India

Water: essential for life

By Jon Hargreaves

Our partner, Seva, working among tribal people in Maharashtra had gone to distribute SD cards for latest audio programmes for the 'speaker boxes' when they discovered the community in Kahandol in great distress due to lack of water. They found people desperately trying to dig pits to find water, but with little effect.

Although HCR is sponsoring a well for the village, which is now in the process of being dug (see https://www.h-c-r.org/news/2019/3/4/time-is-running-out), Seva’s Chief Executive, Shilpa Shinde said they had to do something to alleviate the community’s distress. After hunting around to find a water tanker they eventually managed to get hold of one, which arrived in Kahandol village late in the evening. They have arranged for a water tanker to come to the village every two days until the new well is completed.

We’re so proud of our Indian team-mates for this act of compassion!

Doesn't the man's face say it all?

Time is running out!

By Jon Hargreaves

HCR does not drill wells! We support communities in crisis, through media. We work with partners who do this kind of thing. It’s not in our strategic plan. So we don’t drill wells…. usually that is!

But then sometimes, when the need is great, one has no choice. Which is why we’ve done it before !

And we need to do it again as time is running out for one marginalised Adivasi (indigenous tribal) community in Maharastra, India.

We have reached out to those who do drill wells as their core business, but they are unable to help. So we're going to drill a well!

Our grateful thanks to those who have enabled us to make this a reality.

For more information contact: hcruk@h-c-r.org



"Only 28 days until the water runs out!"

By Alice Stout

The river bed is drying out.

The river bed is drying out.

Says Patil Ramdas Warde, the leader of a village in Maharashtra. Such is the plight of many tribal communities across the county. The lack of rain has led to major crop failure. Eighty per cent of the rice plantations have failed to yield a harvest. As the Patil – meaning ‘village head’ – shared his worries with us, the need of the Adivasi Village Project became increasingly apparent.

The dichotomy of India

India is the fastest growing economy in the world, yet when we went to pay for our hotel stay in Nashik, reception could not accept an international credit card. We experienced similar problems trying to withdraw cash from ATMs. As I upload this blog using 4G from my mobile hotspot, villages 10 kilometres from here do not have a sustainable water supply. It is such a bizarre phenomenon to be surrounded by all the technology of the modern age yet know basic needs for daily living are lacking around us. But there is an incredible opportunity here for positive social change using media.

HCR is working with Seva Social Welfare Foundation to bring health, education, and social development through the “speaker boxes” project.The speaker-MP3 players, provided to every family in the village, are filled with informative and entertaining programmes to help alleviate the problems that come from dirty water, non-nutritional food, and lack of sanitation healthcare.

“Speaker boxes” making an astonishing impact

It is six months since the "speaker boxes" were first distributed, and already the impact is astonishing.

 “People are changing their habits. There is good hygiene now, people are boiling water, and there are fewer stomach problems than before," says the Patil. He told us that the tribe learned how to construct a dam through the Adivasi Village Project.

“Without your programmes, we would have already run out of water.”

Patil Ramdas also told us that when the monsoon does arrive in June, and the reservoir begins to fill, the first rain collected in the dam makes people very sick. HCR and Seva are now supplying chlorine tablets to prevent cholera and other common diseases after the first rainfall.

But now the urgent need is to find a specialist on-the-ground group to come and aid the village – drilling a well would mean they never run out of water again.

Patil Ramdas is concerned for his community.

Patil Ramdas is concerned for his community.

The Road to Maharashtra

By Alice Stout

Early morning commuter traffic in Nashik, Maharastra

Early morning commuter traffic in Nashik, Maharastra

HCR is back in India! It’s been six months since Jon visited, and he’s excited to see the progress that Seva Social Welfare Foundation has made. HCR is about journeying with partners as they build capacity, equipping local people to make a meaningful social impact within their communities. Just as HCR is journeying with Seva (meaning ‘service’), I am journeying with Jon. 

I’m Alice, a freelance journalist. Jon kindly invited me to document this trip. I’m primarily here to take photos and videos, but I’d love to share my experiences with you as I walk alongside HCR and Seva to the Adivasi villages of Maharashtra.

