Sunday, 10 March 2013
It is a country of stark contrasts - poverty vs riches, colour vs dark places and opportunity vs despair...and these things were abundantly apparent in a lot of the places that we visited. It strikes me as so unfair that these disparities still exist within countries in 2013. A number of people have questioned the need for WaterAid to work in India as the country has the means within its own government to help their own people - I completely understand this point of view but equally I have seen the faces of the people that this would disadvantage. These people are not statistics they are faces in my mind and ones that deserve the basic human right of access to clean water and sanitation. And WaterAid are working at this problem from both sides - they are supporting these vulnerable communities at the same time as lobbying government and leveraging funds from them to support their work.
The work of WaterAid is nothing short of amazing - it isn't about the taps and the toilets (although obviously these are great!) it is about the opportunity and freedoms that access to clean water provides. It is about the freedom from illness, the reinstatement of dignity, the time that the communities can invest differently, the education that this brings and the empowerment of the communities to build their futures together.
India took me through a massive range of emotions, some of which I am still working through but I came home with an overwhelming sense of pride - pride that I was lucky enough to experience the work of WaterAid first hand, pride that this fantastic charity was borne out of the industry in which I work and enormous pride in all those people out there that support WaterAid.
The thing I will take forward from this experience is the families we met and their stories - their dignity in their day to day struggle for survival, and the overwhelming drive of particularly the women to change their children's lives. Water is the turnkey to that - it really is as simple as that.
WaterAid changes lives, and that cannot be underestimated.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my experiences, and as I have done learned a lot about the work of WaterAid....thank you for reading, and I hope that our journey has been as informative and inspiring for you as it has been for us.....
Saturday, 2 March 2013
As we drive through a traffic on a busy Friday morning, past shops and banks and people's homes we take a sharp left and we are suddenly in the a large open space covered in litter. We drive about 100m and then we are at the entrance of the slum. We get put into groups and then lead to a family's house. The slum has been here for 40 years but is unauthorised so no one has been able to build a proper home, just corrigated iron shacks. We meet Raj Kumari and her friends who all live in the same section of the slum. They tell us there are pipes that bring water once a day for an hour.1 pipe for each row of the slum that is between 32 and 40 households. The pipes don't have taps, they are open so when the water does get switched on, if no one is there to collect it the water just runs away. I can also see that the water pipe runs through the open drain which is full of rubbish and waste and dirty water. The pipes are broken in some places and the dirty water can get into the clean water supply which the people in the slum have to drink. I ask them where they go to the toilet. they all look over my shoulder and point to a road about 200m away. 'There' they say 'on the side of the road'. They tell us in the day they are scared of snakes and insects, that they are embarrassed as people can see them. At night the women and children are scared of being attacked by men.
Most of the children in the slum go to Government schools and most of the adults work. The men are labourers and the women work as cleaners for the rich people in the houses near by. I ask the women if they are allowed to have a drink of water or use the toilet whilst they work in the houses. They say no. they aren't allowed at all.
Life in the slum seems to be a battle. In the summer the water dries up and they are meant to get water delivered by tanker, it very rarely comes. In this case they have to walk 2k across the city to the nearest water tap. In the rainy season the open sewers fill up and flood people's houses. Also when it rains the children slip and fall into the drains and the road where people go to the toilet also floods and the water carries all the human waste back to the slum where it gets into people's houses and covers the clean water pipes. The people in the slum know how unsafe it is to drink the water they are given and they know it is unhygienic to openly defecate. But they have no choice. This is no way to live!
As we walk around the slum we are watching the women collect water, the drains the pipe runs through smells and you can see how dirty it is even from a distance. We see one woman with 4 empty buckets and one half full. She tells us the water has been turned off and she hasn't had time to collect enough water for her family that day. She either has to wait until tomorrow or walk 2k to the nearest water point.
As we walked out of the slum we noticed a JCB and a truck digging out the septic waste from one of the open drains which run round the slum like a moat. The people in the slum are all looking on amazed. The 'corporation' have never been here before, they have never tried to clean up before, they have never listened to the people in the slum. The woman who is running to be the local leader has also arrived. It is amazing to think that just our presence has encouraged the people local authority to turn up and do something. It seems to be just a show though and as we leave we are all pretty sure that the JCBs and the trucks will pack up and leave as well pretty soon....
