Wow what a road we travelled today...in both senses. The physical road we travelled was bumpy and the traffic rules in India well I haven't quite worked that one out. The people I am visiting have a road to travel or have travelled along so far and the foundations need to be strong to build upon. The foundation I speak of is that of "community engagement" because projects can only succeed when the community are involved and there is a long term sustainable plan created on the outset of projects to ensure they continue with the good work initially done. What I mean by this Is what I have seen by the formation of community groups taking responsibility in their own water supply issues, sanitation issues, health issues and by training up villagers to educate and maintain the pumps/latrines etc.I got out of the mini bus in the village of Jonhar. With my feet placed gently onto the solid earth and once my bones stopped jiggling on their tendons on the post bumpy journey I was able to follow my other WaterAid supporters into the village meeting place...... under a tree (a familiar place for a Countryside Ranger from the Elan Valley to be) with large rocks in the landscape and some rather interesting historical features ( forts and palaces rather than Dams siloheted on the horizon). I will stop waffling now :-).Of course we received a lavish welcome. We took up our places under the tree with the beat of the drums to see us to our places.
We met with the womens group and heard from them the issues around water and sanitation from their point of view. Some factors they felt were some whrre old and had sore joints to walk the Kilometre and back 5 times a day (rhambiti). Young girls carry water (Indra -mother). Krishna is 12 and has to get up before school to collect water. Watering livestock is done....the day is spent in water collection. Water is not covered and there is rubbish families get very sick. 100% of community defecate in the open. Young girls are afraid at night to go out into areas to toilet. Mum usally accompanies them. This is a farming community with 1157 people. Sanitation issues need to be implemented. There is very little hygiene awareness and the community is considered vulnerable. I had an opportunity to draw water from the open well. I felt for the young girls who carried these heavy urns on their heads to and from their homes. I enjoyed showing the children pictures of our livestock, snow and scenery. I think they enjoyed it as it gathered into quite a crowd!
Our second visit was to Kamhar - a success post WaterAid community and an inspiration to how a little help can start many balls rolling. This village has 624 people and again agriculture and livestick farming is the main employment. They welcomed us with a lush feast of peanuts, freshly harvested peas, sweet biscuits and fruit. Two young girls floated past in their saris bestowing the red paint between our brows and placing a garland of red orange yellow and white flowers around our necks. I was informed this red mark means destiny. This village was once in the same situation as the first village. The community was supported by WaterAid which involved addressing water and sanitation issues through engaging the community and capacity building. They are now rain water harvesting, have a piped supply of water, latrines in 70% of the houses, there are childrens rallys on hand washing, have trained mechanics to deal with provisions, the community dug drains and even have a check Dam. All open wells have been covered. Money provided by each household pays the salary of the attendants and extra will be invested in setting up buisness' such as basket making and recycling clothes and materials.
So final thought....... we have the red paint for our destiny however these people have created thier own destiny which has then provided them with dreams and hopes. We all have a part to play in making our futures.