India. Epic. I went on a short volunteer trip with a friend to do housebuilding and community development (play with kids, basically – and fill in for the teacher when he just didn’t show up one day). It’s the second time I’ve gone with this organization (the first trip was a much larger group, and slightly longer trip), to the same region, just different villages. I really like this group. They do housebuilding, education projects, and more to support Dalits (Untouchables) in southeast India.

Image borrowed from a friend

The housebuilding addresses the issue of inadequate housing, of course, but also the social implications of having a better home, and the financial implications of spending less time and money fixing your mud walls after heavy rains – time and money that could be used for other things, like working more or buying healthier food. The education projects focus on the abysmal high school graduation rates in the region’s villages, stemming from a number of issues, from illiterate parents who see little value in education, to teachers who abuse students due to their caste status. The organization also works on educating the villagers about their rights as citizens of India, and what the government is supposed to do but doesn’t – if they don’t know the government is not doing its job, they don’t know to stand up for themselves.

playing games at one of the schools (also borrowed from a friend; she took more pictures than I)

The international volunteers are a source of funds, as well as manpower for housebuilding. Some of the funds we raise go towards materials, but some go towards employing local masons. Our job is to help them out with things like carrying the cement bricks they use or bringing them tools. Occasionally, when a larger volunteer group is there, we get to help pour the cement for a roof (that takes a lot of hands). The families, of course, do a lot of work on their own houses. It must be such a feeling of accomplishment and pride, knowing you helped build your own house.

Having international volunteers there, though, does more than that. We go in without the caste prejudices, and we love on all those kids – kids that many people in India outside of that caste won’t touch. We also bring in new ideas, and make the ever-important human connections that remind people that they aren’t forgotten. It sounds super cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Clearly, I’m not going to forget the people in either of the villages I’ve worked in. I’m trying to figure out how to go a third time, and despite my literature and language degree I’ve taken on the responsibility of creating and running the organization’s website. Umm, can you say crazy? But hey, we do crazy things for love, and I love India. 🙂

;I think this organization does what PC does, in a way. It brings people to smaller areas where residents may feel forgotten, and through building relationships it works to make people self-sustainable in the long run. The goal is not just to help people; it’s to help people help themselves.

;I have more pictures (link on the right), but there are faces of people whose permission I haven’t gotten to post, so I have them password-protected. If you know the password, you can check them out. If you don’t know the password but think you should, let me know. 🙂


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