In the afternoon we go to a slum called Agunara. the people in this slum have been helped by WaterAid and their partners. We are welcomed to this village with songs and smiles. We go to Shanti Gupda's house a concrete building with a kitchen, bathroom, toilet, living room and 2 bedrooms. We also meet her two beautiful daughters Moni, 20 and Rinki 17. They tell us they are studying at collage and Rinki tells us she wants to be a nurse. The intervention in their slum started in 2009. Before they had no real water supply and they all openly defecated. This made them feel scared and embarrassed but they had no other choice. Now, the slum has numerous water supply pipes and they all say they have plenty of water. All of the houses also have toilets so they never have to worry about privacy or safety. They tell us their health is now much better and they spend all their free time studying. Previously it had taken 3 - 4 hours a day to collect water. Now they don't have to do this they are happy. This slum has been authorised for 30 years, this has given the people some security so they have built solid homes and have an electricity supply. This place is so different to the slum we saw this morning. this place is more like an urban village than a slum, it is so clean and there is no smell.
Visiting this slum has given me hope that WaterAid will also be able to help the slum we visited this morning. I would love to go back in 5 years time and see the difference, the pople will be happy, healthy and clean. They will be safer and they will have their dignity back.
So that was our last day.
Off home to the UK now.... bye India!! What a week! I will never forget and I will work hard to raise awareness for WaterAid so they can help more people, and save more people's lives.
Saturday, 23 February 2013
Immediately as we entered the area there was a happiness and engagement about the place - people were proud of the area in which they lived and were actively seeking us to enter their homes and see the improvements they had made.
Shanti Gupta was a lady who warmly welcomed us into her home and her life. She has two sons who were both away at the time and two beautiful daughters - Moni (20) and Rinki (18). The whole family was talkative and enthused about the work that WaterAid had helped them do over the recent years.
Before the intervention by WaterAid there was widespread open defecation, water was scarce and had to be collected from much further away meaning 3-4 hours per day were dedicated to this single task. Worse than this, disease was rife - there wasn't a time when one or the other of the children was not sick. The stagnant water around the settlement due to poor drainage attracted Mosquitos, which in turn spread malaria through the population rampantly.
But now that has all changed - WaterAid helped the community to mobilise themselves with the help of their Corporator, Laxmi. She herself was so proud of what the village had achieved and welcomed us warmly and openly to share their story. It was not a quick journey - it has taken nearly 4 years to get there. But they are here now and that is amazing.
Moni and Rinki were both charming young women who had been given a number of things by the introduction of water and sanitation to their village. Firstly it gave them dignity - as we have heard all too often this week the lack of sanitation causes women to have no dignity in their day to day existence. This is especially hard on young women as they reach adolescence and begin menstruation. Now Moni and Rinki are not concerned about this and it becomes almost a non event in their day to day lives - exactly what it should be. Secondly it gives them time - time is a precious gift for them to use exactly how they choose - and something that gives them the control over their futures which they were sadly lacking. And boy have they used their time wisely. Moni is now a commerce student at the local college doing a PG Diploma in Computer Applications and when she finishes her course this year is hopeful of securing a related job. She also has done a beauty course and earns extra work using her skills in some of the communities around the local area. Rinki is studying science at college and is hoping to become a nurse - she proudly shows us the room that she studies in, with books piled high to the ceiling and we know that she will be successful in what she aims for.
So water and sanitation do not just keep people from getting sick - they allow the families to dream and work towards a better life. Education is the key for people to make their aspirations a reality - be that the education of villagers for the need for sanitation, of local government as to their responsibilities, of children to ensure sustainability and of us so we can spread the word.
That's it in terms of visits - we are very sad to have come to the end of the programme and be returning to the UK, but we do so educated as to what the reality of living without water and sanitation is like and what a powerful force WaterAid can be in changing people's futures.
I will no doubt reflect on my time in India over the coming days, and am likely to post more as I do so so please check back - the things we have seen in the last week have been eye opening, scary & shocking and it will likely take us while to process this information. One thing I can tell you now for sure though is that WaterAid do a very good thing and I for one am immensely proud to be involved with such an organisation.
We set off from the hotel and drove through Bhopal, past the largest lake in asia (so we were told) and out of the city to the rural village of Amrod. As we got off the coach the smell of sweet insense drifted towards us. We had a lovely welcome in the communal meeting area for the village. We were given gifts of coconuts which are symbols of warmth and love. In Amrod the government were providing the hardware to build toilets but WaterAid and its partners worked with the village for three months to educate them about the need for toilets in the first place. They then helped get a committee together which applied to the government for support under the total sanitation scheme. They also have an aspriational 5 year plan for the village. The final push for the village to become open defication free was from a man in the village who heard of a woman in a nearby village being attacked whilst going to the loo outside. This was the final motivation for him to start building a toilet so he could keep his family safe. After 2 months of building 75 our of 84 households now have toilets.
