Namaskara from India Yankee One!

23rd July 2013

Namaskara from India Yankee 1,

We have been living in Hadya Village for 3 weeks now and are finally all settled in, making the most of our time here and really becoming part of the community.

Everyone has been incredibly friendly, especially Mahesh (one of the village leaders). His mother has become our new best friend and is forever inviting us around for chai tea and dinner!

We are just coming up to the end of phase one and are incredibly proud of ourselves as we have achieved so much already. Being one of the biggest villages we had the massive task of completing over 300 household surveys and meeting over 1700 villagers. Adjusting to Indian life seems to have taken our team longer than most but we are finally fresh and healthy, especially knowing we have accomplished so much. We have met with two self help groups and completed a VENN diagram with the villagers, which was a massive success – over 60 people turned up! Discussions were mostly in Kanada but everyone could tell they were incredibly heated which just highlighted everyone’s passion for the village.

The next part of the programme involved creating a massive map of Hadya on the ground with loads of coloured paint, seeds, sand and most importantly, the help of all the villagers. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and the sun was strong all afternoon. After a massive worry being a sudden downpour our only actual concern ended up being sunburn! Everyone had a great day, it was inspiring to see so many happy faces. At first it was only men participating but we eventually persuaded four women to help which felt like a massive achievement.

The final part of phase one involved creating a timeline of the village, a chance for us to appreciate its history and understand how it had developed. Traditionally in India, meetings start with a prayer song so us British volunteers have created a harmonised version of ‘Amazing Grace’ to lift everyone’s spirits and share British culture around the village.

We have been living and sleeping in two of the village school classrooms. It’s amazing how much comfort you can find in concrete flooring! Since arriving in Hadya it has taken us all a while to get used to the constant audience, we can’t do anything without a bunch of peering eyes documenting everything we do! But after all we are strangers to them, we had landed in their village, we looked different, we behaved strangely and just like us they didn’t know how to react. We all had to learn to respect and appreciate the differences in the way we live. As the days have gone by our differences have become much less apparent and we seem to have developed a mutual understanding, which could be described as ‘just the way we do things around here.’

Everyone has found common ground within the children as they are so accepting, welcoming and fill every day with the love and affection everyone in our team needs. In the first few days we arranged a sports day with the school which was so much fun! The buzz and energy the children create, in some respects, keeps our spirit alive. We included lots of English games to make the afternoon extra special – this included a 3 legged race, which was a bit of a failure as the string broke immediately but the children were in their element and that was the main thing!

Once we had settled in it was time to leave the comforts of the school and move out into the rest of the village, make ourselves known and build as many positive relationships as possible within the local community. We were to go to the people, live amongst them, learn with them, start with what they know and build on what they already have. Our main goal being to help the people of Hadya village to help themselves.

Coming up to the end of week 4, we have all consumed around 69 delicious curries... six weeks left which means 141 to go! YUM! In the words of Megan, curry is a monster – it’s absolutely everywhere, it’s taking over the country, but just like the ‘Ghost Busters’, we will defeat it! So far we have celebrated three group birthdays (and still have two to go), played lots of cricket, been dressed in saris by the locals and drank endless cups of chai tea. The Indian volunteers even cooked us a local meal which was incredible!

Every day is filled with plenty of banter within the group, we have really created our own Raleigh family; Ashok even found entertainment in dressing in one of the girl’s bikinis! Between us we have learnt to make chai tea, wash our clothes Indian style (throw your clothes at a rock as hard as you can) and finally we had our hair styled to match the local children. The Indian volunteers all found it hilarious and said we looked like sixteen year old school girls!

With the end of phase one approaching we are all looking forward to reuniting with the rest of the volunteers back at field base! When we get back to Hadya we have the massive challenge of constructing twenty toilets in around eighteen days, so watch this space.....