1. Crisis Of Poverty
Description of the Cachement Area
In the 10 km surrounding Ganeshpuri of Thane District, Maharashtra, India, there are approximately 20,000 families or 120,000 people. Although it is only 100 km from Mumbai, the financial capital of India, this area is undeveloped and the people suffer from lack of work, education, transportation, and government facilities and resources. About 48% of these families are illiterate, unskilled, land-less and live below poverty level. They are suffering from easily treatable diseases and lack of food. Majority of the hamlets are situated in inaccessible areas and are devoid of electricity and fresh water. They mainly depend upon daily wages to make their both ends meet, often the most difficult work to be found, brick making. They are unaware of government programs and other opportunities. Farming is the main source of their income but because of only a specific type of crop grown in that area they are left with no food in major part of the year. This leads to malnutrition. Six months of the year, they must migrate to other areas for work to augment their income and food supply. The first priority of our beneficiaries is providing food, shelter, and clothing. Access to education and medical care is secondary.
These unfortunates suffer from the problems of poverty,malnutrition, poor health due to lack of clean water, poor hygiene practices, lack of education, and lack of access to medicine and medical care.
Women living in our area have very few opportunities to improve their lives and those of their family members. They are not encouraged to attend school, become literate in their local language and simple math. They are discouraged from going outside the home. They suffer from poor health, poor nutrition, family difficulties, and all the problems of poverty.
In the outback of rural India, as in Ganeshpuri area, the women are neglected by Indian society. The women in the villages around me walk to the well five times a day to get water. There is no infrastructure for water delivered to their homes. And the water is not clean but usually contaminated with pathogens and chemicals.
Poverty impacts the children as well. In spite of the presence of schools in some of these hamlets, lack of infrastructure, educational materials, and unhealthy school environment has discouraged the teachers and parents and results in little or no education for the children. Parents’ migration for work and recurring illness among children are two additional factors that disrupt the children’s education. Hence, these children end up working on farms helping their parents and skipping school.
In 2001, the literacy rate for India was 52.2%, but for Adivasi tribal women, the rate was a stunningly low 18.2%. There are so very few opportunities for bright village girls to access higher education in their nearby villages. Some parents refuse to let their girl children take the local buses to the schools in the cities. And those parents who wish to see their girl children go for advance degrees and education are limited to due to lack of funds. I have young bright women asking for help whose farming fathers have suicided. Their abandoned mothers try to make ends meet on a salary of 5000 rupees a month, this rarely meets the family's basic needs, and makes education for the girls almost inaccessible. These are the girls we try to help. Probably every two to four weeks, another young woman approaches our trust for help. Currently, I have one young lady who wants to become a doctor to give service to the poor. She wants to do social work. I have not been able to give her anything to date since no one has offered any support. I have two young women who are attending science college so that they can become nurses. Again, I don't have funds to offer them yet.
In response to the crisis of poverty in the Tansa River Valley, especially around Ganeshpuri area, Shree Nityananda Education Trust has developed a five project approach.
1. WATER PURIFICATION AND WATER HYGIENE
Providing pure drinking water to villagers living in Tansa River Valley was SNET's first project. Currently villagers are getting most of their drinking water from contaminated wells and rivers which leads to rampant waterborne diseases. SNET provided at a low cost, household water filters for over seven years. Since 2006, filters have been provided to over 1300 families and a dozen schools. SNET manufactured its own water filters for this project. Sand materials have proven difficult to source in Mumbai area due to the extensive use of sand in construction in downtown Mumbai, and thus, SNET has sourced another option for filtration. In addition to providing filters, 0ur team of seven health educators made monthly visits to 900 families teaching water hygiene and maintenance of SNET water filters during the last year. In the past several months, they have expanded their content to include not only five other topics to their Health Education Program.
2. HEALTH AND HYGIENE EDUCATION
SNET developed a program of educating women, families, and schools children regarding various aspects of health. Our education team goes into rural and forest villages holding programs on all of the following topics:
Health is Wealth- a program to instill pride and ownership of one's health and body (based on our Chiropractor advisors Vismai and Jyoti Schonfelder's program of the same name)
- Water hygiene (based on CAWST's water hygiene education)
- Good Personal Hygiene, Family hygiene, and feminine hygiene.