I spent some time with a family and helped them to build their latrine. It was amazing! I mixed cement and laid some bricks! Prabhu lala and his family used to think there waa not enough space for a toilet, maybe it would be too expensive for them and that an indoor toilet waa unhygienice. Since WaterAid started their work all of these myths have been put to rest and the family are now thrilled to be building their own family toilet. The family was happy they were getting a toilet as it would save them time, which they could use to work. And it would mean safety and dignity for the women.
The family were so welcoming and kind. They really let us slip into family routine. They were proud of what they were doing together as a family. We even got asked to stay for a night! Their kindness and generosity, the fact they were willing to share what little they had with us, their smiles and they way they accommidated us really touched my heart and as i shared photos of my family with Soram bai, the mother, i got a bit choked up! It was such a wonderful morning.
In the afternoon we visited a secondary school in a village called Padli. In this school WaterAid had worked with the children to help them understand the need for toilets. Previously the villagers had used the school playground as the open defication zone which ment the children could not use the space, and even some of the classrooms because the smell was so bad. Once the children understood the need for sanitation.and hygiene they started telling their parents, asking them to build toilets. They also got up early for school and played games outside so people wouldnt go to the toilet there. They had whistles and would blow them is they saw anyone openly deficating. The children said they used to get told off and people would complain to their parents. But they continued to do it knowing it was the right thing to do. 3 monthd later the village, is open defication free and the children are thrilled! They are so proud. as they showed us round their school they were telling us of their aspirations to be teachers so they could teach the whole'm of India to read. We played games in the play ground which had previously been unusable. All the children were so happy and healthy. As they said their evening prayer things settled down and we left the village.
Today was an inspiring day for me. The impact of WaterAid's work was so obvious. simple things that we dont think about like safety and dignity when going to the toilet, having safe water to drink that is available all year round. These are things people in India dont have, and dont know they deserve. WaterAid empowers them and gives them the cofidence to ask for the things they need.
We had a small lie in today, up at 7 not 5.30! We left Gwalior by train and headed to Bhopal.
On the train we had lunch and drinks provided by 'meals on wheels'. I tried to explain to Sharesh, one of the WaterAid India guys what meals on wheels were in the uk...i think something was lost in translation!
As we chugged south there was the odd palm tree in the middle of a field of grain and we knew it would be hot when we got to our destination.
After 5 hours we pulled into Bhopal station. We where whisked off to the Amer Hotel and as we zoomed through the streets I could instantly tell this was a different kind of city to Gwalior. 2 million people live in Bhopal, it was busy! There was rubbish everywhere and cows eating from skips full of waste. There were people washing in the green/grey river as plastic and other debris floated past which had tumbled down from the river bank.
After a day of travelling we were meeting WaterAid partners and officials from local Government to talk about water and sanitation issues. We heard from some of WaterAid India's partners about their work. The aim is to empower the people they work with so they can get what they deserve. They want to mobilise communities to take advantage of government schemes like the total sanitation scheme and the piped water scheme. It was confirmed that India does have the money and resourses but it doesn't do the implimentation very well or the after care to make sure pumps and toilets actually work! WaterAid and its partners work with communities on behavioural change and soft skills rather than hardware, they leave a lots of that to the government. WaterAid train the people to be able to maintain the infrastructure and creat committees which collect water bills so they can look after the supplies into.the future. This makes the work sustainable because people take ownership of their situation. People motivated and committed, thats what makes WaterAid's projects sustainable.
But what I have to say is that whole heartedly the whole group embraced the opportunity that we had been given and understood that the work of WaterAid is so vital in these areas that our visit would have been poorer for not making the time to go there, no matter how hard it was.
Shiv Nagar is an unauthorised slum so it has not been sanctioned by the local government and therefore faces demolition at any point. However it has been in existence for 40 years so it is well established, and huge - I mean 15,000 people live here - that isn't even on the same scale of the other settlements we have visited this week - it stretches as far as the eye can see as we drive across the scrub land towards it. What also draws our attention are the drainage ditches that criss cross the scrub land that carry the waste from the slum - these are massive open sewers that reek with the scepticity of their contents.
Walking into the slums I am once again hit by the gracious, honest faces that meet me - these are people who are simply trying to do their best for themselves and their families with their meagre resources and immediately my fear disintegrates.
We meet Rajkurami and Bhagwan who have raised three sons here in the slums and they tell us about their day to day life. It is hard - there is no other way to describe it. Rajkurami works as a maid at various houses which could be up to 10km away - she cleans three house twice a day and she will earn approximately 1500 rupees per month for her trouble. That's about £18. To put it into context she will have to spend 1200 rupees a month on firewood alone before thinking about food. This means she can't afford medicine when her or her children get sick, and the medical care they can get is very elitist - they wonder whether they aren't actually given the right medicine anyway.
