Friendly villages

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The interesting thing I've noticed when visiting various women at their homes in villages is the apparent lack of privacy. My intention is to talk to an SHG (self-help group) member, 1 woman, about her income and expenditures or loan usage – pretty private financial household data. However, many times her husband is there, a few of her own children, many other children from the village who are curious, curious neighbors, other ladies from the same SHG, or relatives that end up sitting in the meetings as well. Many times, the woman is still willing share this private data in front of all these people. My cynical side does come out a bit and wonder how truthful are these families when they are talking in front of other people but it seems to be pretty honest stories. It is eye-opening to realize that the village is a very intricate community made of relatives and friends who share in many parts of their lives and help each out in the times of need. All of them contribute to child care or chores. Many provide financial assistance, which is very relevant to understand when thinking about loan repayments and defaults.

The other reason many people show up to the meetings is because they are curious about me. Here I am, a complete stranger and different looking person coming to talk to a specific lady about her SHG participation. They want to know why, which is understandable. One of my favorite visits was to talk to 2 ladies about their loans. However, we never even got to talk about the loans in the first visit. So many people showed up – kids, husbands, wives, neighbors. And they peppered me with questions. It was really fun to interact with them and engage in their curiosity. I showed them what an American Dollar bill looks like and they showed me what a 10 Rupee note looks like. They wanted to know about poverty and farming in America. What do we grow? What was my village like? Am I married? How long did it take to come here? After two hours, we realized that we wouldn't be able to ask about the loans – especially since one of the ladies disappeared half way through – we decided to come back the next day.

The next day proved to be a bit more productive. We did talk about general loan issues and what the SHG group dynamics were like. But the same crowd showed up with even more questions. I was okay being distracted from my initial goal because they were so cheerful and friendly and amusing. They went out to buy milk only because they wanted to make me tea – an otherwise not common expenditure. They invited me to stay the night for dinner. It was lovely interacting with them and getting to know them. Many of the visits feel one-sided because I do majority of the questioning – so it was nice to see this two-way dialogue.

To get to understand some of the issues and see the full picture, it is important to develop a relationship with the people you are visiting. You can't just show up with a sheet and start interviewing them. You have to sit and chitchat, maybe for a couple of hours, maybe for a couple of visits before you can get to the pertinent questions. While this may seem time consuming, it is a valuable experience because you get to learn so much about daily rural life and many other things that they deal with other than the things you were focused on asking them about in the first place. Everything is so interconnected in village life.

Attached is a photo of the friendly village. Hopefully I'll get to go back and see them one more time before I leave.

One thought on “Friendly villages

  1. <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; "><div><span class="Apple-style-span" style="border-collapse: separate; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Helvetica; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: auto; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-decorations-in-effect: none; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; font-size: medium; "><span class="Apple-style-span" style="border-collapse: separate; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Helvetica; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-decorations-in-effect: none; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; font-size: medium; "><div style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; "><span class="Apple-style-span" style="border-collapse: separate; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Helvetica; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-decorations-in-effect: none; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; font-size: medium; "><div style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Now that I have seen you in the field it is evident that building relationships is vital to your work at SPS and you have committed to making that a priority. A good lesson for all, not only in terms of international development work and community building, but also for life.</div></span><br class="Apple-interchange-newline"></div></span><br class="Apple-interchange-newline"></span><br class="Apple-interchange-newline"> </div> <br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

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