Friday, August 22, 2014

Week 7: Lessons from India

In my last week, I'd like to reflect on all the lessons learned from India. It's interesting because I had been to Ghana last year and seen a lot of similar things, but they didn't hit home the same way India did. For example, the levels of sanitation in the Basti were really a concern for public health. It's understandable to see why many get sick in congested areas like this. Improper garbage disposal systems make it difficult for communities like this to stay healthy, and the close contact with stray animals and cattle also cause worry to the sanitation of the community.

Outside of health, I've really had a wonderful taste of the spirituality of India. No matter if one were Hindu, Muslims, or Buddhist, he or she lived a remarkably spiritual life dominated by this religion. One's name, language, and manner of dress were all affected by his or her religion, everyone's lives revolved around worship to one deity or another. They are lives of passion, culture, and devotion -- something I'm really blessed to be able to have seen. I'm so thankful to have seen the faith in the Basti during Ramadan, but also the faith of Buddhists and Hindus in the country.

For myself, I've also learned to be a more patient, understanding, forgiving, open-minded person. I've learned some Hindi Sanskrit and some very important Hindi words. I was blessed to be able to have worked with and interacted with many Indians, who gave me words of wisdom from Herbal treatments to tourist attractions to Hindi lessons. I can't believe I saw the Taj Mahal with my own eyes or donned Indian suits everyday. I can't believe I was able to bargain so well in the market or manage tuk-tuks, rickshas, trains, planes, and the metro the way I did. I'm more confident and I firmly know that I want to pursue Public Health and I can say exactly why. I was able to search through my own past and figure out where the passions started budding and now I've put my passions to work. Thank you India and thank you U of M!

Week 6: Visit to a Hospital on Assignment

Visiting hospitals outside the western world are always such an eye-opening experience. This time, I visited the hospital in order to compare the level of care in India to the United States, and in this way also see how the clinic can improve health care for patients.

First of all, people do not schedule appointments with primary care physicians in India. They appear to form long lines in the hospital that may cause them to wait up to 2 hours before being able to sit down and wait for the proper doctor. Women must indicate a father or husband taking care of them, and must indicate which kind of specialist they would like to see.

The specialists rooms consist of about 2-3 doctors and some interns, and 2-3 patients are served in the same room at the same time in this particular hospital. Doctors visits do not appear rushed, but they only last a few minutes. Patients carry their own records with them but the hospital keeps a patient history copy with them.

On the negative side, hospitals can become easily overcrowded and there may often not be enough beds for sick patients. Patients may be stationed in the hall and all patients sacrifice privacy for care. They appear to be often understaffed because of overcrowding, and patients are forced to stand in long lines for hours in order to receive care. On the other hand, care is only 10 rupees at government hospitals -- completely affordable. And drugs appear to be far more reasonably priced than in the United States.

In addition, by my analysis, level of care appeared to be very good if people could afford it. The hospitals appeared to be sanitary and primary care clinics appear to be well-equipped. Some general doctors appeared to have less experience in certain fields than others, but specialized doctors appeared to be well-trained for their fields and primary care physicians were well-trained for common ailments.

In some ways, I felt that the level of care was better than the United States has provided in past. Here, everyone who needs care is able to achieve at least a primary care visit. The only difficulties appear to be in laboratory testing, which may come as a hindrance to pregnant mothers, tuberculosis patients, etc. in receiving proper treatment and care. However, DOTS treatment for TB patients is free and drugs appear to be completely affordable for the average Indian citizen. The government takes a much more hands-on approach at providing reachable health care for average citizens. However, they work much more strongly on public/preventive health medicines for their people.

Week 5: Eid

The volunteer coordinator also runs the computers and he's on assignment in Switzerland right now, so I expect this to be posted as soon as he returns. This week is Eid in the Basti, one of only two Muslim holidays. The people at the clinic say Eid is a full-week celebration, and it's so cool to see the girls donned in their makeup and elaborate salwar kameezes while the men don either black or white kurta pajamas. Some of the kurtas could be really nice too, if he chose to dress up.

The clinic was closed most of this week but I still attended evening class to work with the kids on English. Of course they wanted to finish early to play so this time I let it slide, for Eid. All the sweet shops are prepared for celebrations with a variety of new colorful sweets that aren't available normally. And there's certainly a festive feel when friends arnd family gather these days.

For my Eid, I visited the Humayan Tomb again and enjoyed the ancient Mughal architecture that appears everywhere in this area. At night I  visited teh famous Dargah in the Basti, which I discovered is so holy because a very famous Sufi philosopher was buried there. If one looks carefully, one will notice that many Muslims from around the world visit Nizamuddin and sometimes come to stay.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Final week at Jeevika

I'm writing this on the Friday before I leave because I will most likely not have internet access this weekend. Therefore, this post might not reflect the overwhelming emotions I am likely to feel on Sunday night when going to the airport.

I have no idea where to even start writing about this experience. Every single part of me was challenged and I've learned more about myself and the world in these eight weeks than in any other period of my life. I feel that living on my own in India, even if it was for a short time, has made me an adult. I have had to make decisions quickly and independently, I have been in many uncomfortable situations, and I have witnessed some truly beautiful and inspiring things.

This experience has also taught me how real life is. Up until this point, although it has often seemed the opposite, I have really had to do minimal planning, as everything in school is usually set up for students. But that was not the case here. Things were unorganized, unclear, and nobody owed me any sort of time or guidance. I am so thankful for all the time and guidance I have received, but I am almost more thankful for the moments that I didn't. In those is where I learned how to live in an environment that is not catered to my success. I've come to appreciate the disorganized moments, as I am often proud of how I handle them. I still have a lot of growing up to do but this has been an amazing start.

This experience not only expanded my horizons but made me focus in on what my life is at the moment. I didn't know how much I would miss my home, my work, my studies, my friends and family, until I opted to exist without them for eight weeks. Being completely isolated from almost everything I know was so difficult but it was rewarding. Existing with myself as the only frame of reference made everything intense. My experiences, my thoughts, my emotions, were all amplified because the only person I could truly experience them with was myself. Everyone back home couldn't truly know what my experiences here were like and everyone here couldn't truly know the mindset and background I came into this with. Even right now I am amazed and remain scared by this.