- Yoga, Meditation, and Exercise
- Good nutrition (based on advise from Dr. Ashish Satav of Mahan Trust)
- Cooking Healthy Food for the Family
Sandeep Thakare, MSW, is our Health Education manager whose career has been centered around raising awareness of health in the tribal areas. His team is composed of six local young women who graduated from the Rama Krishna Mission vocational program, Community Health Worker. This class was developed in Mexico for those areas where there are no doctors. We believe SNET was fortunate to hire these graduates of their fine program and use for our education program. This team receives periodic training from health educators such as a week at Mahan Trust in addressing malnutrition, CAWST's week long training of Community Health Promotion, and the Health is Wealth Program from Chiropractors from abroad.
3. ADULT EMPOWERMENT THROUGH VOCATIONAL TRAINING & EMPLOYMENT
SNET recognizes that to break the cycle of poverty, adults must be educated & trained in modern and ancient technology that will allow them to be self sustaining. SNET is focused on empowering its neighbors so that they will be less tempted to leave their beautiful yet difficult village life for the allure of city life, which is full of pollution and strife. We identified some areas of training and education that we believe will do this. SNET offers training to the women in sewing and garment making, herb & vegetable farming & at-home business creation.
- Tailoring classes & Women's Art Workshop--By holding tailoring classes for the last several year, it has created a group of women with some sewing experience to draw upon for creating two Women's Art Workshops, one in Nimboli, and one in Ganeshpuri. The workshops have started with sponsoring trainings in patchwork quilt making and then SNET has hired those women part-time to make the quilts for sale on its online store, Padukas (featured in www.etsy.com and Facebook page: Padukas) . The workshops are also developing line of clothes and beginning sub-contract work for Mumbai and international designers
- Warli painters-- SNET employs two full time local Warli painters who paint landscape, Hindu religious art, village scenes in the traditional tribal style of the Warlis, decorate the walls of the trust's retreat facility, and helps to develop advertising images.
- Resort Services -SNET runs a retreat center in Nimboli which serves those visiting and making pilgrimage to Ganeshpuri. Our staff learn various skills that have expanded their skill base and given them opportunities to interact with a variety of international peoples. The skills they have learned are landscaping, guest services, cooking, housekeeping, and speaking English.
- Sponsoring art gallery/store front in Ganeshpuri village-- SNET saw a need for local artists and crafts people to have a place to show their handmade items in local store, such as hand made quilts, thangkas and art, food, household items. A store has been rented in the village in the middle of the main shopping area.
- Classes in Ganeshpuri for women in the making of candies and chocolates, perfumes, and incense.
Subhash Patil, MA, manages the Rural Development Program of Adult and Children Education and Empowerment. He brings over 20 years experience working in the Ganeshpuri area doing social work. He himself is a farmer and entrepreneur and understands first hand the difficulties of creating and maintaining businesses in rural India. He serves as a magnet for the trust bringing competent and dedicated people to work with the trust. He oversees all of the projects concerning Adult and Child Development.
4. CHILDREN’S EDUCATION
Adivasi tribes need better education of their children . In 2001, the literacy rate for India was 52.2% while the literary rate for Adivasi tribes was 29.6% and for their females, a stunningly low 18.2%. Most Adivasi children are uneducated due to poverty, lack of a supportive atmosphere at home, annual migration to work in farms & brick kilns, and lack of school toilet facilities for girls. SNET provides books, financial support, minor building repairs, computer labs, and water filters to schools. Individual girls are awarded scholarships for higher education and assistance for transportation to and from schools. SNET holds career days informing young adults, men and women, about possible career and vocational opportunities and facilitates them in visiting the vocational programs.
5. FARMING EDUCATION
SNET “smart farming” project teaches men and women practices of utilizing natural fertilizers & insecticides, banking seeds for future use, growing fruit trees that will provide income & food for years. SNET grows & gives tree seedlings, such as papaya and drumstick, to Adivasi villagers to demonstrate how to maximize their limited resources for income and family food production. In the past year, SNET rented 1 1/2 acres from its neighbors to experiment in growing organic rice and white onions. The staff learned first hand the trials and tribulations facing the Indian village farmer.