First Week In Madhya Pradesh

Julie and I have had a great introduction to Madhya Pradesh and Samaj
Pragati Sahayog. For the next 7 weeks we’ll be working Samaj Pragatic
Sahayog (SPS) in the Bagli block of Madya Pradesh. This area is known
as the drylands. And right now, it’s extremely dry. Everything is red
dirt and dust with very little vegetation. All everyone looks forward
to is the monsoon which should be arriving in the next 10-15 days –
after a few days of rain, everything will be come lush green. I can
not wait to see the transformation.

The past week has been spent getting an overview and understanding of
what SPS does. It is amazing to see how it has developed over the past
20 years, what all it has accomplished and how interconnected every
initiative is. I am in awe of the dedication the staff has toward the
various efforts. It started out initially as a watershed development
scheme and has expanded over the years to include Self-help groups (a
form of microfinance), Kumbaya (a women’s tailoring cooperative),
livestock program, dairy collection, irrigation, Right to Food,
Mid-day meals and so forth. The reason for watershed is because this
area is extremely dry with very rocky soil. It is almost impossible to
gain access to any ground water and monsoon only lasts for 50 days –
the villagers need to be able to access water for the whole year based
on the rain from the monsoon. So various watersheds were developed to
help capture the monsoon rains – whether in large ponds or the ability
to allow water to seep into the ground. From there, SPS realized that
other matters needed to be considered in order to ensure the
livelihoods of the poor villagers. Majority of the people in this area
are extremely poor – daily wage labourers or marginal farmers. They
are barely making ends meet and end up going into massive debt. So SPS
is trying to help the people overcome their hardships through
innovative strategies – particularly programs that encourage women
empowerment. I can wait to learn more about the details and how SPS
has changed people’s lives.

Still adjusting the heat. You would not believe how hot it gets – you
can feel your skin baking. And being in a poor area – the electricity
is unstable so we go hours without any fan. So we just sit in the
shade and sweat and drink a lot of water. Fun times 🙂 I think for me
it has been particularly hard, because we came from Philadelphia were
the weather was mostly in the 60s and low 70s – to then end up in 100+
plus weather within hours is quite a strain since there was no gradual
adjustment. But it is manageable – we stay in the shade, drink water,
take baths, and count the days till monsoon.

We had quite an exciting afternoon the other day. We were in our room,
reading in the shade, wearing shorts (only appropriate within our room
– we have to be covered when in the public) when we heard this noise
coming from our cooler. They do not have airconditioning here. Instead
it is a cooler which is a fan and your poor water in the back – so the
water is turned into cool air. We look at the cooler and we see
something sort of half sticking out. We both screamed and ran out of
our room. The night before, we had just been told about the scorpions,
cobras, and krait in the area – and we actually saw a scorpion – so
were in that mindset. Luckily, two men on a motorcycle stopped by and
went into our room. Apparently it was a large iguana – they managed to
get it out of our room – but the way they handled it, with a large
stick – made us wonder how dangerous it was. It really had us freaked
out. And now that’s the story going around campus, 2 crazy girls in
shorts screaming b/c of a large iguana that tried to attack us from
our cooler. 🙂

We have booth taken a lot of photos. Unfortunately our access to the
internet has been limited due to electricity outages and so forth.
Hopefully within the next week we’ll be able to share some of the
photos. We have meet some great people and seen some great things.
Stay tuned for more….
Keena Kang

One thought on “First Week In Madhya Pradesh

  1. I hear the monsoon is on its way! Cold bucket baths even in the middle of the night are the best way to stay cool!

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