The work I did here was great, and I got to talk with some amazing people about some serious and complicated issues. The universality of struggle, triumph, and action is truly amazing to me. But the true experience came from India. Everyone who warned me that India is an assault on your senses was right. I have not stopped processing information since I stepped off the plane. I will miss the vibrant colors and constant movement, the never ending mixture of terrible and wonderful smells, the noise coming from man, machine, and animal at all hours of the day, and the scorching heat interrupted by cool rain. Life cannot be as exciting anywhere as it is here.

Now that I've started, I feel like I could write about India forever. But I will end here with my goodbye. Although there were moments where I was unsure about my decision to be here, there were moments where I couldn't believe I had stumbled across an opportunity so grand. Although my body and mind are ready to rest, I will miss India. I have just begun to understand its wonders and truly appreciate the life I have been temporarily leading. Hopefully this will not be the last time I am here. There is still so much I want to experience and so much I am going to miss. Thank you to everyone who made this possible for me.

Jeevika: Week Seven

As I said in my last post, I was sick during this week. Luckily I didn't have anything serious and was better in a few days. I had to miss out on a couple days of work because of this and therefore don't have much to report. The report I have been working on is finally finished. The executive director looked it over and seemed very satisfied. I also conducted my last interview.

This weekend I went to see some of the religious sites around the city. Although Kolkata is not a religious center due to it being a very new city (by Indian standards) it has some really cool buildings. I started at a sikh temple, where I ate lunch, which probably wasn't the best idea. I then went into North Kolkata to see a Mosque. I finished at a Jain temple outside of the city. The places of worship were all so different, it was great to see all of them in one day. Besides that I spent the weekend doing my final round of shopping and relaxing in the city.

I'm really looking forward to my last week. Although leaving will be bittersweet, a lot has happened here and I can't wait to go home and be able to fully process it all. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Last in India

Before I jump into my final blog post while in India, I want to write about something I was thinking about the past few weeks but forgot to blog. I am a little bit ashamed of certain things about America after coming to India. India's trash is a major problem, however, I don't think India has the resources or infrastructure to deal with that problem right now. While American litter is not as bad, we do have the resources to handle that problem. When an Indian litters it is pretty likely that there might not be a trash can around for a long ways. In America, there are trash cans everywhere and there is no excuse for simply throwing trash on the ground. India also does not have the resources to put a great teacher in a decent classroom for every boy and girl. America has the resources to give every child an amazing education but we are failing to do so at the level we could be. If India were to take every person living on the street or in slums and try to put them into stable housing I can't imagine there would be enough room, aside from how they would do it financially. Homelessness in America is something I imagine will never go away, however, again, we have the resources to be doing a better job at it than what we are currently doing.

Now, the final, hoo-ra, big finish blog post while I am India. I remember on my second day here I was overwhelmed by senses. It was loud, the smells were new, it was dirty, people weren't speaking English, etc. I remember thinking, "This is awesome and all but I wish I only had to do it for about 8 hours and then I could take a break from it and be back in the States." As I got used to the sights, sounds, smells, and people, this thought was gone and I forgot about it. That is until a few days ago. I was taking a walk at night, like I usually do, and I thought, "I am going to be happy to be back in America, but I wish I could just transport back to India every once in a while throughout the day." I am certainly going to miss India and it saddens me to not know when, or if, I will be able to come back. Of course there are the friends I have made here who I may never see again, who I will miss. But also, I will miss the food and the ability to buy a feast for about 2 dollars. I think I may actually miss living without the Western necessities of a cell phone and wifi while not at work. Although first terrified by them (sure that their only thought was how to give me rabies), I am going to miss street dogs. I am going to miss riding on a motorbike and the always present thought of,"There must be more accidents the way these people drive, and today is the day I am involved in one of them." I won't miss 115 degree season or monsoon season, but that time right in the middle was nice. I am going to miss seeing something strange every day, even on days where I just go to work and come home. I'm going to miss cricket but not the inability to watch baseball games. I am going to miss getting medical advice that seems to be based on anything but medical research. I will miss shaky elevator rides with the always present thought of, "There must be more accidents with how old these elevators are, and today is the day I am involved in one of them." I won't miss old men staring at me like I have a toe on my forehead but I will miss little kids staring at me like I was the side kick of their favorite super hero. I think I will actually miss not understanding what people are saying when they aren't speaking to me, I have this weird fear that understanding all the conversations around me again will be this overload of information.

So, by and by, I will surely miss this chaotic place, all the people in it who made sure I didn't melt down the first few weeks, and this entire experience in general. An experience which, in the matter of a few hours, will be sadly boxed and put away inside my mind as the memory of the amazing summer I spent in India. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some Pictures

Here are four pictures that show a few different aspects of my day to day life here! 
Here is the Executive Director of Jeevika at a Protest a couple of weeks ago.

Where I spend all my money. 

Me in front of Dakshineswar Kali Temple. 

Jeevika banner at a community sensitization meeting we had a last week. 

Jeevika: Week Six + Some thoughts on being an Expat

I got sick at the beginning of this week so this post is coming a little late, sorry! I am finalizing the report with my supervisor and will be showing it to the executive director next week. I am also finishing up my interviews and have started writing my lit review and my methods section. I have more work than time but I feel that's always the situation. 

Up until now I have kept my posts to recounting my daily life and work. But I have done much thinking about what it means to be an American expat in India and what problems arise with language that’s used, assumptions that are made, and just the presence of American expats in some situations. I was going to post a very long post about my experiences and how frustrated they have made me and also how eye-opening they have been, both about my own personal actions and about those of others. I have instead decided to post a few short thoughts and spare everyone the rant.

A culture should not be reduced down to its attire, or other aesthetic aspects. A country should not be represented purely by someone’s (mis)perceptions of its religions. A country’s history cannot be ignored when thinking about its current problems, as this leads to blaming these problems on a lack of motivation to change by its current population. Those who are traveling abroad (especially white Americans I feel) should not complain about the way they are treated without acknowledging what they represent. 

These few thoughts mostly represent the frustrating things I’ve encountered being an expat. They cannot fully be described in this small paragraph but this gives you a sense of what lessons I have learned as well as what assumptions are made by some expats. It is hard to know these things when living at home, but I feel a real effort should be made by those going abroad to be as conscious of their position as possible. I have been so fortunate to also meet very many young adults like myself who are more intelligent and aware than I will probably ever be. 

I realize that these thoughts are probably very familiar to many people who have lived lives closely related to these problems. I apologize for having to come to India to learn these things as each week I have realized more and more that I am a walking example of global inequality.  I also recognize that I have most likely perpetuated something that has frustrated me at some point and hope that I can minimize this as much as possible. 

