Following on from the morning visit to Nayagaon, we headed of back down the dirt track to begin another long journey to Mahadev Pura, a small village of just 28 families.
The journey there was broken with a quick stop at a WaterAid office (Mahatma Gandi Sewa Asram) in the town of Jora. We were greeted by several local representatives who offered us tea and local sesame biscuits. Inside the main building, several women were spinning cotton and weaving linen cloth using spinning wheels and manual methods of weaving. We were all presented with our second Mala of the day along with a linen scarf/wrap made on site. It was a quick visit before we were back on the road again.
As I said the journey was long and by now the sight of cattle, goats and pigs wandering the street, between busy and horn blowing traffic was becoming the norm, as was the sight of men urinating in the open public. I was shocked to see a young girl squatting and defecating at the side of the road, amongst piles of rubbish, again a quick reminder to self that this is why we are here, people need first to understand the importance of good hygiene practices, without understanding these daily actions will continue to create health implications. We only know that we should use a toilet because through years of awareness and educating we have deemed this as the norm, prior to this we knew no different and would have done the same. I am not here to judge people, they are far more deserving than that, I am here to learn, understand what the issues are so that I can help raise awareness and support the programmes being run by WaterAid to save the lives of many.
So onward to Mahadev Pura. Due to the poor road conditions we transferred to 4x4 vehicles for the last 1/2 mile, this was interesting as we skidded around in thick mud and zig zagged across uneven surfaces. We arrived in the village around later than expected due to the busy roads therefore our time here was limited. Again we were greeted like we were gods, the village people cheered as we excited the 4x4's, we again received the traditional Hindu welcome of malas and dilaks. We were quickly taken to the school where seats were laid out for us and the villagers followed in and took their place on large sheets on the floor.
Several local speakers informed us of the work that had been completed in the village and how education, sanitation and access to clean water had transformed their lives. In partnership with local organisations WaterAid has introduced 3 hand pumps to provide clean water and 38 toilets. So successful was this project that WaterAid were able to withdraw from the village 4 years ago. The community has taken responsibly for their future by setting up a water and sanitation committee, this included youth leaders, teachers, elders and a women's project manager, it was clear from the passion they spoke with and respect for one another that they truly understood the value of the work that had been completed and they now embraced.
The women's project manger gave a witty and humorous speech about how difficult it was to pursued her husband that using a toilet was a good thing and how difficult it was initially to understand the benefits of female menstral hygiene, the group of villagers cheered her and joined in with her laughter, to think they had ever thought poor sanitary practices were okay. The obvious thing here was that this women was being listened to, the men, women and children gave focus to all she said, applauding, laughing and cheering. At this moment I could see that work of WaterAid has gone further than water and sanitation, it has empowered women and gone some way to balancing the equality of women.
In addition to above we learned that the villages commitment to continue maintaining the WaterAid legacy was more than just passing words, the village members each pay 5 rupees to maintain the infrastructure and at this point they had a balance of 27,500RP, something they are and deserve to be proud of. This money will ensure pumps are maintained and replaced when needed and sanitation programmes continue to be managed.
Following the speeches we were taken on a tour around the village where we could see latrines and water pumps in use, the hospitality continued to be overwhelming, I even had the opportunity to use one of the footplate latrines due to an overindulgence of water. There was again no electricity and the day was drawing to a close, so we quickly navigated our way round before we called it a day and headed to the buses to take the 2 hour journey back to the hotel.
Today was very long, exhausting and massively eye opening, I am overwhelmed by the differences between our culture, where we take so much for granted and the culture I have seen here of constant gratitude. I end my day with mixed emotions however ready to embrace tomorrow and the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating country and colourful people.
I really do thank you for reading this blog and hope you continue to read my story.