By Rhodie Milller
Over the recent holiday break I wanted to be a part of an organisation that helps others and gives back to the community. I decided to join Manav Sadhna, a non-profit organization based in Gandhi’s Ashram, Ahmedabad India.
Manav Sadhna is engaged in constructive humanitarian projects that cut across barriers of class and religion, addressing issues faced by socio-economically neglected segments of society, working in the slums, mainly in the areas of education, health and economic empowerment.
Even though I had visited India before, and had always been attracted to the country, I wasn’t prepared emotionally and mentally for what I was going to be confronted with. I witnessed children living in squalor, with no access to clean water or garbage collection, and young mothers not even being able to read or write their own names. It quickly became a harsh reality that so many thousands of people were living in conditions that we could not even imagine.
A number of children living in the slums don’t have basic access to health, hygiene and nutrition. A program that I helped with was the Anganwadi’s (preschools).It is a community based program providing Nutrition, Health and Health Awareness programs in slums, to children and their families. Each Anganwadi has one primary teacher and one assistant teacher. Manav Sadhna has partnered with the government to run 78 centres, or Anganwadis, in the Vadaj and Sabarmati slum areas. The government gives 65 paisa (Australian equivalent approximately – 2c ) per Anganwadi child per day and Manav Sadhna then adds 70 paisa per child every day in order to feed them tasty and healthy nutritional snacks. Below are some pictures of the food preparation area where the children’s food is prepared, the food is cooked, put in tiffins and delivered 10km by push bikes to get to the children by lunchtime. For some children this will be their only meal for the day!
One of the founders of the charity is Ishwar Pate, with his work now continued by his son Jayesh. He describes his life of service as “Just a drop in the ocean, but a teardrop of compassion changes everything”. His father was largely involved in sanitation and bringing toilets to villages. He helped to construct more than 200,000 toilets. Jayesh returned from living in London with his wife in order to serve the community, his first assignment was to clean 125 toilets! This led to an interaction with the community and with women and the expansion of the project to integrate health, hygiene and education, women’s empowerment and untouchability.
Overall the experience was, for me, quite intense, living in such a different environment and culture, but I must admit that I enjoyed every single minute of it. There is a lot we can do to help improve the lives of those that are in need in India. Even more so, what resonated with me was the simple, honest and kind way that Indians, Gujaratis in particular, live. They enjoy life with what they have, paying little concern to money and consumables, and focus on their family, friends and enjoying life with whatever they have.
Note: It is HGI’s belief that we can each make a difference in our own way. Giving back can be a personal thing so HGI provides its staff with the option to take 3 days a year Community Service Leave. In particular, it is an option taken up by our younger generation staff of whom we are enormously proud.