Finally, I would like to motion that the word primitive no longer be used to describe people, their living conditions, or their behavior. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curriculums,Data, and Reflections

I think it is safe to say that I have been busy with various projects at Yuva. Our biggest endeavor has been to formulate and plan a curriculum for the municipal children. This curriculum will go on to be taught by the Yuva volunteers every Saturday for approximately one year. I worked with a team of three other people, and least to say that this task ate up all of our time. The curriculum is already being taught at many municipal schools around Ahmedabad. And our next benchmark testing-for effectiveness-isn't until next year. So far it has been smooth sailing, and I can't wait to hear about the results next year.

On top of this project i've been also working on my research question, which I will be quietly ironing out the data over the next few weeks. Everyone here has been such great help. I've definitely had some bumps on the road with the research question, but I have a lot of material to work with. I'm excited to get started on that as well. 

I've been so busy with work within the organization that I feel that time has literally flown by, I can't believe that these are my last few weeks in India! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jeevika: Week Five

The report I am writing is moving along very well. The first draft is almost complete and there are many very interesting and very useful findings. What stood out to me the most is that many families are getting their daughters married off below 18 because they are afraid that their daughters will run away with a boyfriend. When looking at the actual rates of child marriage though, the majority of women are not running away but getting married by their parents. Many women are also running away for fear of being married off, not because of a particular boyfriend, creating a cycle of young marriages. It will be interesting to learn what interventions Jeevika will propose to combat this.

My interviews are also going along well. I interviewed the chair of the Women's Studies Dept. at Jadavpur University as well as the founder of the Association for Women with Disabilities. Activism in Kolkata is so interesting and I am really gaining a better understanding of this city and its history as I continue my interviews.

I did some sightseeing this weekend and got to see the Dakinshwar Kali temple. It was a magnificent building and it was packed with people.

I can't believe how quickly this experience is going by and I am starting to realize how much more I have and want to do! I'm looking forward to these last three weeks and what they will hold. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Delhi Week Four

I have been spending more time in the clinic these days, because the mobile medical unit needs a new register very soon and I'm the "Register girl." So it's been a lot of drawing lines and writing in medical names. As for my paper, it is almost done. The introduction just needs a few more paragraphs and I need to do the discussion.

In Delhi, monsoon season has started. That means surprise rains and cooler weather. The children love the rain -- they dance in the streets as it pours sheets of water. The basti is so congested that it begins to flood and the sewers overflow, but it hasn't been that bad yet. It's actually a welcome relief that things have started to cool down.

I've been to Central Market the other day, and I was surprised to see a Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks there. Subway seems to be relatively popular, even in the neighboring district of Jangpura. Western food is almost always much more costly, however. For less than a dollar I can get a fulfilling and tasty meal of dal, naan, and basmati. Why not :) They also had rows and rows of market for women's clothing and jewelry. Bracelets, earrings, sarees, tights, etc. As much as I liked them, I prefer the markets in Jangpura and the Basti, where more beautiful fabrics and jewelry come at a cheaper price.

Tomorrow, I will go to Old Delhi to see the Lotus Temple and a book market. In the meantime, a friend of mine leant me a book on learning Hindi and its script. Wish me luck with that!

Delhi Week Three

I’m finally getting a hang of Delhi. Yesterday, I went to the Monday market in the Basti and bought some anklets and henna for a fair price – today, I’m getting my kurta pajama back from the tailor. I also visited Chandni Chowk with some German volunteers at Hope and my new roommate Nina. Chandni Chowk, a huge market in Old Delhi, is the perfect example of Indian overpopulation. The temperature reached 41 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit), and it this was even further heightened by the presence of people at every conceivable space of the market.

One of the things I noticed because of this experience is how much warmer the temperature is in more congested places. In the Basti for example, the temperature was still hot even after the rain, but everywhere else it was cooler. On a public health note, this can be very dangerous for community members because the congestion plus the warmth presents the perfect environment for diseases such as tuberculosis to spread. In addition, the malnutrition that some people in the Basti my face, as well as any issues with smoking, may cause potential carriers to easily contract the disease.

The largest issues in the Basti seem to me to involve dirty conditions in the streets, the weather, and chewing tobacco. As in many developing areas, children tend to contract intestinal worms from playing in the dirt. As a result, they must be “dewormed” twice a year by the clinic. The weather tends to cause general weakness, especially in women. This “weakness” may also be heightened by the fact that most everyone in the Basti is fasting for Ramadan. Chewing tobacco is a large problem for men, not only in the Basti but everywhere in India, as chewing tobacco is the preferred form of nicotine for Indians. Because many men in the Basti are not proactive about their dental hygiene, many suffer from diseased-looking mouths and remain at a high risk for oral cancer.

According to my research, respiratory tract infections, gestational tract issues, and diabetes tend to be the most common reasons why patients enter the clinic. At the same time, I discovered that if these patients had gone to the general hospital, they would have to wait at least 2 hours and still may not have gotten an appointment, due to the large crowds that enter the hospital.

Delhi Week Two

I am blown away by how spiritual India is, and I absolutely love it. They say people find themselves in India, and I have certainly done that. The Basti is a very conservative Muslim community, and the life of the community revolves around Islam. During this holy Ramadan season, it can’t be more obvious. The sirens at sunrise and sunset, and then the frequent call of the Azhan remind me of how devoted everyone in the community is to their faith. Most men wear the tupis and the kurta pajama, and the women cover their heads in public.

At the largest dargah (burial memorial) in the community, I witnessed the magic of Indian music and the result of Ramadan crowds after Iftar. The whole dargah and the adjacent mosque was lit with lights like Christmas, and some men sat on the ground with traditional instruments, singing as loud as their voices would allow. Crowds of men in tupis surrounded the musicians, as they awaited the last prayer of the night. Women and children surrounded the foot of the dargah, socializing and resting from a long, hot day. Only men are allowed inside the memorial, but I could see them circling it and throwing flowers on the tomb.

