Friday, 23 January 2015

Building a Sustainable Office in Punjab

Educare has been in Punjab a very long time (approximately 5 years to my knowledge).  I believe throughout this time we have seen a lot of ups and downs in terms of progress, but little by little we are making change happen.  We have had centers and Vikas centers in various areas in Punjab- Adampur, Dosarka, Janauri and now in Paro.  Last year we finally renewed our contract in the office space and although it has been a slow 6 months, we are happy to finally be using this office space now. 

Now our challenge as interns?  Furnishing this space in preparation of more projects and interns.  Myself and Nana (Adriana Martinez) have been brainstorming solutions, because one of Educare’s aims is to use recycled materials as much as possible.  What I love about Educare is the same thing that is getting put into practice here.  How can we create a comfortable space for interns and community members, while using the fewest amount of materials in a sustainable way?
While we did buy plastic chairs to sit on- an extremely cumbersome and entertaining bus ride, I may add- we are now thinking of more creative ways to furnish the office. 

interns in the office with a Women’s Empowerment Poster we received from an artist in Delhi.

One of our ingenious ideas is to collect an old door or large piece of unused wood and stack bricks underneath or attach smaller pieces of wood to make a table.  We also have thought about using a low wooden Indian bed frame for the same purpose.  Instead of chairs, we will make cushions out of fabric and sit on the floor.  Not only is this more economical and better than purchasing a brand new table and chairs, it is more culturally appropriate.  The idea for this table will be to set up a sewing space for the girls in the community to sew blankets and curtains for our future ReStore.  They themselves always work on a bed or floor, and a table would perhaps be unfamiliar to them.

I love the opportunity to get creative and use the materials around me to transform unwanted things and breathe new life into them.  I learn a lot from the migrant workers in that regard.  They collect and re-sell trash, but some they keep for their own use.  While some items are unwanted by some, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used in another fashion, and makes me get creative with my own unwanted things. 

I laugh at the thought that in my own country, I would just head to the nearest IKEA and charge up a storm for this new office.  But what we are creating in Punjab is genuine, creative but above all unique.  Everything we will create will have been put together with the minds and hands of the interns and help from the community.  It will come from reused or inexpensive materials and will demonstrate the true ideals of Educare that teach me about sustainability every day.  I know it will take a while before this office is fully functioning to the best of its ability, but I’m proud of the small progresses we have made, and look forward to what we will accomplish in the coming months!

Margaret Arzon - USA
Operations Coordinator