"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!




“You have given us courage to speak”

 “You have given us courage to speak and express our views in front of men!”

One female participant’s words express the exciting outcome of a recent HCR Pakistan workshop on creating community-centred radio. Five women and nine men took part in the workshop in a rural village in Pakistan.

At the start of the workshop, the participants said they wanted to raise their voices on behalf of the poor. One woman said she wanted to be a champion for those who are marginalised.

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

A health worker in the community is already using radio to include marginalised voices in community conversations. He goes around the village speaking to a variety of people, recording their opinions on health and development topics. He and the HCR Pakistan director, Mr Hazeen Latif are eager for the radio to be even more inclusive by building a team of volunteers within the community to help design and produce the programmes too.

The group learned the basic principles of community centred radio, how to make Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and how to interview people for radio. The quality of the practical work was very high, one team’s work reaching what we call ABS – Above Broadcast Standard.

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Yet a big challenge in this traditionally male-dominated culture was how to have men and women participating in the workshop together. Sitting in the same room for a public event is not the norm.

As the practical exercises began, the women’s voices were too quiet to be heard. The women realised that if they wanted to be inclusive activists, they had to overcome their fears of speaking out. As the course continued, they found more confidence. They said later that they began to see the facilitator as a friendly, fatherly figure, making the workshop a safe environment for speaking. The men were impressed at how passionately the women would argue their points publicly.

Confidence grew within the workshop, but the trust that led to this has been growing over several years. Mr Latif and the community health worker have collaborated on the Naway Saher project for about four years, facilitating a variety of community development activities. They have patiently built trust with each other and with the community.

Trust has been essential in arriving at the point where the workshop was possible. Trust was also essential for the workshop to become truly inclusive. Trust gives hope that the new team will be successful in their goal to be champions for the poor and marginalised.

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Using Technology to Tackle Teen Pregnancies

By Jon Hargreaves

 HCR partner station Amani FM in eastern Kenya’s Tana River, has launched a major campaign to tackle underage pregnancy.  According to Station Manager, Harriet Atyang, “Tana River County is among the four worst hit counties with this menace and is one of the major reasons it performs so poorly in the national exams.”

 Over the next three months Amani FM will be promoting awareness of underage pregnancy through discussion programmes, road shows, street theatre and visiting schools across the region.  In addition to this, the station is teaming up with Una Hakika to use technology to protect vulnerable children.  Using Una Hakika’s SMS text reporting system, listeners will be given a short code, which they will be able to use free-of-charge, to report any incidents where they feel threatened or at risk.

“Every text will be followed up and in the case of a rescue being required, we will involve the police,” says Harriet.  “I have spoken to the OCS of the area and he is ready to offer us all the support we need.”

HCR set up Amani FM in partnership with the Sentinel Project to promote peace and social development ahead of the elections in 2017 and an evaluation last year showed it had had a significant impact on promoting dialogue between different ethnic groups.

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

Harriet Atyang and Esther Dalano interview a community member during an Amani FM Road Show

Harriet Atyang and Esther Dalano interview a community member during an Amani FM Road Show

Let's start a business, to alleviate poverty

“Tuanze Biashara” is Swahili for “Let's Start a Business”, a poverty alleviation project integrating a community radio station, social media, training workshops and a savings and loan association. See how this innovative micro-enterprise project is lifting people in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County out of poverty.