Back at the Hope Project, my project is slowly coming along. Dr. Luna was kind enough to allow me to shadow her as she visits with patients, and otherwise I am in the homeopathic pharmacy room, helping to make the new register. I was finally able to get my hands on the monthly reports for the clinic, and I have some ideas for some great observations I have made.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Two months in

Funding my entire education on loans and by working, I have never been given this amount of money without exchanging my labor directly for it. It's because of this that I have been thinking a lot about why the donor has giving us this money for our trips. I feel that although I will be completing the requirements of the program, I owe the donor what they hoped would come of sending students to South Asia. But, I can't know exactly what that is. If it is to spread a cultural awareness about the region I believe that happened without very little effort on my part. Stereotypes and misconceptions have been broken. However, I believe this goal actually gets multiplied in its effectiveness as we tell people back home about our travels. Not only are/will my friends and family be more aware about what life is like in the area, but the people they tell will also come away with a little bit more understanding. Coming from a small town where news travels quickly, my whole town could come away now knowing a little bit more about India. If the goal of the donor was to allow us to experience growth at a personal level through our travels I believe I have achieved that. Being separated from your life back home allows you to take an almost third person perspective of it. I also believe that by working and playing with people from such a different background I have picked up insights about jobs and life. Many people believe that if they just changed cities or jobs that all their problems will be solved, however, I now know that transporting yourself into a completely different situation doesn't change who you are. If the goal of the donor was instill in us a spirit for traveling the globe I believe I have come to that point as well. I believe almost everybody would like to travel to different parts of the world but now I know that it is possible and not as scary as it once seemed. This also will hopefully effect the people I know or at least know me and I hope they think, "Well, if Dan went to India I should be able to go to Germany/China/Brazil...."

I don't know exactly why the donor decided to give money or what they hoped we would accomplish. My guess is that they probably expected a little bit of all three effects mentioned to happen and then some that I either do not know have happened or will never know.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jeevika: Week Four

This week I started my interviews! My first interview was with Durbar, a sex worker's organization. They began as an HIV intervention program that trained sex workers to lead health ed. classes for other sex workers. It now has many different interventions that aid sex workers, but the main goal is to de-stigmatize and legalize sex work. The second organization I interviewed was Sappho for Equality, a LBT women's group. Sappho began as a support group for LBT women and then grew into the activism part that is Sappho for Equality. Both of these organizations were so interesting. They work with different groups of women with different goals but their interpretation of women's position within Indian society was very similar. Their interventions also stemmed from many of the same concepts. The people I talked to were also so intelligent so just being in their presence was great. I can't wait to meet more people and get more information.

I got to go into the field a few times this week as well. I'm really glad that Jeevika works within the more rural areas because I think being exposed to the more rural areas of the state gives me a really good perspective with my work. It is very different outside of the city and really influences how I look at my work. My supervisor and I worked on transcribing interviews this week and I am currently analyzing them. I'm excited to be getting into the real work of the report.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Pictures

Mobile Unit

 Local Market

 Eating with some Friends

More updates!

I want to move here once I finish my education. I am really in love with this place. 

Last week was really good. I am still working on my project, focusing on nursing education for the nursing students and continuous nursing education (CNE) for the nursing staff. I have been sharing my knowledge on topics such as pain assessment and motivational interviewing through very interactive workshops in which everyone was encourage to participate and contribute with their knowledge. I realized that there was a language barrier, although they classes are always in English, so I have been arranging for somebody so summarize the material in Kannada after the sessions. 

On Friday I went on the mobile unit to visit 12 tribes that live in the forest surrounding the hospital. It was a very interesting experience. This outreach service covers most of the tribal population of the area. The mobile unit visits different places everyday and do weekly follow ups to the same place. Basic health care is provided to a population that suffers from skin diseases, pulmonary diseases and vitamin deficiencies among other health problems. 

On Saturday I was in the infertility clinic. It was very interesting to see 18 years old coming for counselling after not being able to conceive. It is definitely a reality that I can only understand within the cultural context.

I was also able to attend some special workshops on diabetes and pediatric emergency management. They were very helpful and I  learned a lot from them. 

I have a few projects I am working on that I must finish before the 15th of July, so I will have to work very hard this coming days. 

Unfortunately I only have 8 days left here, and I am not ready to leave. 
I love this place and its people, and I find myself calling it home sometimes... 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jeevika: Week Three

I am getting into the routine of getting to and from work as well as handling my tasks at the office. My work this week was pretty consistent with the work I have been doing. This week we had a group from Delhi come in (Breakthrough) who also uses similar methods to combat child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, and a whole host of other issues regarding women's rights. They were here for two days and got a crash course on Jeevika. I got to sit in on most of this, which was beneficial because it gave me some new perspectives as well as a deeper understanding of the organization.

I am loving the food here. I attended my supervisor's son's birthday party this week and got an amazing meal. She had to bring me a spoon though because I do not have the skill to eat biryani with my hands.

Next week I'm starting on my interviews! I'm excited to get to formally meet with many of the prominent activists in the city. I've ran into many of them and they all have a very moving passion for their work. I'm also visiting a school to watch one of Jeevika's presentations on early marriage and healthy relationships. I might also be starting Bengali lessons, which would be a huge help, because right now I have become the master of non-verbal communication, which I've realized can only get me so far. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Week!

WOW India. I didn't think I would ever say I'm so lucky to be living in a slum. This is real India right here - no Western clothing, foods, or music here. Only chowpatis, roti, salwar kameezes, and the Azhan for fajr. This place is the Hazrat Basti Nizamuddin, a slum on the outskirts of Nizamuddin West, filled primarily with Muslims but also containing Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians. A place of questionable smells, the constant melody of motorcycle horns, and lots of people scattered in the streets. Constant heat and humidity, even in the middle of the night, a sacred ground of spirtuality and humility - welcome to the Basti. No, welcome to India.

I'm working at an NGO called the Hope Project, inspired not-too-long-ago by a name named Inayat Khan, a disciple of the Sufi Order, a musician, a Unitarian, and surprisingly, a husband to an American woman. This place was founded near his burial site in order to continue his Unitarian beliefs and promote unity through music. Although the Hope Project in this Basti does not work too much with music these days. Their primary focus has been providing work, education, and health care for the people of the Basti and surrounding areas. I'm going to be working in the Inayat Hazrat Khan clinic, probably in medicine dispensing. Also, I plan to help out anywhere I am needed, whether it be with computer classes, babysitting at the creche, or teaching when school starts next week. I still need to come up with some sort of survey and research design, which I will mull over this weekend. For now, I'm adjusting to India and waiting for that inevitable moment when I will eat the wrong foods :D


Due to a lack of internet access, this entry has been posted after arriving in India.

At this point, I'm not feeling too ready to be journeying off to India. India seems like it requires some preparation, and I just spent the last mnth in the Philippines. I'm tired and jetlagged - not at all ready to be traveling around the world again. But I welcome it.

