Hump day is already far gone and that means that time is flying by. Since we spend our third week in „working mode“ there was not too much to blog about. Time to write about a „normal“ working for me in India. It starts with a chai around the corner – that is already a perfect start into the day. After that we work for about 1.5 hours in the hotel before we take the rkischa to Chaitanya. By now we have our buddies that wait for our rkischa to say „good morning“. Around one we usually have home made lunch. After some more working hours the highlight of the afternoon is the arrivial of the kids for the Happy Children Center. We then leave work around seven and head back to the hotel.
This week we spent a lot of time writing the report and helping to implement first recommendations. Besides building a new website we also tried to setup a PayPal account. While this seemed to be easy the „proof of address“ with a „gas, electricity, phone or current bank statement“ turned out to be a really challenge. USA/European norm just don’t apply and we had to sent in several documents before we finally succeeded. So if you want to donate any amount to a meaningful project – its now really easy! Keith wrote an excellent article about the work and history of Chaitanya Charitable Trust.
Although this weekend was all about getting a good chunk of the report done and get started with the presentation we took some time off on saturday and went to the old town and the local market.
After an intense work week it was time for a weekend roadtrip to Diu (nickname: small Goa) – an island in the south of Gujarat. After we squezeed the six of us into the rented van (first time in my life I had a private driver) we left early on saturday morning heading to Porbandar, where Ghandi was born. The next leg of our travel was followed by „120km of good road and 120km of bad road“.
Once arrived in Diu we visisted the fort which was one of main reasons why Diu stayed occupied by the Portugues till 1961. We then went to have a look at the portuguese architecture in Diu city but as it turned out we were just in time for the „coconut festival“ and got to watch a good crowd chasing a coconut (the festival seems to be unkown out of Diu but there it was quite a happening). Surprisingly we are not only the only non-indian in Jamnagar but also in Diu we were quite an attraction as „western tourists“ – even @ our hotel.
The next started with a swim in the arabic see and home made ice-cream (@ Shri Ram Vijay) – what a perfect start into a sunday. On our way back we passed GIR national park and Junagadh. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of the year to see lions but we saw monkeys 😉
I also got to shoot some photos out of the car, so that you can get an impression what vehicles are can be met on indian roads. After an amazing weekend our third week starts tomorrow and I will post some updates about the project progress the coming week.
[Update1:] Keith found a recording of the coconut festival on YouTube – if you watch closely you can spot me on the bottom (1:19 & 2:50) – the hansom guy with the red backpack.
Second week – second public holiday 😉 Raksha Bandhan is a hindu festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers, cousins and sisters. One part of it is that the sister ties the rakhi around her brother’s wrist. So we got to buy some rakhis as well and tied them – not quite aligning with the „brother-sister“ relationship.
Last weekend was about recovering from our first week of work, visiting a near by bird sanctionary and as a hightlight watch the Bollywood movie Chennai Express with Shah Rukh Khan (the Brad Pitt of India) – of course in Hindi without subtitles!Just before leaving work yesterday the kids from the Happy Children Center gave us also „Raksha Bandhan“ paintings and teached us the correct pronunciation. Afterwards we were invited for dinner at Hitesh and Kajal’s house which made it a perfect day!
We had the fortune that our first week of work happened to have a public holiday: India Independence Day. Instead of working we went to the Happy Children Center celebration that afternoon. About 150 kids attended the celebration and performed traditional dancing in really nice dresses.
Since it is Saturday and we go some time off I thought I let you know a bit more about the project. The Happy Children Center provides daily 2 hours of education for kids that are either in government schools or dropped out of school. Their goal is to make learning fun instead of having dictation like lessons. Currently they have one center with facilities and two open space centers. One of their goals is it to move the open space centers to facilities since e.g. during monsum season lessons are often interrupted or canceled because of the frequent rain. Furthermore Chaitanya Trust wants to ensure sustainably funding to ensure they can fund the current centers and expand to even more.
To help with this, the following two tasks are being (hopefully) accomplished by Keith, Emily and myself:
create a new five-year strategy plan to augment, expand, and scale to an optimal number of Centers that meet the objectives of the program.
crate a marketing, branding, messaging, and communications plan
So the first week was all about getting to learn about the program, meet the children, the teacher and ask a lot of question. We also started with same first work items and created a map of the slums in Jamnagar. Next week we will probably be more focussed on designing our delivers and writing down first ideas to discuss them with Hitesh and Kajal.
As the week ended we had the please to be served home made gujarati food by Kajal – which was really delicious!
Yesterday was the day – all the partners (Chaitanya Charitable Trust, Essar Foundation and Savar) came to our hotel and we had a meeting where we got to know each other and hat the possibility to ask first questions. For Keith, Emily and myself it meant that we finally got to meet Kitesh and Kajal from Chaitanya.
Today then was our first day at Chaitanya and after a smooth rkischa ride to the slum we arrived and were quite amazed by their facilities. We got to see their different activities: Day Care Center, Providing basic health care, helping with filling out forms and many more. In the late afternoon we got to watch the project we are trying to help growing: Happy Children Center.
Children listening to Kabi
Keith and I somewhat crashed the teaching by handing out canadian flags and gummibears 😉 By that time our wonderful local CDC (the NGO that is running the CSC program for IBM in India) contacts Kabi und Shruti joined us.
We then went all together to the second Center that is an open space. This was quite an intense experience since we went deep into the slum – never feeling unsafe – but just the intensity of poverty really gets to you. And with that I leave it for today.