The whole group are very mistrustful of the authorities - for which I cannot blame them as they come every 4 months or so and clear all of their possessions out of the houses and leave them with nothing. This is just to reassert the fact that the slum is unauthorised.
In terms of water supply, there is some but the tap only works for one hour per day and the pressure isn't high enough often to be able to fill their containers. We later met a lady who had half a container of water - she needs six for her family but the tap has been turned off for the day - she will now have to walk 2 km to the nearest settlement to get water. This happens on about 50% of days.
The most shocking thing though that I saw in the slums was the water pipe running directly through the open sewer - it runs in the same ditch. The pipe leaks so the raw sewage is getting into the water. The families however have no alternative source and have to drink it. The reality of this is really brought home when I meet Kurylinjl and his beautiful granddaughter Pari - his son, her Dad died of a water bourne illness last year. She is fatherless because of the conditions that they live in. That breaks my heart as it is preventable.
The people of the slums are honest, dignified and simply thoroughly downtrodden by the society in which they live - they see no route out of this level of poverty and shocking things to you or I are simply everyday life to them. People shouldn't live like this - it is that simple, or at least it is in my head.
I am however thrown a curved ball when we return back to the group. Whilst we had been meeting our families (and in our case learning to make roti!) the Corporater (local councillor) had learned of our visit and had arrived herself but not only that had brought diggers and wagons to clean out the drainage ditches. We wonder how long they will stay after we have gone and whether they really are committed to the change that they say. The thing about WaterAid though is that they will use their skills to leverage local councillors to make change - at present the situation looks bleak but they are only at the very beginning of this process - to a group of frustrated and angry WaterAid supporters they make the point that they cannot do anything without the Corporater's permission - they have to educate the people to organise themselves and understand the importance of water and sanitation and also work from the top down to change the rhetoric within local government. It leaves me feeling angry that people in positions of power are not taking responsibility but I understand that it is an iterative process that will take time - WaterAid though is so vital in ensuring this process happens and stays on track.
The village was using 100% open defecation and surprisingly and alarmingly the main site that was used was the area around the local village school. The stench was so bad that the children were not able to eat their lunches some days and they certainly could not play openly outside - this shocked me greatly as the villagers that were doing this were the same villagers who were the parents of these beautiful children. Those that did not defecate near the school walked for about 2km to use a road side which is both dangerous and a matter of dignity for these women who traditionally should keep themselves and their faces covered from men at all times.
What struck me about this village that hadn't come through strongly to me before was the power of the children as a force for good and a conduit for change. WaterAid began working with the village in July 2012 and using the children as leverage pulled the community together to build a better future for themselves.
These brave beautiful children stood up to the adults in their community by literally whistle blowing on people who were spotted openly defecating near their school. They blew their whistles loudly and proudly until the people stopped. They formed themselves into teams and would also be at school in the very early morning (4 or 5am) to ensure the villagers were not using the area under of cover of darkness either. To take responsibility at such a young age - we are not talking about teenagers here, we are talking children as young as 6 or 7 - and not only that but to challenge and educate adults has to be seen to be believed. It took them 3 months to stop the practice completely in the village and to construct latrines in every household.
These children are bright, happy and healthy because of the work that WaterAid has facilitated in their village. But WaterAid didn't make the change, the village children did - WaterAid simply gave them a voice and a mechanism to make the change.
As the children proudly told us about the school Government (including Prime Minister, Water & Sanitation Minister, Education Minister and Games & Culture Minister) they share their hopes and aspirations for the future with us. And their dreams are tangible and achievable - they all want to stay in education and they all dream of jobs such as teachers or doctors, and talking to them you truly believe that it is within their grasp.
And the best was yet to come! After a tour of their school, the floor was opened up for games! And while the boys started an India Vs England cricket match - hardly the next Test Series, but no one cared - the smaller children introduced us to a game that seemed to be a firm favourite! Now I'm now exactly sure what it was, and indeed before we started I didn't know the rules! But it seemed to go a little like this....everyone starts in a large circle and gradually we start running round, we chant a song as we go and then the teacher calls a number. You have to get into groups of that number and any odd people out are out of the game....this continues until you only have one group left! This was all fine until the point that we realised that every single village child wanted to play and so the game went on for a very long time....aand also every single one of them wanted a WaterAid person in their group - imagine being rugby tackled by about 15 small children at once and you'll be getting somewhere near! Add to this the running in the 30 degree heat and we were well and truly tired out! Erica's team was victorious, but the children were all so happy no one really minded if they won or lost!
So the day was really one of contrasts but one that we all thoroughly enjoyed and will treasure for a long time to come....
