Thursday, 9 July 2015

Updates from Gajner Cluster

Gajner cluster opened in October 2014 and remains as of now the youngest of EduCARE. But so much has happened since and the people who have been living and working here with me and the wonderful community who has welcomed us with their open-heart are the reason why.

View of Gajner from our roof top

Until I arrived, previous interns worked on getting familiar and building relationship with the community, mapping the village and establishing basic cluster programs such as the Girls’ Club, After-School Program and Young Women’s Association.

When arriving in February in Gajner, a small village located 40 minutes away from Bikaner, we were only 3 interns: Jazzmine from Canada, Lachlan from Australia and myself.

We each took on responsibilities to develop and assist each other in projects. Jazzmine started the solid waste management system with Manoj a local shopkeeper who has become since a great resource for the interns and a role model for his community. Lachlan conducted a poverty research in the migrant camp of Gajner called Indra colony and started a Boys’ Club. As for me, I became the project manager for the Girls’ Club. Jazzmine was holding multiple responsibilities at that time: cluster coordinator, YWA and ASP project manager while I was also assisting her in those last two and helping Lachlan in implementing the poverty research.

From left to right: Lachlan, myself, Jazzmine and Léa. Having dinner at Sushma and Pradeep house

In the month of March 2015, we welcomed Léa who took over the waste management project. She bought bins to separate trash in Manoj’s shop and created displays to explain the importance of not throwing garbage in the streets. She also engaged a local trash picker from Indra colony, Mool Chand to come and collect trash from our home, from Manoj shop, and other shopkeepers in the main street. Mool Chand collects it each week and sells it in Bikaner now.

Bikaner Garbage dump, Manoj
The Multi poverty assessment tool (MPAT) survey implemented by Lachlan was a great resource for the cluster. We involved two locals to conduct the survey in the migrant camp : Pradeep Badgujar, a young man who is preparing his Master Degree in Accounting/Finance, and Anjuman Ali a female leader who runs 7 different Self-help Group (SHG )in Gajner. By involving locals in the planning and implementing of the survey, it provided us a platform for community engagement and it made them feel engaged and committed in improving the life of their community. The survey itself also provided new ideas to consider to establishing new projects and enhancing existing ones in Indra Colony.
Pradeep and Anjuman conducting the MPAT survey in Indra colony
The YWA managed by Jazzmine led to a microfinance sewing project that successfully engaged six women in Indra colony where they sewed and decorated pillowcases. The women were given money each for their work. The pillowcases are now located in our house for future sale in our ReStore. Anjuman has also recently attended one of the YWA meetings to introduce the idea of a self-help group to the women. Anjuman’s regular participation to the YWA meeting will be very beneficial to the development of an SHG in Indra colony.

Until the month of April, the ASP project was running once a week in Indra Colony. Since then, thanks to Jazzmine and Léa who created strong bonds with a family, we have successfully expanded ASP to Chandasar (a village located 2 km away from Gajner), which takes place on Mondays afternoon, while on Wednesdays it takes place in Indra Colony in Gajner.
ASP Indra
ASP Chandasa
Girls’ Club in Ward 1 from left to right: Nandini, Bharti, Puri, Sushma, Ria and Shalu
Until May, the Girls Club was running in one location: Jessa colony. The cluster has also expanded the Girls Club to another community in Gajner called Ward One (where the intern’s house is located). As I regularly engaged a local 20 years-old girl named Sushma Badgujar (Pradeep’s sister) and her family since my arrival, she was really curious about the Girls’ Club and she decided to come with me at Jessa colony to help out in facilitating the session. She really enjoyed it and we both decided to create one in her community. Beyond the fact that Sushma is one of the potential future leaders of the VIKAS Center, she has become my little sister and our relationship has grown so much.

Same month, we started to go once a week in Modiya and Mansar, a very poor community located above the highway (9 km away from Gajner). Most kids never went to school, and those who have the chance to go attend until the age of 13-14 years old. There is no shops, no markets, and most families do not earn a regular sufficient income to feed their family properly. So, after meeting regularly a family and assessing their needs, the potential for a microfinance and ASP project is huge and really needed.

First meeting in Modiya Mansar
The cluster has also grown in numbers since! We were only 4 interns for 3 months and we are now 10 people living in the house! It is a very exciting time for us and for the community we work with as we are expanding our projects to Chandasar and Modia Mansar.

Laure arrived in May and she became the project coordinator for ASP as well as the project manager for ASP in Gajner and she will develop general knowledge classes for the kids. Camilla from Italy arrived at the end of June and she will be leading ASP hand-in-hands with Laure. Mercedes and Lucia from Spain arrived in June and will be responsible for YWA and Water Conservation respectively. Johann and Vijay are managing an alternative energy project to have drinkable water, hot water for the winter and enough to cook without using too much gas. Mariko and Arindam arrived in Gajner recently and are working on an alternative energy project to provide our house electricity.

Laure, riding a camel on the way to Manoj’s farm
Boy’s club: from left to right: Lucia, Jazzmine (on top), myself and Mercedes

Enrique and Arnaud will arrive very soon to work on Eco-building in our house and in Chandasar for the Eco-Homestay project. Harmonie, our health project coordinator will also arrive very soon to conduct health research in Gajner.

I am also working on opening very soon our first ECRC and Restore and finding a new intern house in Chandasar.

I have been very lucky so far to be working with talented, energized and dynamic people who share the same values as me and EduCARE India. As I became the cluster coordinator when Jazzmine left, I am optimistic and very happy to be staying here to see Gajner, Chandasar and Modiya Mansar growing into villages full of opportunities for these communities.

Mathilde Buchet - France
Girls’ Club Project Manager and Cluster Coordinator, Bikaner

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