they are happening, growing, and developing on the ground. We want to display our successes from around all our centres, and by blogging our achievements we can motivate others to be part of our innovative and flourishing community!