23rd October 2014
Namaskara from India Kilo 6 based in the village of Thattekere (South-West Karnataka). Our team consists of team leaders Mary and KC and volunteers; Bryony, Megan, Kathryn, Emily, Conor, Manju, Tom, Matthew, and Arun.
We left in good spirits from the retrospectively glamorous Raleigh field base on Wednesday 8th October. En route we met up with our project partners CORD, where we gained a valuable insight into the tribal community we will be calling home for the next 60 days. Delving more and more into the depths of the nature reserve we were filled with lots of excitement (and some nerves!) to what we have got ourselves into! Upon arrival to Thattekere we were welcomed by heavy thunderstorms, causing a mad rush to unpack all our supplies from the bus. Our accommodation is situated at the entrance of the village, at the local primary school which is a great location and building to call home. After a bit of deliberation we worked out the best way to set out the mosquito nets and shower, involving a great amount of teamwork (and a bit of trial and error) we got the jobs done relatively fast. After all this was done, we sat out on the balcony and settled in with some team building games.
After our first night cocooned safely within the confines of our classroom, we all arose to share our first breakfast together consisting of rice and curry- a dish that us UKVs are not accustomed to waking up to. Later on in the day we were welcomed into Thattekere by some of the villagers, who gave us all beautiful bouquets of flowers. It was lovely to meet everyone, and to see a crowd of smiling faces really helped us feel at ease. After a small meeting to let the villagers know our intentions and what we can do to help, we played a couple of fun games with the children and taught them the classic ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ rhyme. We all went for our first walk around the village, which left us in awe of the stunning place we now happily call home. We carried out a risk assessment of the local area and were debriefed on what to do in case of emergencies (including what to do if you come in contact with snakes and elephants!). A running theme so far is the copious amount of chai consumed, which must make us a firm favourite at the 3 small shops in the village!
The following day began with a very encouraging meeting with the Panchayat Development Officer, who took us to visit the Gram Panchayat (Local Government). After a productive chat, we were shown around structures for local toilets, which made it us even more excited to try and get started with construction as soon as possible. We were also taken to Karmood a local village and after an amazing welcome by the local peacock, we saw the potential of what improved sanitation facilities can have on an area. On return we were assigned to our committees, aimed to help with the success of the project plan and incorporating everyone to have a leadership role in their chosen area. Some chose to work on peer education or awareness raising, whilst others chose the more practical infrastructure approach.
Next day we explored the surrounding area with a long walk with some of the local villagers. En route we were shown a fairly fresh tiger footprint, which had leaped over the elephant ditches on the sides of the path. We were all really tired from our long walk in the heat and treated ourselves to some pasta and tuna; the first western dish of the project. After a bit of recovery time we did some personal development tasks which were very useful to get us all talking about worldwide issues and what we can do to help improve local and worldwide problems.
After a very successful start to our project here in Thattekere, we used our Sunday to relax and help integrate ourselves within the village. We did this by throwing a Frisbee around and playing a big game of cricket on the main street in the village with the local children and even got some of the adults playing. After seeing so many smiling faces, it really gave the whole team a real buzz about what great people our neighbours are and gave us even more motivation to help raise awareness about such important issues as the W.A.S.H programme (water and sanitation hygiene).
We are ending our first week on a real high and cannot wait to further integrate ourselves with the village and start the initial steps of our PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal). For all your worrying mothers and fathers out there, we are all in very good spirits and are feeling lucky to be part of the best Raleigh team!
GO India Kilo 6 !!!