Sunday, 9 October 2016

Straight from my heart

Before I could realize, I was done with my first year of college. It seemed the year went very fast. Travelling, studying, socializing, that’s all did.I got a nice two months break after my first year. Many of my friends were making plans, some planning to intern. I found the idea meaningless, as just after completion of first year, there is hardly anything learned to apply! I wanted to do something good before the start of my second year. Something which will make me satisfied, I didn’t wanted my summer break to go waste.

I decided to volunteer for an NGO. As I belong to Ladakh, so I wanted to intern there. I had no ideas of nearby NGO’s. I started researching and looking over the internet. Then I contacted EduCare. I called them initially to know whether they were looking for interns. Surprisingly, I got positive response and was selected as an intern for the project to be held in Ladakh. We started exploring the villages from 21st of June, 2016. We ended up visiting seven different villages and finally decided CHANGA as the best location for the center.

On the first day, I meet with Yangkyi who was an intern as well. We went to Leh to discuss our plans for our project. We bought a map of Ladakh and spotted few villages to explore and we also made a schedule to be followed in the next following days.

Both of us decided to meet at ChoglamsarZampa and it was difficult to get transportation because there are no government buses which goes to these villages. This was the situation which was bit problematic throughout our journey.  Our first destination was Thiksay which is quite big and they also have a big monastery. We further moved on to Rambirpur which is 10 to 15 minutes away from Thiksay by taxi. In the following days we explored Rambirpur, Nang, Stakna, Kharu and Changa.

We ended our research of finding the village for the center on 1st July, 2016. While exploring all the villages, we felt that the villages were self sufficient because almost all the families grew their own vegetables and crops. On top of that they had AmaTsokspa which is a Women Association operating in most Ladakhi Communities. These associations were doing there small business of micro finance project to earn extra income.

When we went to these villages, we met Lambadar which is like head of the village and members of AmaTsokspa. But in Changa they don’t have any Women Association because few years ago they had a disagreement among themselves due to funds which were received from outside. So the group was dissolved. Another thing we felt why Changa was a good location because of its proximity to Kharu Market and in that way we thought that we could work on the Waste Management issues in Kharu. We realized that Kharu Market was a good location but we were conflicted because the accommodation was expensive but later when we explored Changa because it was near to Kharu Market, we learnt that it is equally a good location because of the reasons mentioned earlier.

We really thought that we could do a lot in the village by forming a small Women Association which involves women in micro finance project so that women in the family is dependent.

Everyone here collects the waste and dump it or burn it. So this is one of the areas which needs a lot of attention because we felt that the villagers were not conscious about the environment destruction that is causing. In terms of Health facilities this village only has a small medical centre which is runned by the nurses and the nearest hospital is in Thiksay which is 15 kilometres away from the village and if something gets severe they go to SNM Hospital in Leh which is 35 kilometres away.

So as an organization we were not sure what we could do in terms of health facilities or medical facilities but this was the issue that needed a lot of attention. Waste Management is an issue all over Ladakh which needs to be looked after. But hopefully we could begin from Changa and Kharu Market and reach further.

I believe that community involvement is not an option but a necessity. Every one generates waste. That’s understandable. But we can change the amount, the kind and the fate of the waste that you generate by taking.  After exploring the villages, I met Mr. B.S Bhullar and all the other interns. We had a small meeting where Mr. B told us about the organization, how it works and about our tasks.

Our main agenda was Waste Management where we could aware people and the community about the harmful effects which it causes and how it degrades the environment. We also worked upon Women Empowerment which is a burning issue all over the world. We wanted to create an environment for women where they can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for the society.

We found a small happy family in the village where we decided to stay. We also wanted to promote home stays in the village from which the women could earn and not be dependent on others. They were five members in the family which includes father who is a carpenter and had a shop in Kharu Market, mother who was working sometimes in the bank and looks after farming and cattles, the older son who is studying in 6th grade in LamdonSchool at Sakti, the younger son who was a monk in Hemis Monastery and the youngest daughter who goes to play school in Changa. We tried our best to interact with the family so that we could understand them better and so that they could be comfortable with us.

At first we told the family about our organization and our agenda. What we want to do for the betterment of village. Then we started exploring and mapping the village so that we could deeply understand everybody’sproblem. There was a Lambardar which is like the head of the village or the panchayat who looks after the village and takes all the decisions. But there was no AmaTskospai or Women Association, unlike other villages.

So we worked on this idea of making a Women Association where all the interested women could work together for a common goal. The main purpose of forming this group was that the women become self-sufficient, independent and save some money. We started planning a small business for them like knitting socks, caps, gloves by providing them the material and paying them the labour charge by selling it outside. So we were gathering all the interested women for this.

While exploring the village, when we asked the villagers about their savings. Most of them said that they don’t save and their daughters don’t have bank accounts which was quite surprising for me. So we focused on this issue and told every possible family in the village about the scheme and bank accounts. We told them that they should start saving money which would help them in a long run for their health issues and in emergencies. We also told them that they should also open bank accounts for their daughters so that it could help them in their education and marriage.

About the Waste Management we told them about how to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal. We told them not to burn the wastes but collect them, segregate the waste and dump it. We taught them to keep their environment clean for the goodness of their health.

I was left with with few days since my college was going to open. So during those two three days we mapped the village and did a survey of the village. We came to know about their occupation, problems, hobbies, passion, aspirations, etc. We covered almost all the half of the village including the school and the medical centre.

My internship got over on 20th July, 2016. I wished I could stay there for some more time so that I could be a part of their happiness. My volunteering at EduCare taught me many things like.

To see person smile and to know you contribute something for that smile gives ultimate joy and internal satisfaction. Not everything is done to get returns, social work and charity has a value and many other things. I cherish each and every moment spent with the villagers. My personal advice to each and friend of mine is to experience the joy of giving.

Straight from my heart 

Kunzang Angmo - India
Project Manager in Changa Centre 

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