I’ve never been to India before. I have experienced snippets of the culture when visiting the homes of my Indian friends. But it is such a vast country of over a billion people. There are 22 official languages spoken here; cities are filled with the descendants of countless tribes. It’s a country of reliance – it has endured foreign invaders, colonialism, and numerous natural disasters. But today, India has the fastest growing economy in the world. Towns are melting pots of multiculturalism, as I discovered when we arrived in Nashik, three hours north-east of Mumbai.

Holy man sells talismans under the shade of an umbrella, while people bathe in the River Ganges

Holy man sells talismans under the shade of an umbrella, while people bathe in the River Ganges

Welcome to Nashik

Old and new clash together in Nashik. The rise of Western secularism and technology is somehow moulded to fit in with the ancient, predominantly Hindu city. Modern medicine and black magic dolls are used together; gaudy fashion shop signs depict scantily clad women, yet inside you can find the most beautiful saris and kurtas (tunics); cows and tuk-tuks dominate the streets.

The city is home to Seva’s headquarters, headed by Shilpe Shinde, Chief Executive of the Foundation. It is an ideal location as it is a gateway city for many Adivasi tribes with a close, cosmopolitan link to Surgana – the main town situated within the Adivasi territory. The transport links and resources available in Nashik mean the team is readily equipped for work in the remote villages.

Adivasi family outside their mud and straw house in a typical village in Maharashtra

Adivasi family outside their mud and straw house in a typical village in Maharashtra

Visionary partners

HCR and Seva began working together in January 2018. Seva’s vision is to see positive educational, health, and social development in the Adivasi villages of Maharashtra. The social class system does not even consider the Adivasi; they are the often overlooked indigenous tribes who are living in some of the most remote areas of India with many villages receiving little help from the government. Their illnesses are due mainly to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as harmful superstitious practices.

It’s for that reason that HCR and Seva set up the Adivasi Voices project, where audio content on “speaker boxes” support field activities such as health and sports camps. The speaker-MP3 players, provided to every family, are filled with local-dialect dramas, music and audio programmes that educate, inform, and entertain. The project is an innovative way to help communities that are isolated from mainstream Indian society with no means to access basic needs.

Six months on

After an initial base-line survey, the Adivasi Voices Project began in September 2018. Now six months on, Jon is excited to learn how successful the project has been, identify areas to be improved, and encourage the dedicated Seva team in their endeavours.

We will be journeying from Nashik to Surgana tomorrow, spending six days there and visiting two villages that have been Seva’s focus for the past six months.

Thanks for reading and joining us on this journey. Stick around for updates!




Stigma – a personal perspective!

Day 12 of #16DaysofActivism

By Shilpa Shinde

Let’s face it, India doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to valuing women! We rank 174th out of 189 on the gender inequality index.  As the leader of a small NGO I can tell you, it’s a man’s world and I have to work very hard to make my voice heard!  But the issue that has been bothering me most lately is the issue of stigma and particularly how women are affected by it.  

Take my close friend Anugrah*.  She got pregnant before marriage and was unaware that she had been carrying a child for 3 months.  She admits she was very naïve and not aware of much in those days but she was very afraid that her parents and her community would reject her.  

After she and her boyfriend discovered that Anugrah was pregnant, he secretly gave her a drug which he had been told would induce an abortion.  The effect however was to make her very ill, which raised the suspicion of her family, who eventually found out.  Anugrah and her boyfriend’s family then entered discussions and she was put under great pressure, particularly by his family, to abort the baby.  Augrah felt compelled to go through with the abortion, with the promise from her boyfriend’s family that they could get married soon afterwards.  Sadly, not only did they not keep their promise or help her through the procedure, which made her very ill, but they rejected her. They seemed more concerned for their image in society and the church.  

Anugrah was blamed for not ‘not keeping her purity’, while the son was exonerated from any blame, stigma or shame. She has endured rejection and shame from her church and community and even been kicked out of her youth group.  Many of her friends rejected her.   

Thankfully the story doesn’t end there.  Anugrah is now one of our key workers, helping our charity, Seva, serve poor and marginalised indigenous or Adivasi communities in our state.  She has amazing empathy, especially with girls and women, who suffer greatly.  And they love her… they know she feels their pain. 

Seva is a key HCR-partner in India, using a community-centred media approach to bring about holistic transformation among tribal communities (see http://www.h-c-r.org/news/2018/9/12/village-gets-a-new-voice)

*Not her real name

Anugrah.jpg