India Yankee 8 – Vijayagiri Hadi

30th July 2014

India Yankee 8 have arrived safely in Virjayagiri Hadi and have settled into everyday village life. We were immediately met with our first challenge of building a shower and long-drop (quite an experience…) although have all acclimatized nicely to our new facilities (bar the incident of someone dropping their phone down the long-drop… not mentioning any names *Helen* #TopTeamLeader). After two weeks of living together some firm friendships have blossomed amongst both the UK volunteers and In-Country volunteers. Everyone is working well together. A promising start.

We were given a warm welcome by the Villagers upon our arrival, greeted with flowers, Rangoli and smiles; the integration process has come naturally - not even the language barrier can phase us! Thankfully we have some incredibly talented Indian volunteers who speak practically fluent English- thank you Yogesh, Ramesh and Somesheca for all of your help with translating Kannada. The children are full of life and curiosity. Getting mobbed on our travels around the village has become a common (but pleasant) occurrence; Peter is practically the District’s Celeb.

After the initial integration, the real graft began. We have visited nearby villages to get a feel for our surroundings and their facilities (schools, heath centre and the local council), and have completed Venn-Diagrams, Social Maps and Village Timelines in order to explore the village fully. We have also completed some secondary construction work clearing the village drainage system so that there is no longer a back-log of stagnant water (goodbye mosquitoes). Initially we received quizzical looks from the villagers when the UK girls set off, spades in hand, to complete construction work. Comments such as ‘Lady-Alice, Why You So Strong’ springs to mind…. However, we take this as a compliment and hope it is a small step towards empowering the women of the village.

Given that we are on a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) project, we are trying to place a real emphasis on the importance of hand washing to the children. Constructing a tippy-tap in the village and local school and holding regular demonstrations on how to use them has proved to be a real success. Chris has utilized his First-Class Honors degree in Fine Art to its full extent, creating some beautiful posters on the 8 steps of hand washing that none of us could ever dream of drawing. We get a real sense of pride when we see the children using them on their own accord- implementing positive behavioral change at such an early stage in the project is amazing to see.

Another key aspect of our stay so far has been the exchange of cultures. Our culture committee has organized some well-received events such as a Henna competition and Ladies dress up afternoon. Laxmi and Sevanti demonstrated some amazing Henna skills and we are all sporting intricate designs on our hands and up our arms. The UK girls are causing quite a stir with their pale skin, and Rachel’s hair has attracted the attention and curiosity of a few of our Indian friends. Some of the babies are so shocked by our luminous skin tones that they cry….fortunately Mariama’s maternal instinct comforts them. Despite our best efforts to bond with the village over Chai and biscuits we soon found out that our technique was not up to scratch; our Chai is either too cold or not sweet enough. Luckily Rebecca provided a bracelet making kit which has been a massive hit with the women and children- we hope by the end of our stay everyone will have a custom-made bracelet which will enforce a real sense of community.

We still have a lot to do, but we feel that we have made an amazing start. Our next big task is to evaluate the toilet facilities of every household in the village and decide on beneficiaries for the 15 toilets that we will build. Continuing to implement positive behavioral changes is crucial, with the next challenge to encourage the children to wear ‘slippers’ (or flip-flops). We will continue to love life in Virjayagiri Hadi, and are excited see the place we now call our home flourish (as well as the growth of our triceps from daily water collection!). To put any worrying minds reading this at ease, we are all in good health, happy and loving the time we have spent in India so far. Lots of love to you all. Over and Out.