It’s all About Advocacy in Oscar 10

29th March 2015

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Much progress is being made with the murals in school. This smaller project is part of our awareness raising and resource development committees, reminding the children to continuously wash their hands once we leave and to hopefully initiate a long-lasting change. We also have two walls next to our murals where we hope to get the children involved by using their handprints.

Oscar 10 split up into groups. A group went into Kollegal to meet the Taluk Panchayat, arranging a meeting with the Gram Panchayat in our home-village of Kannur which is to be held on Tuesday at 10am. The Taluk is an umbrella for Gram Panchayats in the local area and looks over the standards of living conditions for villages. They are a great way to help us get things done within our area and the villagers are all keen to say their piece on the morning. We are purely here to facilitate this and allow it to happen rather than lead it - and it ties perfectly into our Advocacy Committee.

The other group went up to the school to continue working on the murals which is really taking shape and looking awesome; it’s a real shame that the weather has kept us at bay.

The day started early for Oscar 10 with a planned Sports Day with the Youth Group. The event was really successful and helped with cross cultural learning. We divided into 4 teams having a different color of rangoli powder on our faces and it included the three legged race, egg and spoon race and sack race, all of which led to a tie break. Therefore, the final race was a relay to decide the winning team. The afternoon was spent making personal tippy taps for two families which the team divided into two to do. The families were really enthusiastic and joined in with the building which is great for building capacity and makes themselves proud owners of a tippy tap. During this activity the families also learnt how to wash their hands using the ‘seven stages of hand washing’ method.

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Another group spent the morning building a tippy tap at one of the nearby houses, after a household awareness session on hand washing last week. Recently, we have carried out many individual awareness sessions to really engage the villagers with the concept of hand washing on an individual scale.

The final group produced over a hundred lovely leaflets to advertise our meeting with the Gram Panchayat on Tuesday and our coffee morning on Wednesday. On Tuesday, we have invited various self-help groups, the youth group and other village members to address problems in their immediate local area, with the Gram Panchayat. On Wednesday morning, we are holding a coffee morning to raise awareness of the Job Card Toilet Scheme, allowing families to build toilets funded by the Indian government. These leaflets were then distributed around the village.

We held another awareness session at one of the local schools on the afternoon, focusing on how germs are spread. This was held at the private primary school 2km down the road. The lesson plan included a demo with their newly built tippy tap, a true and false exercise on hand washing facts.

We had also met with the Gram Panchayat, where we headed at half nine so as to be there before any villagers. We arrived and were seated, and were dismayed to discover that the representative of the Taluk was no longer going to attend, and that the Secretary wasn’t even present, after both had previously confirmed. Ten o’clock came and went, and there was so sign of any of the village people who had been so enthusiastic the day before. At half past ten one old man came shuffling in, clutching a leaflet. He joined us, chuckling and pointing at the flyer. Our only comrade. Cross cultural learning at its finest.

Just before eleven we phoned around as many people as we could that had previously said they would attend. The first few trickles of youth group members arrived, followed by some of the women from a Self Help Group, carrying with them the two copies of a letter that we had suggested they bring along (one to leave with the Gram Panchayat, one to take away with them, signed by the secretary, as proof of acknowledgement). Familiar faces appeared as the more vocal villagers arrived, and a brief reminder at the school brought one of the teachers, who was, as usual, extremely helpful, organizing us into a panel and audience setup, and allowing the meeting to finally begin. An hour after schedule, and in an increasingly packed room as more and more arrived either with purpose or curiosity, the local people began to voice their issues – over 40 in total.

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What followed was an hour where emotions ran high. Many villagers were at the Gram Panchayat for the first time in a long time due to their disillusionment with the system. Several letters were presented and signed, and the main issues of water, drainage, and electricity supply and rubbish disposal were discussed. By the end we felt that it had been, if not progress, at least a first step towards it.

Afterwards, the team went to the house of the leader of the youth group where he and some of the volunteers had built a tippy tap a few days previously. In return he wanted to provide lunch for us all, and we passed a lovely early afternoon with his family – integration!!

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Later the whole team went to the local school, some to paint and some to lead awareness sessions with more classes. In the afternoon we all returned home for tea, and then discussed and planned our secondary project pitch for mid-phase. In the evening we had a team meeting discussing the day’s events in all of its extremes, followed by a group debate on drug abuse, and then much needed rest.