Also a quick apology for lack of photos a) I was too busy playing games and b) my camera was playing up! I am assured though we have lots to share with you but technology is slightly against us at this point, so watch this space!
Friday, 22 February 2013
The funding of the scheme really interested me - if the villagers raise 3% of the funds for the scheme themselves then the local government will fund the remainder. This is the important thing about WaterAid - they use the resources to leverage funds from other sources. So they complete advocacy work in the villages to mobilise themselves, they facilitate the submission of plans, education programmes and the putting in place of an organisational structure. In this way the hours spent in the villages by WaterAid achieve much more than giving the money alone would do.
The major motivational factor of this village for installing sanitation was safety. It's hadn't occurred to me before but hit me right between the eyes. Women and children were being attacked out in the fields if they were seen openly defecating. Imagine being a father or a brother who was unable to protect their family from these kind of attacks. You would want the women of your household to be safe and for them to have dignity at all times. Prabhu spoke to us as a concerned father who wanted exactly that for his wife Soram and their 9 children, just simply safety, privacy and dignity.
So in just less than 4 months the village have managed to complete 75 latrines, and have 9 more to complete by the end of February to hit their programme target. And we, although not sure whether we were a help or a hinderance, proudly helped the community with 3 of those 9 remaining latrines.
The engineering bit was great - basically they construct two circular chambers with small drainage holes in the wall about 1.5 metres deep with a Y-Junction leading to the latrine base inside a brick cubicle. One of the legs of the Y-Junction is blocked so that only a single chamber is filling at any point in time. It will take approximately 5 years for this chamber to fill for an average sized family. When it is full, the junction is changed to divert flows to the second chamber. The first is left for 6 months in which time the liquid leaches out and the solid matter decomposes to leave a good quality compost type material which can be emptied out and used on kitchen garden. And the cycle just continues as such - sustainable and practical.
I'm not sure how good a bricklayer I would make, but we helped which was the main thing and I loved getting my hands dirty. The mason Sitaram said we did a good job, but I think he may have just been gracious! I suspect there might have been a bit of re-pointing going on after we left!
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
The President of the Water & Sanitation Committee quite openly admitted that before WaterAid came along the provision for water and sanitation was negligible - there was no drainage and the topography tended to cause pools of stagnant water to form attracting Mosquitos. The village is also in a drought area so is very susceptible to water shortages and all of these things had to be taken into account for the village.
WaterAid firstly engaged with the community about hygiene and the connection with water, and trained two teachers who could do school education and also household level interaction. This was the first step towards a behavioural shift that allows the new systems to function. They also from a practical point of view taught operation and maintenance to the villagers so they could be self sufficient going forwards.
So now for the engineering for those of you that are inclined towards such things....
Rainwater harvesting systems were put in place on all village buildings in order to capture the vital source of water. This runs to a well where a submersible pump takes it up the hill to main storage tank - this creates capacity in the system for times when the electricity may fail due to frequent power cuts. This tank gravity feeds to village and will therefore work even when the pump isn't running. It also takes water from two wells (dual supply) so that the availability of water is maximised. I've attached a schematic which the village have painted on the pump house wall - which by the way is a brilliant way to overcome the problem of as-built drawings!
So far 57 properties have piped water and 77 toilets have been installed in the village and they are hoping to achieve 100% very shortly.
Every house on the system pays 50 rupees (about 75p) a month into a fund to pay the local man who operates and maintains the pump.
So this afternoon for me wasn't about the human face of water issues - although that was clear too - it was about practical sound engineering solutions to the specific issues faced by the village and the need for individual plans to suit the village's need.
Check back for more updates soon!
Anyway back to more important things! Our first village today was Jonhar which is the largest of the villages we have seen so far. We were beautifully welcomed as always, presented with flower garlands and blessed by having a red spot marked on our foreheads - a traditional Hindu greeting.
When we began to talk to the villagers it was largely the women that came forward - that is fundamentally because water is seen as the role of the women and it is them that it affects the most. They fetch the water, they prepare the food with the water, they walk for miles to deficate so that men do not see them. The gender divide is well and truly in existence in India and so we see why it is so fundamental to the success of WaterAids projects that they form a women's group where they can talk openly about their water needs.
This village has no protected water source - the one they do have is a well, but this is not protected from cattle or waste dumping which can infiltrate the supply. It is also greatly affected by the seasons - both the levels of water available and the quality of the supply. Most villagers suffer from typhoid every rainy season here due to the water supply.
We spoke in detail to Awadh who was very vocal in the earlier meetings in terms of the need for not only water, but has aspirations for a piped supply to each home. They are very mistrustful of hand pumps as the government installed one a number of years ago but due to lack of maintenance it now no longer works.
