Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Day 7 - Pt 2 - "I Dared To Dream, My Dreams Came True"

A group of women sing
and welcome us
After what was a very emotional morning we took a break for a couple of hours, we went back to the hotel, collected our thoughts, had a spot of lunch and then headed back out for a visit to the Arjun Nagar slum in Bhopal.

This afternoons visit was to be a very different experience in comparison to this morning, we travelled just 20 minutes from the hotel to Arjun, upon arrival the tight streets were full of people awaiting our arrival, there were lots of smiles and we were most definitely made to feel welcome.

Matt Kirk
introduces us to the community
Again like in the villages, seats had been laid out and sheets on the floor for the community.  A large group of women sang us a welcoming song and daleks were painted on our foreheads.   Matt offered the community a thank you on behalf of WaterAid and the water company supporters for allowing us to visit and for giving us their time.

We were then taken to meet the families we would be spending time with in the slum.  Our group of 4 was introduced (via Liddy, our interpretor and WaterAid partner who we had met this morning) to Ramvati Vishwakarma and her son Manish, they lived in a small blue metal building, amongst the 400 households in this slum.  They were a family of 5 in a slum with a population of 2,000, when you consider that slums take up no more space than a half a football pitch and have a population of 2,000, it gives you an impression of how compact the area is. Imagine the houses where you live, would you fit 400 of them in to such a small space?  Ramvati and Manish were exceptionally welcoming, we took a seat on the ground outside their house in the burning afternoon sun, they were full of smiles and took pleasure telling us their story.

Ramvati Vishwakarma
Ramvati told us that before WaterAid arrived in the slums there were problems with going to the toilet, women avoided going in the day and would go at night, they were afraid due to the personal risks as seen in the villages and earlier in the day at the Shiv Nagar slum.  A lot of the time and particularly in the summer months people would suffer from diarrhoea, aching bones, sickness and fever.  The water points were a long distance from the house and often there would be long queues waiting to collect their daily supply.  Ramvati told us that she could not send the children to school on some days as the queue would be hours long, she would need to take the children with her, leave them there to hold the place in the queue whilst she returned to the slum to do her daily duties/work and then return again to collect the water and children later in the day.

Ramvati told how times were very hard before WaterAid came along, that a lot of money needed to be spent going to the doctors when they were ill and for medication that was not always available on the national health scheme.  When her husband or Ramvati had not managed to find casual work and either they or their children had fallen ill, they had to suffer, they could not afford  the medical fees, this was hard for Ramvati to watch those she loves suffer.

Ramvati told us that she could remember one day when collecting water, a 19 year old boy fell down the well where she used to get her supply, the community managed to get him out but the realisation that it could have been one of her children terrified Ramvati, she had no choice when her children were young to take them with her to the well, she could not leave them in the home alone.

Manish shows us
the families outside toilet
We asked Ramvati how have things changed since WaterAid introduced the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programme in 2008? I could see a change in Ramvati's posture as she began to talk about the difference, she became light and full of smiles.  Her answer started with 'we now have a better life, there is a tap just outside the home, this means the children can go to school, they can get an education and they can dream of a better life.  Manish is currently studying an engineering degree, this would not have been possible, my daughter Anuradha has won a scholarship to a private school and is studying well, she is 15 and now can dream of university, this would not have been possible.  We are no longer ill like we were before, we don't lose working days so the money is better, although we are still poor and below the poverty line, we have more than we did before.  The streets are not full of rubbish, the waste no longer flows through lanes and through our house when it rains, life is better. I would need to wait for other women to want to go to the toilet before I could go and this would be at night, now I can go in my toilet that has been built at the back of my house, I no longer lose my dignity every day.'

Ramvati, then gave us the following quote which summed up so much for me and will stay with me for the rest of my life:

"I dreamed of a home, I now have one
I dreamed of my family not being ill anymore,
they are now healthy
I dreamed of having water & a toilet,
I now have this
I dream my children would have an education,
they are now at university
I live in a slum but I will never stop dreaming,
that is the only way I will become more"

Ramvati Vishwakarma wearing
the Imagine It band
Ramvati, was clearly embracing life, I was inspired by her outlook, she was simply amazing.  I said to Ramvati that she embraced an ethos that I stood by which is to Live, Love & Laugh, this is an ethos that is promoted by Imagine It an organisation I supported along with WaterAid.  I gave Ramvati a blue bracelet which represented this ethos and she very quickly placed it on her arm.

We chatted some more with the family and they said that they wished to give us a blessing, we were honoured that they presented us with flowers and daleks, this time Manish painted my forehead from hairline to nose.  I smiled and said that I wished them well, that I found them deeply inspiring and to never stop chasing the dream as they were right, this is the only way they come true.  A young neighbouring girl said that they thought I had a sugar mouth, I laughed and asked what she meant, and she replied that the things I said were sweet.   I think the rest of the group found this funny as there were a few laughs.
We said a very fond goodbye to Ramvati and her family and headed off with Liddy to take a look around the slum.  I was amazed with the contrast between the morning and the afternoon, this place was so clean, there was no rubbish, no sign of animal or human waste and no open sewers or drains.  Liddy explained that with the local authority they had made arrangements for monthly collections of the waste, the drains no longer ran through the lanes as they had the correct level of drainage taking waste away from homes and the slum was now 100% free of people going to the toilet openly.

As we walked through the lanes people came over and chatted, we were invited in to peoples houses to see their toilets, to see how clean things were, to see how proud they were.  Everyone here had benefited from the intervention of WaterAid and they wanted us to know about it.  It was such a pleasure to see this.
WaterAid wall art designed to encourage and
educate WASH in the community

After the upsetting morning I could now see that things can change, Ramvati and the rest of the community had turned things around, the support of WaterAid and local partners was completely worthwhile and over the coming years this legacy would continue to produce rewards.

This was our last visit on this rollercoaster ride of a trip to India before we would head back to Delhi and then on to the UK.  This was a very special trip that left me feeling that things will get better, I felt optimistic, I felt happy and I felt honoured.

A quick pose with the community before my final goodbye
I will add just 2 more blogs related to my trip to India, one to give you an account of my journey home, including a short stop in Delhi and the other to give an overall reflection on my time in this wonderfully colourful and diverse country.  Please check back and take a look.

If you would like to read more about the work of WaterAid in India please follow the link below:

If you would like to donate and support the fantastic work of WaterAid please follow the link below:

A few more pictures taken at Arjun

1 comment:

  1. just in from doing my shop again straight as always to my centrally heated loo and then on to read your latest blog I loved this one I have my own name for It "a light at the end of a dark Tunnel"you have at last met a family that just because of a tap with clean water and a hole at the back of their house has made such a difference My goodness 1 son training to be an engineer and a daughter with a chance to go to university And mum saying she will never stop dreaming of becoming more .Well done to all of you and WaterAid although this blog still contained heartbreak how happy these people must make you feel. "Sugar Mouth" is this going to stick my son because you do have a wonderful sweet way with words as well as sincere and honest there is so much to be done but I must say I dont feel so angry as I felt yesterday after reading your blog. I just hope things will now just get better and better for Ramvati and her family and others like her Im staying on the case with you son I am sure there is loads more to be done and when the recipients are so up for helping themselves it makes it so worth while .when help is taken for granted I often ask why bother but this project is so worthwhile thanks for telling us how it is ..