Monday, September 9, 2013

CRY UW India Trip 2013

Our CRY America University of Washington Action Center is currently in India and volunteering their time with CRY. Below is a summary of their first few days. Please take a moment to learn about their experience.

Wednesday, September 4th - Orientation Day

Today was our first official day with CRY India where we gained a complete overview of the objectives of the organization. At the orientation, we were introduced to one partner organization called Kalapandhari Magas Vargiya and Adivasi Gramin Vikas Sanstha (KMVAGVS), whose projects we would be visiting for the next two days in the villages of Latur.  KMVAGVS is an NGO that gained the support of CRY India in 1999 with its original purpose being to “Ensure Child Rights through Women’s Empowerment in the district of Latur near the border of Maharashtra.

September 5th-6th - Latur, Day 1

We travelled overnight by train and arrived early morning in an urban area of Latur. Today we visited the office of KMVAGVS, where we were greeted with warm hearts and warm chai by the staff and founder/leader B.P. Suryavanshi. Suryavanshi explained to us the motivation behind his organization. Despite his underprivileged childhood, he overcame the barriers ubiquitous to his situation and devoted his life to improving the prospects for impoverished children.

Our first visit of the day was to the local Primary Health Center (PHC) where we became acquainted with the lack of sanitation, space, staff, and equipment. Through our conversation with the only doctor serving the PHC, we saw that despite the many challenges of serving over 50 patients each day, he maintains optimism in this destitute situation. This PHC is supposed to provide vaccinations and a few other services, some of which are virtually discontinued due to insufficient support from the government. 

                                                      Bhalghat meeting among students in grades 6-10, led by Meena of KMVAGVS

Our second visit of the day took us through miles of winding, unpaved roads. After travelling through sugar cane fields for nearly an hour, we arrived at a primary school in a remote village. Despite being complete strangers, we were greeted enthusiastically by the students, ranging from grades 1 to 4. The school children were gracious enough to invite us to a session of their “Bhalghat” group. A Bhalghat meeting is a group of students who convene periodically to discuss how they can exercise their right to demand justice from the government in order to further overcome the obstacles they face.

The meeting was followed by a formal welcoming by the women leaders of the Banjaram tribe. We discussed the issues they faced, including domestic violence, social ostracism, and child labor. The community elders, musical artist volunteering for KMVAGVS, and the children performed several songs and skits portraying their triumphs over child-related injustices. By the end of the evening, we felt that the experience gave us an idea of how long it takes for an NGO (KMVAGVS) and a community in need to build a trusting relationship with each other, only after which real change can take place. This visit also clarified for us how the support from the partner CRY India empowers NGOs and communities to take action.

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