Awadh has 4 sons and recognising the importance of education, two are now teachers, one is in college and the fourth is still in school. She is lucky as although she doesn't have water and sanitation she has land on which the family grows mustard, wheat and grains as well as farming buffalo for the milk.
However as we continue our conversation with her the worrying thing that she tells us that when she collects the water from the well she is getting chest pains which indicates the strain that her body is under. She is 50 years old and should not be experiencing this. What also catches our attention is that her daughter in law Sangeeta, who lives in the same house, is pregnant. She is due in June, which is just before the rainy season when typhoid will be rife in this village so we hope she will be one of the lucky ones.
Awadh was generous with her time and showed us the well and how they fill the vessels with water - there is a real skill to it - at present you have to lower the vessel about 20 feet, but later in the year it will be double that as the well levels drop.
Our eye was caught by a lone girl who the translator was talking to. Her name was Sumon and she had missed school especially to see us today. She is 14 and collects water for 11 people in her family home - she is the only one that does this and she makes a lot of trips every day both before and after school, and if there isn't enough water she misses school to keep carrying. She aspires to learn sewing and be a dressmaker when she is older, but her face seems to say she has no hope of doing it. It saddens me greatly and I wanted to teach her there and then like my Mum did for me.
WaterAid are in the process of just starting to work with this village so there is some hope. They are unsure at the moment until they do some survey work whether it will be possible to meet the aspirations of the village for full piped supply, but they are confident that whatever they are able to do will make a difference.
Another 5.30 start and off again at 7. The roads to the pre intervention village were terrible, it was more like off roading and we swapped and switched between carriage ways every few miles. The government and the contractor building the roads fell out a year ago, im glad they finished the bridges first before downing tools! 3 hours later we arrived a Jonhar this village welcomed us warmly and we spoke to women about their troubles. The water makes them ill particularly in summer and they get malaria which makes them ache and feverish. The women collect water from a well that has no covering so they also get typhoid. Every morning the go to and from the well up to 5 times carrying at least 10 litres of water at a time.
The villagers have no toilets and they can not deficate in the agricultural fields around their homes so they have to walk about 2k to the road to go there. At night the girls are scared to go alone so their mothers go with them. The villagers want piped water to their homes and there is a government scheme to help with this and WaterAid is supporting by doing an initial analysis and survey to understand the villagers needs. They will then help with sanitation too. We spent the morning with Awahd and her family, they have electricity and a quite big house. They have land that they farm and a calf. she has 4 sons, 2 are still studying and 2 are now teachers in another village. They have no clean water and sanitation. They want clean water and toilets so they can be clean but also to save time so they can work to earn more money and spend more time with their children to help with their studies. Awahd gets up at 6am and goes to the loo by the road 1- 2k away, she then comes back to clean her teeth. Then she and her daughter in law go to collect water. They each go back and forth 4 times in the morning. They then go to work in the fields when they come back they collect water again. Awahd's husband, has to help her collect water which is rare, this is because lifting heavy weights gives her pain in her chest and heart, she also has liver problems.
we also met Sumon a 14 year old girl she has 6 brothers and sisters but she is the only one who collects water and cooks she also goes to school. Carrying water hurts her neck. She wants to learn to sew so she can make clothes for herself and others.
Again, we have lunch on the way to a post intervention village. Another huge welcome awaited us in Kamhar! 70% of the households have toilets and they have got rain water harvesting on every house. There is a pumped well that provides piped water to people's houses between 6 -8 am. There is also another well that is used as a back up if the first well runs dry. This village has a problem with drought so there has been lots of resiliance built in. there are check dams as well. Some one donated the well to this village so they now have a safe water supply.
I have noticed that water and sanitation really does change people's lives, it gives people time to earn more money to help work themselves out of poverty and it helps children go to school. They seem happier, healthier and very proud of what their community has achieved.
Sorry if my last two blogs are a bit pants, I wrote them on the train on my phone. I promise to do a proper review of my trip once I get back!
After a 5.30 start and a quick breakfast we were on the road. We stopped for a toliet break at an office of one of WaterAid's partners where we were given gifts! We then drove for miles and miles to the middle if nowhere to a small village called Nayagoan. This village has no clean water supply and no sanitation. They earn money by collecting fire wood from a forrest 3k away and live on less than £1 a day. We spent some time with a family who invited us into their home and explained their situation.The family was made up of the father; Srilal, mother; kamala and 4 children. The girls and women collect water from a spring about 1k away and have to go 5 times a day they fill up metal containers and carry 2 of them on their heads. I tried and it was so heavy, just standing there with one hurt my neck and back. They have no where to go to the toilet so they just have to go a little outside the village. The town where they sell the fire wood is 15km away they have no cattle cars so they have to carry the wood there the day after they have collected it from the forrest. they get about100 rupies for 50kg of wood.
