Sunday, January 27, 2008

oh India

Around Jaipur- tree free hand made paper- by the stack,

in the printing workshop,

water buffalo parking lot near Amber Fort,
catching a memory of the fort

18 January, 2008-01-18
On tour at the moment, just spent a brilliant few days at a printing workshop in Sanganer Village, outside Jaipur.
This village is known for its long history of the finest quality block print and natural dyes- apparently the quality of the water locally has a great bearing on the clearness and fastness of the colours produced.

Having a bit of a worry at the moment, a friend of ours runs a street kids project- The Shakti Project in Pushkar The project was set up and funded by a European guy and has been flourishing. There are many gypsy people who were once nomadic performers and shepards; with changing times they can’t continue that lifestyle, being illiterate and having few skills they end up as beggars in the street. Having existed without education and being so very poor, living hand to mouth it is hard for many parents to appreciate what an education can do to increase ones prospects in life.

Shakti Project was set up to target the kids, get them a nutritious meal each day and into education. Education is free in India if you have a uniform and books- beyond the reach of theses families. This is where Shakti comes in, they provide that, and a space for the kids to come and get cleaned up in the morning, have breakfast and be taken off to school. After school the kids return, change out of their uniforms, do their homework, have lunch, and then have a safe place to play until they return to the streets and their family later in the day. Shakti means Power, this project is empowering the children and hence the community as a whole, when I visit the kids are so enthusiastic about their school work and messages being fed to them better to have job than beg.

The project has been running 4 years and flourishing, unfortunately the guy who was backing it has had to pull out. Our friend Ramsingh who has worked with it from the start as Co-ordinator was in a real dilemma, he could see what it was achieving and could not abandon the children, so he has had a hell of a year but finally got it registered as a charity in India- which means the government scrutinies his books etc to see it is true. It is an independent entity, donations are tax deductible all those things…

The hard part is raising funds to keep it going [ and from my observation his hands are already full just working there!]

Their rent for the year is a few thousand dollars- nothing in Western terms but a fortune in India, each child to feed and keep in school cost about $100 per year, not much to change a life.

Any suggestions for fund raising, sponsorship or ideas please pass along to me.
My partner Parveen and I do what we can to help, but the old saying “Many hands make light work” would ring true here as well.

One place I think I can be more helpful will be in the future working with the mothers on creating a range of textiles under Fair Trade conditions, they get a liveable wage for their work and profit goes to Shakti, but that will take training and a little time to get off the ground… and in the mean time things are desperate.

India is a hard place sometimes, life can be really tough and yet I am constantly heartened by the goodness of some people and the shining light of prospects improving. I do really appreciate the opportunity to experience the highs and lows of life here.

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