India Kilo 5 – Chinnahalli Hadi

18th November 2014

So, it’s been a massive month since kilo 5 arrived in the beautiful tribal village of Chinanahalli Haadi and what an adventure it’s been. As a team, we’ve gained 4 more community volunteers and expanded into a family who’ve achieved incredible amounts already. In fact, there are too many tales to tell, so here are our top highlights.

On arrival to the village, we were greeted by our new community – a loving family of 100 tribal men, women and children. Every day we are welcomed into their family homes to share breakfast and dinner the way; feasts of chapatti, chutneys, idly, sambar and of course everyone’s favourite... rice! What a great way to integrate into the community and gain a real insight of day to day life inside the village.

We’re super lucky to be placed in a village small enough to get to know each and every family, so relaxed conversation, fun and laughter (usually at our expense) is never in short supply. Fun and games come naturally and the villagers are always open to get involved whether it be sports days, ladies nights, rangoli competitions and fashions shows, to name just a few. We got more than we bargained for at our Diwali fashion show, where the men of the village, including village leader, Bassapa, totally upstaged the women by cross dressing in gorgeous saris and glitzy jewellery.

But it’s not all been fun and games, the hard work has truly begun and we have made steady progress in respect of our WASH related programme. We’ve forged a great relationship with our PDO (local rural development officer) who has taken the time to meet and discuss government schemes and entitlements on several occasions. To our surprise, we were awoken one Sunday morning with a visit from journalists of the state newspaper, who were keen to share our story and published our intent the following day. Publicity sure does the trick, and by lunch time the next day we were greeted with the news that subject to the Grama Panchiyat’s discretion, Chinanahalli Haadi could expect to see funding for one toilet per family (25 toilets in total!).

Phone calls were made and the following Monday Kilo 5 set off for a big day at the Zilla Panchayat’s office (an official responsible for rural development at district level), armed with 14 villagers dressed to the nines for their first ever visit to government offices at such a high level. As the entourage of auto rickshaws departed the Haadi, a huge reception waved us on our way. This day would go down in history.

After a successful two hour meeting with the Zilla Panchayat, we left in high spirits with promises of toilets, 30 houses, a local anganvadi (kindergarten) and social care for the lovely Rekka. News travels fast and before long the village had been propelled into a toilet pit digging frenzy, with 20 completed within the week. Good work Kilo 5! Now that the village is on board we are excited for their future prospects and the changes we’ll be sure to witness. Bring on phase two!

It’s only been four weeks, yet we could so easily be mistaken as part of the village fabric. We’re fortunate to have been welcomed into a community who have so little but share everything they have, whether it’s saris for the Kilo 5 girls or natural remedies for the Kilo 5 casualties.  It doesn’t bear thinking about saying goodbye come December. At times we have to remind ourselves how incredibly surreal it is to be living with a traditional honey collecting tribe in the middle of the forest. You have our word Kilo 5 will be making the most of every day we have left here.

Rach and Luce. Over.