28th February 2015
Nestled amongst the striking hills that surround the village, Shanthinagar is a small mostly Catholic community of around 500 people. It really is a picturesque village, but in the summer months it suffers from a shortage of water. Sometimes this means that the villagers must choose what necessities they use their water for, a decision no one should have to make. Shanthinagar has been nothing but welcoming to our group, perhaps epitomized by the first couple of days…
We started off the week by hopping around from one event to the next. We were welcomed by the village priest, Father Anthony Swamy, before being promptly decorated with traditional flower garlands and bhindis. We were then shown to our accommodation beside the village’s main Catholic Church. But we didn’t have very much time to do any settling in, as the lavish welcome was only a taste of things to come. The village soon showed further proof of their hospitality by inviting us to a wedding the very next morning! The wedding was a simple ceremony, and was a humbling way of first integrating with the community.
Shanthinagar is spread across a large area and over the next couple of days we began our research work with the villagers (Participatory Rural Appraisal). We visited nearly 150 households and gathered information on health and sanitation practices, this will help us with our future plans. We held meetings with village members to learn more about their village. We also created a timeline history of the village, a venn diagram to show what institutions are important to the community and what is accessible, and a social map of the village to help us understand the layout and any infrastructure. These activities all gave us a really great understanding of what the village has, and needs.
Our accommodation by the church has quickly become a gathering place for the village children in the evenings. This motivated us to arrange a sports day for the children, we aimed to teach them good teamwork while integrating with our group. We had just over 80 turn up on the day, it was a great success!
We continued the weekend’s festivities with Mother Mary’s day, which coincides with Valentine’s Day. We were invited to celebrate with the village, there was music and dancing, including a traditional dance performance by some of the village girls. At the end, our group were invited up to the stage and presented with roses as Valentine’s Day gifts. It was a humbling experience, and showed us again just how welcoming the village has been.
It’s been a fantastic week filled with community integration, youth development, awareness raising, and action research. We’ve all had a great time settling in, and the group has really bonded and we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re here to do without each other. We’re learning a lot together and planning to make a lasting change in Shanthinagar!