Report from India by Pran Wahi
††††††††††† Pran and Santosh Wahi have recently returned from two months in India, where they visited three organizations with connections to PPI.† Here is Pranís report:
††††††††††† 1.† We fulfilled a long-standing desire to visit the Anandwan campus of Maharogi Sewa Samiti, Baba Amteís organization in Warora, Maharashtra. PPI has had a long relationship with Anandwan and has supported several projects over the last 25 years. We were overwhelmed with the hospitality, happiness, and the work-ethic with dignity we saw there.††††††††
††††††††††† Baba Amte is a living legend in his own right. Anandwan, begun with a piece of barren land given to Baba by Vinoba Bhave's Land Reform Movement in 1960, is now a self-supporting village of 5000 inhabitants spread over an area of 7 Sq. Km., supporting sick, rehabilitated, blind, deaf, mute, and all kinds of handicapped people. Everyone works there, including Baba Amte's family into the third generation: Baba (now 92 years old), his wife Tai (now 80), and their sons Vikas and Prakash, and their grandchildren. They are self-sufficient in satisfying their needs of food, clothing, shelter, education, health care and entertainment, and they manufacture† 49 different products that they consume and sell to the outside world.† They have turned a barren land into an oasis!
††††††††††† Anandwan gets lots of monetary and volunteer support from different countries because of its reputation now. I am very happy that PPI has been a part of this phenomenon.† I recommend a trip to Anandwan to anyone who wants to see what an examplary NGO can be.
††††††††††† 2.† While in Delhi, Santosh and I met Asmita Kabra of Samrakshan regarding the Tribal Womenís Mobilization Initiative project in Madhya Pradesh that we funded late last year. While discussing the project and talking about the beneficiaries (local tribal population), questions turned to women's health and sanitation, and Asmita detailed the stark conditions these tribal women are facing. She reports that ď nearly 75 per cent of adult women in the area suffer from some form of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), resulting in ill-health, misery, reduced productivity and even to serious medical conditions like prolapse of the uterus among the women affected. We have also found that the most important causes of UTI lie in the unsanitary living conditions of the target community.† We believe that the Adivasi women from the poorest families in this region will gain enormously from practices like use of sanitary napkins, and that once they have been introduced to such products at subsidized rates and have used them for a short period of time, they will continue using them in the long run even after the subsidy is removed. In fact, just the financial savings resulting from reduced incidence of UTI will provide them with adequate incentive to continue using these products, and they are also likely to enjoy significant gains in terms of improved well-being and higher economic productivity."
††††††††††† Asmita mentioned that she was thinking of starting a pilot project if she could find some funding. I told her that I'd support her endeavor for 100 women if she would start the sanitation project. Yog Sikand (my sister-in-law) was with us and gave Asmita some references to check for support. Since then, it seems like Asmita has been successful to get some corporations interested in the project.† I feel strongly that this is a worthwhile endeavor. I'd hope that PPI members would look at it favorably also and might consider it for funding if the corporate funding does not come through.
††††††††††† 3.† We visited Literacy India, which is based in Gurgaon (a suburb of Delhi).† Literacy India has several projects to help the poor village populations around Gurgaon, including formal and informal education of children, vocational training, and skills development.† PPI's project is specifically designed to develop sewing and embroidery skills of poor women and young girls in the village of Daulatabad. INDHA is the brand name of the products made by the women, which are sold in different markets in India and abroad.† There is a full-time sewing and embroidery instructor on board.
††††††††††† On our visit, Santosh and I were given a tour of the place, a modest rented facility. We liked what we saw. There was a group of 10-12 women working on various items. We saw the finished products, which were of very good quality. Among the products we saw were cushion covers, dining-table runners, embroidered party bags and runners, wooden handle bags and small utility items. We ended up buying some of those products for ourselves and to show friends. We felt happy that PPI funding is making a difference in the lives of the poor and contributing to their family income.