Akshara Sanitation Program

Akshara Sanitation Program

Something really interesting happened when the Dutch students from Hilversum International School came for the Outreach program.

Let me just talk a little bit more about what our sanitation program is about.

Basically there is no point on people coming to India to pick up plastic in the villages if in the next week there will be an event in the temple and people will trow plastic all over the place again.

Also, it is complicated to go to them and say: don’t trow plastic on the street, if they don’t have access to trash bins, proper ones that will be strong enough to remain under the heat and protected enough not to flood when monsoon comes.

So what we did was to work with the kids. The young people from the villages are the ones who will take the decisions and who can represent every single household from the community. Akshara, being lucky enough to being able to reach them, started the Sanitation program which consists on teams with students from each village collecting plastic from their own village on a continuous process.

Yes, it was frustrating for us when after the first week of hard work there was plastic all over the place, but it was indeed also frustrating for the kids, who went to talk to their parents.

The situation was then different on the next week, when we even had some parents joining us on collecting plastic.

There is a visible change on the landscape of our villages around Bhadas Road right now.

We have collected over 100 big bags of recyclable material over a period of 2 months.

Not only plastic, we also collect bottles. Alcohol bottles.
I recall an interesting conversation we heard – with Prashant.
Two men were standing there watching the kids collecting plastic and glass bottles and one said:

– Isn’t that from our party of yesterday?
and the other replied
– How shameful of us, we drink and litter and now I see my kids having to clean up our mess.

The next day they were helping us.

That is social engineering, that is building something without interfering, without imposing any values. That is respecting people. Forcing people to what we think is right does not seem to be reasonable to me, but sharing something gradually do will give the freedom to decide to do what they think is right.

I have some many things to learn, but this is definitely something I would never learn if I had spent one or two weeks here.

So many reasons to be glad and it is hard to communicate how strong such experience can be. It is indeed a small thing but the impacts of it are long term and are real. And I am glad I am not the one who created this impact, the one who did it was the man who decided to join us that next day.

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One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising

(written by Marija Uzunova)

UWC Mahindra College students are rising with the local communities from neighboring villages in the Mulshi valley, in rural Maharashtra, India. Our Flashmob Club is bringing the OBR movement to Asade village, where we will be dancing alongside schoolchildren from the valley in hopes to raise awareness in our communities and start a conversation about violence against women both locally and globally.

http://www.onebillionrising.org/events/obr-muwci/#RSVP

Fulora Akshara Cultural Show

Akshara is an NGO located in the Mulshi Villages. Its office is located at MUWCI, Mahindra United World College of India.

The NGO works on empowering and breaking the cycle of poverty trough education and giving people the opportunity of choice.

The following text is taken from the Annual Report and talks about the Primary School program, called Kherghar:

Tender minds are a treasure of creativity and enthusiasm. In order to bring out such qualities in younger children Akshara Started the Khelghar programme. Khelghar is being implemented with the young children studying in 1st to 4th grades at primary school. This programme has been rolled out in 2 primary schools in 2 villages. The main objective is to promote outdoor learning in order to train the tender minds in soft skills like imagination, critical thinking and questioning. Moreover, from the 4th grade, children begin to learn many social values from their surroundings, including for example gender roles. Through Khelghar, the team tries to challenge the children and bring changes at an early stage of life. Educational programs such as Kherghar are not limited to the little ones, Akshara follows its students from primary school till university and vocational support. Besides the educational programs, Akshara works with the community developing sanitation and awareness about gender roles and enforcing skills such as:

  • To Enhance critical thinking culture
  • To demystify the basic concepts
  • To pay emphasis on expression and articulation skills trough language improvement.

Akshara Activities! – Click here to see more pictures of the Akshara Activities!

 

It is quite impossible to summarize in a single post all the things that Akshara works with, but one of the most beautiful things in my opinion, is empowering and allowing the students to find out more about themselves and about what they love.

A big example of this was the FULORA Cultural Show, which consists on a big event where the students could dance, sing, present plays and find out what they like the most.

At this age it is important and awesome to have someone who believes on you, who tells you that you can go to the stage if you want and that you will do an awesome job. And once you do it, with a huge and honest smile, someone who will tell you: Good Job! Motivating you to work on your passion. Treating you like the precious potential you are. Motivating not only students but their parents as well!

The highlights of this event can be seen on this video below (:

I am again, extremely glad to be able to be part of this project and sure I took the right decision on taking this Gap Year.

Life in here is busy and constantly moving!

Last weekend I went biking (around 40 km) with a trip planned by Dagmar and Srinidhi, got to swim on one of the Mulshi Lakes, eating aloo parathas, carrot and peanut butter.

I am involved with a play that will happen next week, and thinking on studying social welfare during Uni, inspired by Akshara and in love with Dante, the wada 5 cat.

MUWCI Project Week

First of all I would like to say sorry for taking so long to post again!

I had crazy busy weeks and it seems that now things are settling down. The good side of it is that I have a lot of new things to talk about!

Working as a volunteer in Akshara and living in MUWCI – Mahindra United World College of India, has been an incredible experience to me.

In October I went to hike in the Himalayas on the Dodital Trek Project Week!

Opportunities that I could not even think of before! Thanks to that now I am able to say that I have seen snow for the first time!