I have a lot of desi friends, so luckily I've had a chance to prepare for India months in advance. Got some kurtas? Check. Sunblock? Check. Wet wipes and snacks? Check check. All I need to do is prepare a research project, which is not so easy until I get there and am able to scope the place out. I want to do something about the health care system but other than that I'm not too sure. We will see once I get there!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jeevika: Week Two

This week I got to attend some of the meetings and programs that Jeevika offers. On Monday I got to go the the Self Help Groups (SHGs) of the micro-finance program in the villages of South 24 Parganas. These areas were completely different from the city. It was great to see the programs in action in the field after reading so much about them. Swayamsampurna, the micro-finance program, is truly amazing, with so many women utilizing its resources. During the meetings the Loan Officer, who runs the meetings, talked about Alor Bata and Alor Disha, the women's rights groups, and asked if anybody had anything they wanted to talk about. This really demonstrated Jeevika's approach of combining financial empowerment and education on women's rights.

I also got to attend some trainings for the Alor Bata and Alor Disha groups. The most interesting thing to me was that even though the practices and violences that oppress women, such as child marriage, are different from the one's I encounter in my work at home, the attitudes and beliefs that contribute to these practices are far from different. I heard accounts of victim-blaming, sex-shaming, and sexism that were eerily similar to one's I've heard time and time again.

I have also decided that on top of the child marriage project I am doing with Jeevika I will be interviewing other women's rights organizations in the city. I am hoping to gain a more complete picture of what women's rights violations look like in Kolkata and how these change based on women's different identities and situations. The interventions that many of these groups are doing are innovative and genius, so I hope to gain a better understanding of these as well.

Here's the Jeevika website if you're interested in reading about their programs:

Monday, June 23, 2014

A few weeks in

Filled with naive notions of India prefaced by meeting the incredibly educated few Indians you run into on a US college campus and a few Netflix documentaries, I thought I had a good handle on what I wanted to research. I believed that poor Indian students were being pushed hard to succeed in school by their parents, more so than a typical student from a poor family in America. In a way...and certainty not a small way...I was wrong. That is not to say the parents don't care about education, but that there are much stronger factors involved.

The part of Indian culture I feel drawn into thought about is the entrepreneurial way of life in the country. With free education disappearing after 8th grade and...let's call them 'loose' child labor laws, the economic incentives of going to school become difficult to determine before a child even hits puberty. If a child wants to own a shop, drops out after 8th, and ends up owning a do we categorize that? Should we even be trying? Can one simply look at the income of the owner of a small shop and call him poor? Can we look at the 8th grade dropout and call him a failure because his goals were different from our own?

In this light, I have finalized what I will attempt to study. An interest of mine over the past few years has been students' belief in their ability to learn. Why do students hold on to a belief such as 'I am just bad at math' and use this as an excuse to not attempt to become better. But I also really want to know what the poor children in Ahmedabad want to do when they get older, if they see education as a vehicle to get there, and how much education do they think it will require. If they want to be a lawyer or a doctor, cool. If they want to own a shop or drive a rickshaw, also cool. But I want to know how these two things relate. Do students who believe their intelligence is malleable, that people are not simply born smart or dumb, have higher aspirations.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jeevika: Week One

This was my first week working with Jeevika and I am already totally invested in its mission and its work. Jeevika is run by a group of people who have a very strong commitment to women's rights within their area. There approach consists of giving both economic and social empowerment to women. They believe that you cannot just give women the monetary means to succeed, this must be paired with awareness of the social barriers that restrict women. The coolest thing about Jeevika is that they involve the community women within all their programs and work to address the problems that these women have identified within their own community. Their mircofinance program is now almost completely run by the women who use it.

This week I've just been getting familiar with Jeevika's programs and viewpoints as well as the climate around women's issues in Kolkata and their district South 24 Parganas. The most prevalent problem Jeevika and the community women have identified is child marriage. That's what my research has been focused on this week. I'm looking forward to getting further involved with this issue as well as meeting some of the community women.

Kolkata itself is really something. The traffic is like nothing I've ever experienced. I take auto rickshaws to work and they will squeeze into spaces that I am positive they won't fit through. There are also so many people everywhere I go. I also saw a monkey on my way to work today!

My landlord and his family have been very helpful! They have given me directions around the city as well as shown me the market area, which is right by my house. I went shopping in the market and never has a mundane task been such an adventure! I'm glad I had someone with me who spoke Bengali or I probably would have got lost and had to sleep in the market. It was worth it though because I ate the best mango I will probably ever eat in my life. Tomorrow I'm venturing into the city by myself so wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Can I Stay?

Man...where do I start? And why am I leaving already? Just within the past few weeks, I've met some of the best people, been to some of the best places, and made some of the best memories of my life.
If I were to be honest, at the end of this experience, it is not the project that I am working on that matters the most anymore, it is the people. Even though this blog should be about my story or my project, it is the people whom I have met on the road that made every bit of it meaningful and unforgettable.
First of all, my manager is a really passionate guy who puts 100% in everything he does. Especially working in waste management within the mountains, which can get really frustrating at times, he is always so wholehearted and motivating nevertheless. And I have to thank him for hosting me at the NGO and work along with me for my projects.
There are two guys who came to intern at around the same time as me. I am really thankful for them as they would go the second mile whenever I am in need. From daily translation, making phone calls, using their connection for my project, to booking the cab and taking care of things for my return trip, things wouldn't have been so smooth and so different from day 1 when I was alone trying to figure things out on my own. P.S. One of the guy's brother happened to go to Ohio State...and he himself had actually gotten into Ross but decided to stay back in India.
There is this girl who came from taking a break from work in Mumbai. Now that when I look back, it is actually pretty crazy that we crossed path. Because coming to India, being a videography noob, all I had in my head was getting nice shots and I completely underestimated the technicality and necessities in making a successful film or documentary. And this girl, out of billions of people with thousands of possible careers, happened to have recently worked as an associate producer, and we happened to have met at this specific time and this specific place. That being said, she nevertheless had no obligation or whatsoever, yet she was still willing to help me in so many things that I haven't even thought of. From translating during the interview, subtitles, teaching me about production, giving me suggestions that haven't even crossed my mind, to figuring out ways for post editing (since I lost my laptop and won't be able to start editing until I go home), I wouldn't have been able to complete any of these without her. And even though we spent most of the time together sitting around at cafes, reading or doing nothing, I genuinely enjoyed every single minute of it. It is the kind of company that you simply know that you have each other and yet are able to just be on your own.
We came from different places, having different goals and dreams. So different yet similar that we are able to understand each other, to share this time together that almost seemed surreal.
I am going to miss spending birthdays at the foothill of the Himalayas, cooking huge dinners, making random stupid jokes, learning abusive language in Hindi, and all the spontaneous trips together.
I just felt really happy, the kind of happy that I haven't felt since quite a while ago.
I can't tell you exactly what it's like unless you try it yourself. I guess that is the perk of traveling alone in India.

