Thursday, June 10, 2010

SSS: Week 2

Sarvajanik Shikshonnayan Sansthan (SSS)
A-3/302, Vishal Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow
226 010 (Uttar Pradesh) India

Initial itinerary:
23-28 May, Hardoi
Working with community and discussing with district authorities

From the town proper in Hardoi, we traveled a few hours on Sunday to the rural areas in Pali Circle, Hardoi. There were no hostels around, and so we stayed at a guest house in a sugar mill. The manager was kind enough to grant us permits. It was very convenient because it was center to all the villages we visited. We stayed there for the entire week.

Work involved a lot of meetings in about 6 or 7 villages. We had meetings in Rampur, Munder, Kharai, Pali , Sahjahanpur, and maybe in some other places I forgot to list down . 6 of us interns each chose an issue to research on for the MDG. From the list of poverty, education, health, agriculture, HIV/Aids and women empowerment,  I chose to work on education. Basically, my task was to talk to the different government and district authorities to get facts and their opinions on the current schemes  for education in their areas, its condition, and to discuss with them what actions or solutions are possible to make education more accessible to all. In addition, I had meetings with the community members to get a different perspective on the situation of the educational system, and to investigate the problems they experience in that area.

Apart from our individual tasks, we met with the collective youth of Pali, Sahlahanpur and Munder for the very aim of our project Vikaas. Our goal was to create a self-replicable model to initiate development in Pali from the grassroot level.  The first meetings were introductory and were for motivation. By Wednesday, we had set up a cricket match called Khel Se Vikaas (Development through Games) in Rampur to determine the managers to establish our Self Help Group (SHG). 

 Pasha making the first bat. I made the coin toss and the second bat :)

Our youth managers consisted of the champions of Cricket - one from Pali, one from Munder, and five from Sahjahanpur. The final meeting with them that week was very long, but very productive. They themselves, with only our team's facilitation, were able to select officers, create objectives, collect money, etc. It was a great start.

 The youth from Munder

America in our meeting with the women in Sahjhanpur

Adorable children in Sahjhanpur

Initial itinerary:
29-4 June, Lakhimpur Kheri
Working with community and discussing with district authorities

The week spent in Pali, Hardoi was very, very tiring, and so we requested for the weekend off. We had worked hard and deserved it anyway. We needed to recharge as well, especially since we were told that the weather in Lakhimpur was more warm and humid, and that our cottages didn't have A/Cs. Their kind hearts granted our request! (yay) :) We also didn't want to stay where we were because we had no privacy there at all with people coming in our rooms, attending to us 24/7. Random people who wanted to meet us came and asked questions, took  also dropped in constantly for interviews. We had to get out to relax and so we took a touristic trip to Varanasi! We got back Sunday night, just in time for work the following week.

People bathing in the river Ganga (Ganges), Varanasi

Problems and challenges encountered
The language barrier was definitely the main problem of this week. We had to do all our meetings with a translator, and not a lot could. Uttar Pradesh is the most backward state in the country so most are illiterate, and cannot understand English. I also felt that I couldn't get as much about education as I wanted. Time for me was very limited considering the language constraint. I wasn't able to meet with enough focus groups. I collected a lot of data, but I know it wasn't enough to say that I've done and finished my research in that area. A week was not enough, obviously, but it was very, very tiring.

Apart form the work itself, we also had problems with our food, and how the schedule was managed. We were served the same food, everyday. It was getting very boring. And we were rarely told of our daily itinerary. Going places we couldn’t really prepare for from not knowing where we were going was mentally exhausting. Especially since we had so many village trips in one day. On the second night, we brought them up with Mr. Tripathi, and he was very understanding. Since then, our food somehow had become more varied, and we had night meetings to discuss the agenda for the day ahead.

Knowledge applied
The class on research methods definitely had been most useful  this week. With the many barriers there were to us fulfilling our tasks, we had to be most efficient and creative. Definitely, awareness of the different practices helped. Classes I've taken from my minor degree in Development Management helped heaps as well. Through my class on community development to the more specific ones such as microfinance and social entrepreneurship, I was able to contribute to the discussions with a broader perspective on development.

General comments and suggestions
It's my second week on the job; third week in India, and I'm terribly missing home.

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