First time seeing snow in the Himalayans!

First time seeing snow in the Himalayans!

It was my first time Hiking as well. Definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Uttarakhand and dodital trek

Uttarakhand and dodital trek

Project Week is the one week of  Service or Action planned and organized by students themselves. In MUWCI they are either faculty led or student led. I had then the opportunity of joining one of MUWCI project weeks, the Dodital Trek, in North India, Himalayans with 2 other teachers and 13 students.

Top Of the World!

Himalayas

More challenging than spending 30 hours inside of a train or not taking a shower for 10 days, was the self discipline and perseverance that I experienced during that incredible week.

Himalayas

up up

Every day, after 5 hours of hiking steep paths and carrying 15 kg on your back, the cold hurting your fingers and your heart going crazy. It is just awesome to realize how our strength goes beyond what we would expect it to go. And still trying to keep the smile and trying to make sure that everyone else in the group is alright. Trying to make the right decision, respecting yourself and others, making friendships and bonds that will be hard to break after for example freeze outside to wait till the moon rises. Or just the glance of the Milky Way.

Trek

Forest

From drinking pure cold  water from the mountains, seeing snakes and communicating with blue Goats!

Collecting fire wood or using tent bathrooms.

click here to see more pictures: Dodital and Darwa Top

Learning about constellations and watching shooting stars!

Himalayas
Many memories, tough moments, going beyond exhaustion limits but still respecting my own pace was something that I had the opportunity to go trough!

Cabritos

Goats

There are so many other pictures. So many experiences that can not be put into words. I just recommend if you ever have the chance, do it! Go hike. It is incredible the value of things that you can learn about yourself by pushing your own limits.  🙂

Dodital

Ganpati Bappa. Morya!

This past week was colorful.

Ganesha or Ganesh is the God of New Beginnings.

I was lucky enough to be part of the Ganesh festival both at the Village and in Pune.

The festival is huge, where I stayed, in the Khubavali Village, each house had its own temple with their Ganesh statues. Just like on christmas people put up their trees and their little nativity scene (presépio)

Ganesh statue at Anita's place

Ganesh statue at Anita’s place

The families pray every day, during a certain number of days (it changes from the city to the village) and offer sweets and fruits to the God.

They say that it is because Ganesh is very sweet and kind.

Ganesh at Anita's place

Ganesh at Anita’s place

During the festival, families gather together (like people do on christmas) and celebrate the “birthday” of Ganesh.

I can’t explain, but it was so different and so equal at the same time. The decorations, the mood, the people. It is very unique comparing to festivals that I am used to back in Brazil

It was my first time having my hands painted.

Henna

Henna

But at the same time it made me feel very nostalgic when I realized I was actually feeling like home.

Homestay <3

Homestay ❤

Even though we did not speak the same language, their english was very good and I feel very lucky I could feel part of the family for a couple of days.

:)

🙂

Maybe it was for me the real first time that the cultural differences really hit me. From conversations about arranged marriage, which is common here,  till respect, movements, tradition and social positions. Everything makes me thing how India is a place different from everywhere else I have ever been.

New friend

New friend

The music, the clothes, the way religion and tradition are very much preserved. It is a very unique feeling that I think I wont be able to portrait on this blog. I can just say that my homestay was an amazing experience. Having a short feeling of how it is to live in the village, talk to people, know their perspectives about things makes me reflect about my own perspectives and grow with it.

Anita's grandma and little cousin

Anita’s grandma and little cousin – She made me promise her I will be there next festival ❤

In Pune. Millind and Rahul took Paul, Marija, Sam and I to Pune!

At the Zoo. Paul, Marija and Sam, my housemates!

At the Zoo. Paul, Marija and Sam, my housemates!

It was awesome to see the colors at night. Every neighborhood raises money to make their own Ganesh “stage” full of colors and lights, sometimes with theatre and music. We got to eat awesome food at the city and eat Kulfi (indian ice cream).

We also visited many temples. Some of them were made with Silver or Gold. The richness of temples and statues was contrasting with the financial situation of many people, but at the same time it was FOR them.  Since it has a common cause and it is for everyone to go outside home and get together. It unites people. The results behind it goes beyond religion in my opinion. It is about hope, about union and perseverance. This is how i felt.

Ganesh Festival in Pune

Ganesh Festival in Pune

Ganesh gave me a coconut – according to the man at the temple – and I managed to throw the coin right into the bucket of the wishing well at the Ganesh temple \o/.

Ganesh Festival - Immersion of Ganesh with MUWCI students and staff members

Ganesh Festival – Immersion of Ganesh with MUWCI students and staff members

In MUWCI,  we went for the immersion of Ganesh statue in the river! – the statue is made of Clay and the immersion represents the cycle of creation and dissolution of things in Nature.

Ganesh Festival - Immersion of Ganesh with MUWCI students and staff members

Ganesh Festival – Immersion of Ganesh with MUWCI students and staff members

I am drowning into this mix of colors, culture, strength, reality, history, tradition, magic and kindness.

Ganesh Festival at Anita's place + Homestay

Ganesh Festival at Anita’s place + Homestay

Ganesh is the god of new beginnings and journeys.

Let mine begin now, together with my gap year! 🙂

– It has been 1 month in India by the way…

Incredible India.