Well, back to real life, as much as I don't want to leave, I can't wait to go back to start the actual work and show y'all the fruit of this trip. Also, keep an eye out for the coming of a water filtration crowdfunding project that is going to need the kind acts from all of you.

Thanks a lot for this opportunity. :)


Since I came here I have been tutoring/teaching some nursing courses and leading workshops for Continuous Nursing Education targeted to the entire nursing staff. This is part of my project, since one part of my research focuses on analyzing the implementation of different teaching techniques. The evaluation of the intervention is the biggest challenge in my research project at this point, since I cannot print material. I have to rely on the participants feedback and in pre-test post-test measurements that I write by hand. Because I have to do them by hand, I do not always have the time to make many of them, and I only evaluate a portion of the participant progress. I have been trying to use some statistical analysis to calculate the percentage of the population that I should be evaluating, but the number I obtained was too big to be actually used in practice, so I will have to contempt myself with accepting this limitation of my research project.

For another part of my research, I am being an observer and surveying what happens in the ward on day to day basis. I am focusing on hand-washing and mediation administration for now. Taking hand-washing as an example, I first monitor what are the nurses actually doing. Then I do some teaching in case there is a deficit in knowledge. After they have received the information the participants are assessed. Ultimately, I want to observe if the teaching session make a difference in the practice, so I will monitor the ward once again in the coming weeks.

Of course, my presence in the ward is a limitation on its own. The nurses are probably trying to do their best when I am there. However, as they get used to see me there everyday, I hope they will act as close as what they normally act even with me being there.

After 5.30 everyday, I am free, and I have about 2 hours of sunlight to walk around town. Local people have invited me to eat, and so far (despite actually trying my best) all I have learnt in Kannada is how to say: Did you have food?
I had food.
Food was good.
(Instead of saying hello, people ask you if you had food here)
In addition, I know the few food items people actually consume here roti, chapati, dosa, sambar, sagu... I keep forgetting how to say rice, but everyone know that word.

Here is a picture of the hospital
And that is all for now!

Research Update

Here's a bit of a breakdown/update of my current projects.

Shakti Shalini
I've been learning quite a bit about the organization's past, and have come to greatly respect it's current staff. They are all currently working on a volunteer basis, as the organization's funding sources have dried up (this is largely where I come in, I have been applying for multiple grants), but continue to support women in distress by providing shelter, legal aid, and counseling to all that ask for it. The organization started in 1986 and the changing landscape of NGOs and increased use of technology has really taken them by storm. According to the Chairperson, Mrs. Sudha Tiwali, when the organization began they were able to secure different funders solely by word of mouth. Today, the extensive grant applications (primarily in English) have proven to be quite a challenge. It really is quite frustrating to see such an amazing organization held back by language barriers and the homogenization of international funding policies. 

On the ground, I have been working at Shakti Shalini's women's short stay shelter in a nearby community called Nehru Nagar. My partner and I have just finished our first pre-survey and workshop on girl's education. It was initially difficult to get the girls to show up to the shelter for these workshops, but our promise of English lessons has really drawn them in. Just yesterday, I asked the girls what was one thing they wished to fix in the world, and I got some really amazing answers, ranging from gender inequality, violence, crime, etc. The youngest girl actually had the most amusing answer (and honestly one that I really feel a lot of agreement with). She wished to "break the boys' eyes, because they scan us so much." 

This organization is filled with forward-thinking young people. It has composed a large amount of literature on feminist leadership, as well as conducted wide-ranging studies on reproductive health, LGBT issues, disability, etc. It is quite different from Shakti Shalini, but I have come to realize that I really cannot rank one organization above the other, because they are both doing such different, (yet connected) incredible work. 

My project here relates more to women's health, as I am analyzing a study done on adolescent girl's knowledge of reproductive health across three Northern Indian states, and then comparing it with literature from across the globe on the same subject. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kolkata: Pre-Departure

I woke up this morning and my first thought was "oh my god I'm going to India in two days". I was waiting for it to sink in and I guess today was the day. I also got my typhoid shot this afternoon and my arm is really sore, which led me to procrastinate typing this all day. Luckily that was my last out of the house preparation for the trip. Now I am just focused on packing. I didn't realize how much I was going to need! My mom has equipped me with an on the go pharmacy so I am considering a second suitcase...

I am traveling to Kolkata to work with Jeevika Development Society. They are an organization that works towards empowering women in the areas surrounding Kolkata. I will be working with their women and girls' rights program to carry out a survey about the attitudes towards the marriage of young girls. They have been so helpful and kind over e-mail as well as being very organized. The correspondence I've had with them so far has really helped me remain calm throughout this whole process. I am looking forward to finally meeting all the people within the organization!

Right now my feelings are of excitement, uneasiness, and uncertainty. I was talking to my good friend the other day about my trip and the only thing I could really say about it was that this is the first time in a long time that I have done something where I have almost no previous experience to draw from or compare it to. This is equally scary as it is exciting. So right now I am eagerly awaiting my trip and the adventure I am about to embark on. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Today was an eventful day.
I am living at the hospital, so I did not need to wake up a lot earlier to have a cup of "chai" before starting the rounds. Every morning the doctors go around the wards and discuss the patients' progress. The nurses and other health professional also participate, it is an excellent way to get an update on the patients.
After the round, which took about one hour, I was ready to start working on my project. I am collaborating with the nursing tutors in the implementation of new teaching techniques. For now, I am basically surveying the skills of the nursing students that are working in the hospital. I did that for a little bit and then I shadowed two operations, a hernia repair and an appendix removal.
After the operations, I had lunch and then I decided to drop by the labor room. A lady was giving birth, so I stayed. I was shadowing the midwife and assisting. The baby was born at 3.00 pm, but it wasn't until 3.05 pm that he started breathing. Those probably were the longest 5 minutes of my life. Everyone in the room was getting ready to start resuscitation, when the little chest started moving. It was a very emotive moment.
After a quick break, I was ready to join the member of the organization that go to the areas where the tribes live to perform in front of the them and promote health care. We drove to a village that was about 50 minutes away. The performance was in Kannada, but I was still able to understand some of what was going on. The topic of that day was prenatal care, but they also inform the tribes on topics such as childhood marriage, alcoholism, etc. The performance was full of music and the locals were enjoying it. No doubts it was an excellent way of reaching the people.
When  I came back I had dinner, the same thing that I have everyday for lunch and dinner: chapati, rice and some type of vegetable.
I am now working on a presentation for continuous nursing education, every week I will present on a different topic for all the nursing staff. Also, everyday of the week at 3 pm I am tutoring a class for the nursing students.
It is very exciting to be here, I am learning a lot and hoping to be making some contribution!

