So here is the review i had to write to my school in order to get £500. I'm slightly annoyed, because the review actually got cut off in an email and i didn't realise until now, so there is only 2 thirds of it here. The rest is on a computer in the udai niwas hotel in Udaipur in Rajasthan if anyone's THAT interested. So here it goes.
Raleigh International in India – My story
Raleigh International is a youth organization which reaches out to people all over the world in the hope of changing their lives. Raleigh inspires people from all walks of life, from all over the globe to get out there and make a difference. Raleigh has built up a fantastic reputation for both project planning, organization and safety skills over the past 25 years. Not to mention the fantastic repute the volunteer and permanent staff have given themselves .This is one of the reasons thousands of young people have come together with Raleigh to try something new. Raleigh also gives the opportunity for young people from the host country of the expedition the chance to join the project and mix with different people and to help their own country at the same time.
Raleigh is celebrating its first birthday in India this year after a number of already successful expeditions. This year Raleigh’s presence in India has heightened even more with the connection with project partners around the country. This year Raleigh worked with MYKAPS, a subsidiary of the nationwide MYRADA, WWF, CTRD Trust and forest rangers office. All of which are well respected charitable organizations within the country. The four projects this year were as follows. With MYKAPS and MYRADA Raleigh aimed to build 45 eco-sanitation units in one remote village in Karnataka. With WWF Raleigh aimed to build 5km of elephant proof fencing in one tribal village in Tamil Nadu. With CTRD trust Raleigh aimed to build 14 houses for villagers who had lost them in previous years. With the forest rangers office Raleigh aimed to build a whole anti poaching camp in a vast nature reserve over only a three week period. In addition to these phases all participants would undergo a 200km trek through Kerala, crossing their own physical and mental boundaries, battling through tough terrain and climate changes all over a 3 week period. All participants would complete one project with a community, one focused on the environment and one trek. I was situated into eco-sanitations as my community project, elephant proof fencing as my environmental project and finally the trekking phase.
On arrival in India in early February we were taken from Bangalore airport to the charity’s field base situated south in Mysore. We spent a 6 day period in Mysore to learn more about our projects and the country. This intense training week was fundamental for us before we began our work around the country. In this short time we were given basic first aid training from one of 3 medically trained staff at Raleigh. We were given training in how to use communication devices for our daily checks with field base when out on project site. We were also given a number of cultural awareness talks and discussions about the customs in the country to help prepare us for social situations. Two of the days during training were devoted to the trekking phase. We ventured out on a two day trek around the large chummandi hill and then up to the village at the top and back down again. During this time we employed all of the skills we had learnt in the previous days. Including how to set up a good campsite, how to use to cooking equipment, how to appropriately pack our bags and distribute weight among the group and how to work effectively as a team whilst undergoing a difficult task. I can safely say that the training period in Raleigh not only gave me an amazing first glance at India, but it gave me a taste of the difference we can make to this country and at this point all participants wanted to get stuck into the work and get to know the country more.
Phase one – Community phase
‘Sanitation is more important than independence’ ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Phase one begins. I was situated into Alpha 2 who were going to the remote village of Kalianahala in the state of Karnataka. This remote community was in the perfect setting. Rolling hills surrounding and a reservoir which stretched 100km at the foot of the village. The villagers were blessed with good houses, a school and electricity. However, the only thing lacking from this loving area was basic sanitation. The people of the village, with little money and food growing were forced to practice open defecation. The result of this meaning there was little cleanliness and often illness around. MYKAPS’ mission is to ‘make Karnataka an open defecation free zone by 2012’ and this is just the beginning.
My group over a three week period was to build 15 eco-sanitation units for 15 different families. The eco sanitation unit operates on two toilets in the same building. One is used for 6 months and then closed off and the other then used. After the 6 month period is over the closed toilet is re-opened and the faeces removed and used as fertilizer. Previous studies have shown that human faeces produce much more crops than any other. The villagers can then sell off what they don’t use in the local town thus increasing their capitol. Hygiene is the main focus of Raleigh in this project and it was certainly welcomed by the villagers.