The family were very welcoming and the main thing they thought they would gain from a safe water supply closer to the village was time. Time to work to earn more money. we asked one of Srilal's daughters what she would want for her children in the future. She said she didn't know, all she would worry about was getting enough money to feed them.
After lunch we drove to a post intervention village called Mahadev Pura. What a welcome, just like at Nayagoan the whole village was there to see us arrive. There was drums and dancing, children running about and village elders looking at us with a small smile. We were treated like royalty! This village has been self sustaining for 4 years. It was so clean and basically a model village. There is 100% sanitation and 3 hand pumps. People have been trained to build and maintain pumps and toilets and now their services are in demand in other district sanitation programmes.
The village has seen its income increase and health improve greatly, from a group of 108 villages they are the only village who has not had an outbreak of malaria since WaterAid started.
What a busy day!
I cannot possibly express what a difference the intervention of WaterAid has made here and what a contrast this village is to the first one we visited.
The first thing that strikes me is the community spirit clearly visible and the pride these people have in their village and their achievements.
So, WaterAid started working here in 2004 when there was little knowledge in the village about the link between clean water, sanitation and ill health. And as the President of the Womens Group later attested to - the villagers thought that WaterAid were crazy, and in fact that she had also gone crazy for listening to them!
But as we listened to the senior members from a number of committees talk to us about their 8 year journey with water it became clear that now the whole of the community are bought in and understand the importance. As a colleague of mine on the trip commented, there will now be a whole generation of children being born who will not know the old practices, and in this way expectations are raised.
WaterAid actually withdrew from this village in 2008 as per the plan, and the village themselves are now driving the continuous improvement through the committees set up by WaterAid and their partners. The village have been recognised by WaterAid India by winning the Open Defecation Free Award in 2012 and earning themselves 50,000 rupees for their hard work which is now being reinvested in operation and maintenance of the now established system.
The village was also the only one not to have a single case of Chickun Guynai (fever, rashes, headaches, aching joints) during a recent outbreak and this is solely due to their rigorous approach to water and sanitation.
So if you have any doubt that WaterAid makes a difference, trust me - it does. This community was empowered, educated and most importantly of all healthy - all due to the work of WaterAid. That cannot be overestimated. And those of you out there that have organised, walked, climbed, driven etc for WaterAid in the past should be very proud of yourselves. You have done a very good thing.
Follow us at:
And the welcome we received was well worth the drive - we were welcomed like royalty by warm people only too happy to share their lives, and left a lasting reminder of our visit by signing our names on their wall....
We met Srilal and Kamala who opened their homes to us generously and told us about their daily struggle with water. They have 2 sons and 2 daughters, but regularly accommodate further extended family in their home. As Kamala led me by the hand to the water source - a natural spring approximately 1 km away - she did so caringly and with great dignity. The source itself is a spring which you have to climb into a tunnel to access - it isn't protected from cattle or other animals and the girls diligently fill small vessels which are then transferred to larger ones outside of the tunnel.
Each of the girls does this at least 3 times a day and carries 10 litres of water on their heads back to the village, leaving themselves aching and sore. And trust me, we've tried and its heavy - I could hardly lift it, never mind put it on my head. But they have no option - no water, no life.
The source is blessed by a lady who physically lives at the stream - Mira - she spends all day praying there to ensure that it continues to flow and protect it. Sadly I fear that this may be beyond her control....
We were interrupted during our time in the village by two elderly ladies who had walked from the next settlement specifically to talk to us who shocked us with their words regarding water - "fetching water is killing us" - these are ladies that in the UK we would treasure and care for - they are people's Grandmas - it shocked me and will make me hug my Granny a little tighter the next time I see her.
And this village is relatively lucky, at least at this time of year...as their water is relatively uncontaminated and it only makes them sick occasionally - 2 or 3 times a year they get fevers which are likely to be Typhoid - although they never seek medical attention so no one knows for sure.
The lack of clean water and no sanitation means that the hygiene is poor, which in turn leads to illness in the family - this village truly is part of those statistics that get quoted - 2000 children due everyday due to lack of clean water and sanitation. It's not just a number - I have seen the faces of the people it affects.
Thanks for following our journey and keep checking back for updates..