"Cleanliness is Close to Godliness"

It's been a little more than  a week here in Ahmedabad.

Although things with the internship have been slow to start, I have been given the project of International Recruitment with respect to web media. I am very excited to start working on this project as well as starting on my research project.
During one of our retreats, we went to the Environmental Sanitation Institute,Sughad. Volunteers and Full-time employees went in to learn on ways to implement sustainable sanitation. While each of us was going around and speaking about their own experience with hygiene or sanitation, one of the volunteers mentioned that many of the young girls in Municipal schools-schools funded by the government- were discouraged to attend schools because of the situation of toilets. For instance, many of the school restroom for girls have no ceiling/privacy and as such girls do not feel comfortable relieving themselves in school. As the volunteer stated, this problem can be easily alleviated. The volunteer's name is Nikita and she is a University student, in the future I wish to go interview the volunteers that work with municipal students and ask them about circumstances that impede students attending school. From this point, I intend to analyze the interviews to find any culture specific problems, like the one of hygiene and the disproportionate effect on gender.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Week 2

Wifi has been a bit of an issue, so here is my slightly belated week two in Delhi!

Last week I found a place to stay for (I believe) the rest of the time I'll be in India. I am staying in an area called Jangpura, only about 7 min (by bicycle rickshaw) away from where I am working. It is a really cool place, and I think the universe knew what it was doing when it put me there, because I am staying with three super great human rights lawyers, one has even started her own NGO that works with maternal health rights. I am learning so much and meeting so many interesting people everyday, as every time I walk in the door there is a new person sitting on the terrace.

My research project is also coming along quite well, as I am helping Shakti Shalini apply for different grants and awards, which has given me the opportunity to examine their funding sources and learn how they network with other organizations pertaining to women's rights. I am also working with my friend Sakshi on the community project I mentioned earlier, and we are currently attempting to get a sex ratio of the community, before we begin our workshops with some of the women. It is quite tedious and slow moving, a fact that is exacerbated by the 100+ degree weather. However, I am still excited and hopeful that we will be able to establish a women's group in the community by the end of our time here.

I have also contacted a second NGO that I will now be volunteering at, in addition to Shakti Shalini. It is called CREA, and is a feminist human rights organization that focuses on fostering feminist leadership in young girls and women-run organizations. CREA has much more of an international focus, as it obtains it's literature (and I believe funding?) globally, and participates in international exchange programs. This will be an excellent comparison to Shakti Shalini, and will allow me to examine the differences in goals, methodologies, perspectives, funding, etc. between a local and international women's rights NGO.

One last (slightly hilarious and extremely embarrassing) tidbit. This morning, I went to take a shower in a different bathroom than I normally do, but didn't notice until it was too late that the door actually didn't have a handle. I then called everybody in the house's name for about 15 minutes, but nobody heard me. At this point I began leaning out the window, wondering if I was going to have to scale the wall in order to get out of the bathroom (the place I am staying is a rooftop this idea was a tad bit terrifying). Apparently multiple neighbors had been hearing me yelling for a while then, so as i got further out the window, an old lady with a broom below me got more and more frantic. I'm pretty sure she thought I was planning on jumping out the window, so she was waving and yelling and pretty much freaking out. She was then joined by multiple other old ladies, and I was unable to pacify them, as I don't really speak any Hindi. I was attempting to calm everyone down and explain that I was stuck, when finally the neighbor stuck her head out the window and understood what I was saying. It took another 10 minutes, and then finally a group of large men came, broke the first lock, and opened the second door. I'm pretty sure my life is turning into a sitcom....but at least my new lawyer friends will have a good story to tell at their next party....*simultaneously laughs, cries, and and sighs*

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Introduction, some pictures

Meeting Sindhu Suresh, Director of Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies 

Meeting Dr. Rekha Shanmukha

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two Weeks In

A little over two weeks in now and the novelty of certain things have worn off. I leave for work at 9 and leave work at the earliest around 8 so the days go by pretty quickly. Although I never fall asleep before midnight back home I can barely stay awake past 10 here. Not sure if it's the heat or what but I haven't slept this early since well before high school.

I have picked up another project at work. Yuva has a program called Evolution in which businesses donate money to sponsor a municipal school. Yuva then goes in and upgrades certain infrastructure, provides sports equipment, teacher training, and other inputs to the school. I will be working with a team to design a study which will lead to a report to send to the businesses which have donated money. This type of report is very different from my other project, the Public Goods Game, which has a more academic approach.

I am finishing up the design of my study for the fellowship. The schools start back up again in June so I will begin administering the surveys soon. The more I learn about the Indian school system the more what I want to study changes. I was surprised to learn that after 8th grade school is no longer free. There is also a much larger dropout problem than what I initially imagined.

On a bright note, Yuva had a big event for all of their volunteers on Saturday which was fun, I went to 3 different functions for the same Indian wedding and danced in the streets (because they aren't crowded enough), Lydia is now here, and I am currently 20 for 20 on days not getting a sunburn.

First days at the hospital

The first days at the hospital were very intense. I was getting lost in the building and not quite sure about what I should or could be doing. By now I am feeling a little bit more comfortable, but I still need a few more days to really understand how most things work. 
For the first part of my project I am getting familiar with the health care practices that are present in this hospital. I am shadowing nurses, doctors and educators, as well as talking to local people (when they speak some English). 
Language is not a barrier when talking with other health care professional, since English is the common language, but it becomes one when talking to local people. I realized it will be useful to learn some Kannada (the local language), so I got a book that might help me with that. I am not expecting to become fluent by the end of this experience, but it will be useful to know some basic words. 
I am now working in a project with one of the educators, we are developing new leaning material for the nurse students. I just started working on this, so I will have more updates coming soon! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Arriving to Saragur

I was assigned to a work in the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Sargur, a hospital that provides affordable health care to the tribal and rural population of the area.