As this is a community phase we had a real chance to integrate with the people. We live in the school sleeping on the classroom floor which meant we got to welcome the children in at morning time and help them prepare for a days schooling before we went off to the worksite. The worksites were situated in peoples gardens where their toilet would stand, with this we built up a great friendship with the villagers even though communication was very slim as neither side would speak any of the others languages. However, we did have the host country participants to help translate when needed to avoid confusion and offending them. We were regularly bought food and chai whilst on the worksite and you could clearly see the appreciation they had for us. The evenings at Kalianahala consisted of playing cricket with the children or listening to Indian music with the villagers around a campfire. It was a great feeling to be accepted into their lives for 3 weeks and it was a pleasure to learn about their way of life.
As a part of extra work around the village we decided to renovate the existing toilets in the school and then begin to rebuild the children’s playgrounds. We upturned previously damaged climbing frames and mounted them so they are now safe, painting bright colours on the equipment and even building a hopscotch. Even a small days work like this can change the lives of the children and it was clearly evident on completion.
After the first three weeks of this project and after the completion of 15 eco sanitation units you could already see the impact it had on the village. At the end of our phase we hosted a grand opening ceremony for the completed units, which involved neck decorations of flowers, formal dress, Indian woman singing to us and laughter and crying. The village people had gone through generations of living how they did and coming closer and closer to a modern world their own methods of getting money and eating were not being as effective. A simple job as building toilets has changed their lives. Itäs given them cleaner living, more freedom and more opportunity to do the things they want to and to buy the things they need.
This project for me was one of the most inspiring and to live in an actual village was the most amazing experience ever. It’s amazing to see the contrast around the village. In one instance a group of the villagers are working together to make a type of basic food with a method that has been in practice for almost 2000 years, whilst at the same time one member of this team reaches into his pocket and takes out a mobile phone and calls his friend. Whilst the village holds onto its older values and skills using real historical methods it at the same time is reaching out into the modern society. This was just the beginning for me of seeing the amazing contrasts all around India. At the end of the project we all put out names and handprints on one unit each. In future times I would like to return to the remote village and see the families I worked with and really see how it has helped them.
Phase 2 – environmental Phase
This project was based in the state of Tamil Nadu in the remote tribal village of Anaikatty. Partnered with WWF our aim was to repair and rebuild 5km of elephant proof fencing over a 10 week period. This fence would go around the whole village to stop the ongoing battle between the villagers and the local elephants. The village situated in the Western Ghats is a popular corridor for the elephants to walk through, carrying thousands of elephants a year. The elephants are often attracted by the crops and the farmers reciprocate with violence. The fence is being built to protect both elephants and villagers. The work was simply to dig in new posts for the fence and thread new wire all around. At the same time reinforcing the elephant proof trenches as a safety precaution. Digging in the heat of the day down 7foot deep was a challenging, but fun task.
Our campsite for this phase was situated 2 km outside the village. We built up a respectable camp over our time there. We slept in bashas the whole time. Using two bamboo ‘A’ frames with a stretcher in-between proved to be a comfortable alternative to a bed. Out of remaining bamboo we managed to build ourselves a swinging chair, a teepee for evening reviews of the day, a town hall for larger gatherings, a changing area and even a completely private toilet. The campsite quickly became home and was a essential part of the project. The camp itself was surrounded by its own elephant proof fence so we were safe too.
This project was particularly good for learning to live with people. As we were always closely together on the small campsite or on the area of the worksite it can for some become increasingly difficult to remain around the same people, but for me it gave me the opportunity to live with completely different type of people closely for a short intense period. As Raleigh is an international organization, in this particular phase I was living with people from India, Hong Kong, Holland and 2 people from England who were helped by Raleigh to come out to give them a good chance to see the world as they may be less fortunate than others. Living with this eclectic group was a great experience and it was good to go out of my own comfort zone with friendship groups and be able to experience a different social situation.
As extra work on this phase we thought it would be a good idea to begin clearing out the local farmers irrigation system so he could properly farm his crops now the fence was put in place. This was a 2 day job and was immensely satisfying to see the water flow at the end and how just this one thing will change the mans life by being able to farm healthy and uncontaminated crops.
For years the village had not been able to successfully farm crops without elephant interference, but now after only 10 weeks work the village can farm all of their available land without the fear and the reality of them being spoilt. Furthermore the conflict between elephants and man in this area should become less apparent as they will keep away from each other. The fence should save both human and elephant lives.