Note: This is a lengthy blog, so I’ve broken them into two posts…but get a pot of chai ready!
In the short time I’ve been here I’ve learnt a few of things about living in rural India. The most important lesson is that I have no business being here.
Secondly, I have learnt that I’m not the only one who is eager to build toilets. The project that attracted me to come out here was the opportunity to build toilets to improve the sanitary conditions in rural India. The Kanda community faces many common rural health issues, many of which could be eradicated through education and simple infrastructure. One primary concern is the contamination of the water supply by excreta-borne diseases. This is almost entirely due to the common practice of open-air defecation in the fields. One of the projects run by R.O.S.E is the uses of a twin tank composting toilet that is easy to build and maintain, and yields a nutrient-rich compost that can safely be used in the fields. In addition to sanitation, these toilets offer privacy to women who are dangerously taught to wait until the cover of night to relieve themselves, no matter how many hours away that many be.
This is something that Jeevan Verma, founder of R.O.S.E, wants to change and educate the locals about. But it looks like it’s not just him and I that want to build up toilets. The toilets were already built by other volunteers before I got here! While I’m delighted to see that the community has two new safe and sanitary public toilets, I’m also secretly disappointed. I want to build a toilet, dammit!
But there is enough work around here to prevent me from proposing the construction of a third toilet. Most adults in Kanda aren’t educated in English nor do they have computer skills. So they rely heavily on volunteers to help them out. This is why I’m settling into a familiar role of working with computers. My work here is to gather, learn and consolidate information for online publishing (Facebook and website updates).
The goal is to raise more awareness and attract like-minded volunteers and much needed donations.
Here is my to-do list:
- Capture photos of current project progress
- Write about future project plans and associated costs with detailed breakdown
- Create and upload a video showing living conditions and what to expect for potential volunteers
- Set up an online donation form and PayPal account for faster and easier international donations
- Create a webpage with transportation and accommodation instructions (Kanda is so remote that it takes two full days to get here from Delhi – more on that in another blog post)
I hope that I am able to accomplish all of these and help the community in a small way. My biggest obstacle will be the extremely slow and unreliable internet access. I am in awe of the patience people have here. That will be my personal challenge. I have come to appreciate the things I’ve taken for granted like a fast computer, internet access, or no power cuts. But that’s part of life in rural India. You’ve got to go with the flow to enjoy it.
My biggest pleasure will come from taking photos of the beautiful scenery and the people that live here. The locals are very easy to chat with – there’s no formality and they love to invite you over to their house for tea or dinner. I’ve never seen people so accommodating in letting me intrude in on their privacy as I put my big fat camera lens in their faces and homes. This is a photo-enthusiast paradise. Things move in a slow but constant pace and I’m quite enjoying the change and stress-free lifestyle!