Monday, 18 February 2013
So we landed on sunday morning after an 8hour flight. We headed to WaterAid India HQ then.onto a train, a sleeper train. Getting to the train station was...interesting! The train was the biggest passenger train ive ever seen and was full of beds! I had a bit of a snooze inbetween people trying to sell me tea and coffe and 6 or so.hours later we rocked up in Gwalior. A cool shower and I was starting to feel human again! At dinner we had a brief on the next days activities... Its getting real! Off to spend time with a family who dont have a tap or a toilet.
I'll update tonight
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Time for a quick nap at the WaterAid India office (not under the tables, we do actually have the luxury of beds!), although the noisy people and car horns outside did not make for a very restful break! All before breakfast which consisted of lots of things that we thought we recognised but either didn't taste the same (toast & jam) or that we wouldn't ordinarily have put together (sweet, poofy samosa things with potato curry). It all went down though! Breakfast was also punctuated with fireworks which we thought it was lovely of WaterAid to organise until we realised it was in fact in honour of a new political leader being sworn in!
So then the adventure really started in earnest when we left for the train station! How we didn't get hit by a bike, car, tuk-tuk, animal etc I will never know! The general methodology appeared to be walk out and prey whatever it was stopped! But all of us made it through unscathed eventually through the scrum that was the security barrier! And after the longest platform walk in living memory (24!! Carriages) we hauled and scrambled our way onto our sleeper carriage that was to be our home for the next 6 hours. Those of us with top bunks elegantly (!!) clambered up - note to self - much easier to get up than down (but that's a whole other story, and a problem we solved after a few aborted attempts and some comedy moments!).
By the time we woke up a couple of hours later we were in the midst of rural India and spent an educational couple of hours watching the world go by out of the window just absorbing the country and all it's smells! Matthew (WaterAid India) also told us about the problems regarding access to clean water in the area - there are problems with leachates and chemicals infiltrating the system, added to by the pressure of over abstraction of groundwater leaves some areas in a perilous position. The water supply is provided by the government but it is unregulated so there is a disparity in both its distribution and its quality. There certainly is no guarantee of access to water, or that that water will be safe to drink.
Just goes to show the fantastic work that WaterAid are doing and why it is vital for both health and quality of life...and I for one cannot wait to see some of their work first hand...
Tomorrow we are going out into the Morena district of the area to see pre and post intervention communities and spend time with families in those communities...follow us at @WIPIndia2013 to get snippets of our trip and follow the other members of the team...
Friday, 15 February 2013
I'd love to say I'm as organised as Erica, but my packing isn't done yet! I have found my bag though, which those of you that know me will know is about as much as you would expect at this stage! Along with some other things that really need to be taken care of! This afternoon I need to fit in:
Last minute shopping
Photos with an Evening Press journalist
Photocopying all documents
Oh, and the small matter of packing!
All whilst looking after my parents 10 week old puppy due to a small medical emergency that they are tending to!
I too would just like to say thank you for all the support I've had and the useful (and not so useful!) advice! We will indeed be eating bananas and I have an inflatable globe (thanks Dave!).
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that if I don't have something then everyone else will! What's a bit of sharing in the name of team bonding! I have the most important stuff...passport, visa, clean pants and my WaterAid t-shirts!
Oh and just in case you don't know who we are...there's a photo of us too - looking very cheerful - it's the calm before the storm!
Do follow our blog for more updates - we'll post as many as IT links allow....or those of you on Twitter you can follow the group @WIPIndia2013 or me @cazzabella8 or like the WaterAid in Yorkshire Facebook page where we (fingers crossed) will also be posting links to the blog...
So that's me until Delhi!
So this is blog number two. In 24 hours i will be on my way to the airport to fly to India with WaterAid.
I have now finished packing, just about. I hope my bag is under the 23kg allowance because I really don't know what I'd take out!
Since the last blog more and more people have found out about my trip and everyone has been really supportive which is great. I have been given some advice including the following:
1. Don't talk to strangers
2. Don't get in an strange cars with strange men
3. Don't get stolen
4. Don't drink the water
5. Don't eat salad
6. Eat a banana every day
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the above list, it's nice to know you care!! Also, if you would like to add anything further please do comment on the blog!
I am planning on opening a twitter account before I fly so you will also be able to follow my progress on that whilst I am away.
I am getting a mixture of feelings now that the trip is so close, part concern about what I am likely to see, and part excitement about the adventure I am fortunate enough to be going on! Some one at work commented that the trip is a bit like a celebrity going to Africa on a Children In Need filming visit... I guess it kind of is... not many people are lucky enough to be chosen to go and see first hand the difference a charity is making to people's lives.
I can't wait now. I want to be on my way!
So, the next post you will get from Caroline or myself will be when we are in India I think, unless Caroline posts today as well.
Please add comments to the blog if there is something you want to know about our trip or about WaterAid in India.
Thanks for reading!