Sargur is a small town in the state of Karnataka, 55 km away from Mysore.

Arriving to Sargur took me a like bit longer than expected. When we were about to land in Delhi, where the plane was picking up more people and continuing to Bangalore, a sand storm started. The plane had to land in an alternative airport, in Lucknow, to refuel and to wait for a couple of hours till it was safe to fly back to Delhi, get more people on the plane and be on our way to Bangalore. I ended up staying inside the plane for 15 hours when to total flying time was supposed to be 5 hours. The only food available in the plane was nachos, at least they tasted really good.

I ended up arriving to Bangalore a day later, and then taking the train to Mysore. At this point I was not very concerned when 20 minutes before arriving to Mysore the train stopped. Apparently, there were some issues with the train engines, so we waited for two hours before the train was on its way again. This delay gave me some time to try to talk to some locals, to try some train food and learn some words of Kannada (local language of the region). Overall, it was a fantastic experience that the train was delayed.

After Mysore where I had my formal orientation to the organization at the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, I had to take one more bus that was supposed to take 1 hour (it took 3), and drive 8km on auto-rickshaw before arriving to Sargur.

It took me a few days, but once I saw the hospital, the landscape and once I talked to the people I knew it was worthy.

Picture coming soon.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Although I am already in Ahmedabad, I wrote something down on the plane ride to India:

Date 05/28/14
Location: Somewhere over the Atlantic  Ocean,

  My biggest worry would probably be disrespecting the people and/or culture, even unintentionally. My primary objective is to learn, in every sense of the word. Yet, this is easier said than done. To put my expectations of learning as primary creates a hierarchy of priority, which is what I fear. I do not want to prioritize my feelings over the feelings of others, as such I want to holistic take everything in. Even so, I cannot express how excited I am to actually experience living in India.

As part of my project I will be working with a local NGO called YUVA Unstopppable that strives to involve the youth in socio economic matters especially pertaining to children. As of right now, I am not too sure of what I will be doing. Other than my title-Operations Associate-I have no expectations of what working at a local NGO will bring.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 1

This first week in Delhi has been a bit of a waiting period. The first 4 days I was here, I did not really know anyone. I arrived on a Wednesday night, and first visited my NGO (Shakti Shalini, a women's rights NGO that focuses on domestic violence) on Friday. However, my primary contact was not in the office that day, so I was told to come back on Monday. This meant I had the weekend to myself. I chose to wander around the old tombs that are close to where I am staying on Saturday. I visited Humayan's tomb, which is apparently the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. It was absolutely incredible, but also incredibly hot. I barely made it up the stairs of the tomb without falling right over...

By the time Monday rolled around, I was more than ready to meet new people and get to work (doing what, I wasn't so sure). I went back to Shakti Shalini and met with everyone as they arrived (everything seems to start about 2-3 hours after it's meant to around here...something that is actually very much my style). Unfortunately, we have found that the language barrier is really...well...a barrier. Many of the women in the office know only a few phrases in English and I don't know any Hindi. Luckily, there is a girl my age, named Sakshi, that is also interning at the NGO, and she speaks excellent English, and has become a very good friend.

The two of us have embarked on a very excited project. We are going to be working in a community called Nehru Nagar, researching the effects of gender in the community. It is a very broad question, but we are breaking it down into many different topics (education, reproductive health, domestic violence) and will be holding meetings with the girls in the community to talk about these things. We really just want these meetings to be fun discussions with the girls in the communities, and eventually serve as a form of consciousness-raising, once they start to see that many are facing similar situations.
Our hope is that these discussions will be able to continue once we are no longer in the community, and form into a women's group.

I am very excited about what's to come, and hope that it works!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 23: Only four more days left!

After this weekend’s epic journey we decided to have a more chill day. Erica stayed home sick while Mitch, Mike, Jon, Zoha, and I left for the Setco Factory at 10:30.

Around noon, Zoha and I went to a workshop for adolescent girls. When we walked in, they were doing an activity on communication skills. However we were so tired that our communication skills were sub-par and we spent most of our time quietly sitting with the girls while they cut out pictures from magazines and wrote down the emotions of the people in the pictures. After that activity we left for lunch at the factory.

After lunch, the boys (Jon, Mitch, Viral, and Mike) went to Dolatpura to talk to some of the men of the town to try to set up a formal interview. There were a bunch of kids and teenagers hanging out at the end of the street and they invited the boys over to talk. They talked about our weekend adventure to Gir and showed them some pictures, and then they got to talking about the town drainage system. Few days before we checked out the drains and noticed a lot of blockage and debris. Sangeeta Ben, in our formal interview with her, also talked about how waste water removal is a big problem. But when the team asked the boys on the street, they said they thought it was clean. According to Mike, it seemed like the people of the village have better things to do than worry about junk in the drainage system. Apparently, it is the local government’s job to clean it. Prakash said that the government came by only six days ago to clean the streets, but the drains looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in at least a month. They walked down the road to where some bricks were sitting in the drain. When the team asked about that, the villagers explained that whoever put the bricks there didn’t want their neighbor’s dirty water passing in front of their house. The team asked about what Prakash did with his wastewater. He has his own drainage ditch that goes into fields to which he adds boric acid to kill insects.

The team also asked about Prakash’s wood stove which sits outside under a thatched roof in the back of their house. The ceiling was blackened and Prakash said he had to replace it once a year. They asked if he was bothered by the smoke and he replied that it was only bad for about the first five minutes, but otherwise it doesn’t bother him much. They also asked him if he cooked and he said he didn’t. When we talked to another woman she said that the smoke from cooking really bothered the eyes and lungs. We are starting to see a disconnect between the men and women with what they think the biggest problems in the town are. It’s something we’ve been warned about so we will be looking into it more throughout the rest of the week.

With only four days left, our trip is nearing an end. The pressure is now on to find a solid project idea to pitch to the Setco Foundation. Ever since we started focusing on a small community we have been able to more accurately pinpoint needs in the community. I’m waiting for that eureka moment when we figure out exactly the problem we want to tackle. I feel pretty confident that it will come, the way things are going. We’re getting a lot better at asking questions and people are become more comfortable in talking to us.


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