I feel fortunate that it falls on me to write a touchy-feely blog describing our midpoint retreat at Anandwad (
Over 50 years ago, Baba Amte founded Anandwad to create a living-working community for Indians living with leprosy and other disabilities. This beautiful, peaceful and yet vibrant ashram (over 450 acres) provided an inspiring space for AIF fellows and staff to get together and share our experiences thus far. Outside of somewhat formal presentations from every fellow, we spent our four + days exploring our placements (personally, culturally, professionally) in greater depth, questioning assumptions and/or expectations, listening to one another, offering advice, laughing at the strange predicaments in which we sometimes find ourselves, contrasting the diverse landscapes and people we interact with, and, in general, sharing insights about the realities of “Development” in our respective regions and organizations.
We were also fortunate to have two leaders in the field join us for special presentations — Dr. Ramki Ramakrishnan of SAATHII (Chennai) and Mr. Rajendra Joshi of Saath (
On a personal note, I spent the train ride back to Delhi reflecting on new perspectives about my work thus far, the opportunities for improvement over the next several months, and how our cumulative experiences through this fellowship relates to the larger story of the NGO sector here in India.
that “confidence must rest in your wrist” as opposed to the charity of others.
In the last post, my fiancé (Matthew) shared experiences from our placement in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand. Our organization works in several aspects of rural development, including livelihoods, health, technology and education. While professionally we have faced several obstacles and have yet to make real progress implementing our individual projects, we have been exposed to many of the ground realities (often misunderstood in project planning and by larger funding organizations) that make working in this region so challenging. Outside of our work life, the culture of the mountains itself offers many interesting lessons. The following excerpt describes some of the day-to-day in Pithoragarh, the larger of our two field locations.
All Walks Lead to More Chai…
(An Excerpt from the Mountains)
Pithoragarh is certainly not the sleepy mountain town I had expected. In fact by 6AM the traffic has started and by 8 “ba ba black sheep” “three blind mice” and other American favorites are being (loudly) broadcast from an English medium school a few blocks away. This is a transient place, with many laborers commuting daily from
– Sophie Namy
and me and a local SHG leader after an interview.