Okay, so this is our project update from our last visit to the school. The idea is to present our visit in a semi-formal way so that we could cover emotional aspects as well which are definitely important for the 25k project ahead.
Location: Malegaon village - 70-75 kms from Pune
Place of stay: Sevadham Tribal school
Duration of stay: From 3rd April till 6th April 2015
Achievements in brief
a) Started the use of our only installed toilets for Standard 9th students
b) Constantly talking about toilets and sanitation during our trip and hence could see it getting reflected in the actions of teachers and many students
c) Making them re-realize the damage it is causing by mixing of dry and wet waste and how it is also affecting the cattle eating it all up
d) Making them wear slippers
e) Two sessions of Menstrual hygiene with girls in their eligible age
f) Taught them how to make simple cloth napkins and insisting on washing and drying under the sun
g) Connecting with the children beyond "work" which is essential for real development and it is equally important to make each child become an ambassador for good sanitation & hygiene
h) Connecting with few "sharp" and "active" students and making sure they will keep the flame alive when we are not in school
i) Have a meeting with an organization in Pune for collection of dry and non-wet waste from the school and 3-4 nearby villages, once or twice a month
j) After a request from the school principle to arrange for cheaper and eco-friendly sanitary pads for girls, have a plan to speak to Aakar Innovations (http://www.aakarinnovations.com/) who produce a cheap and eco-friendly pads and claim them to be 100% bio-degradable. Need to find out more on this yet.
Our trip started with all confusion, with Sevadham not responding too quickly to our emails and chats. Even though we did not get enough response fromSevadham on them making arrangements for our trip to the school, Kalyani's approach made them realize something, and they jumped in to arrange for the cab. The driver was not informed properly, however and he was really not willing to go further than Talegaon. He constantly nagged about going so remote and what we really do. And finally when we reach the school, all his nagging and irritations vanish seeing such a huge structure in the middle of "nowhere".
We reached the school at around 10 am. We generally toured the entire place and later conducted a session with girls on MHM - including two movies and open discussion, and later visited girls toilet (the old structure) for more discussion and poster sticking related to what to do and what not to do with pads, basic etiquettes. We screened a "Hindi" movie called "mythri" related to MHM and another on Goonj.
Then we conducted general sessions screening a movie on basic hygiene and village cleaning up to all students in the school - in few batches. We made them promise that they would also like to see their school and even village clean in future. We had a lot of personal conversations with multiple students to open them up and slowly bring about a change in their attitudes.
We made the school rector (Mr. Sadashiv) announce that all Standard 9th students would queue up the next day early morning like 6-6.30am for using the UDDT instead of going out in the open.
The next day (4th April), we were up before the students and waiting for them to start using the UDDT and give us feedback individually after they finish. It was kind of wierd and funny to do so with a process which people rarely talk about openly, however that was important to establish an importance in their minds. We took feedback from a couple of students who said it was easy and they faced no problems at all using the UDDT.
However to make it sure that everyone from 9th standard used the UDDT, we decided to call each and everyone in a classroom - one by one and confirm by interviewing them face to face. We did so and the resultant was that only 2-3 students went out in the open, rest used the UDDT, which seemed good to start. Just to add, had a little conversation with a few people and a kitchen staff and they said that many of them already has a toilet in their house at village, some of them do not have and they feel bound by habit of going in open. So need to work on this well.
We observed a lot and listened more. Discussed informally with teachers and students on their views on hygiene etc. We also noticed that students rarely wear slippers. So we wished if we could get them slippers to wear, and the next day another organization visited and donated slippers to almost everyone. The surprising aspect was hardly 10% of the students were using it, rest of them kept it in their luggage bags or in their rooms like gold or silver. We insisted and continuously for the next days kept talking about wearing slippers.
We also observed places where small gardens can be created and trees can be planted in the school campus. We also screened two short films for children after they insisted a lot.
The school premises had to be cleaned up - some guests were visiting and all the children were involved. I recorded a few videos and pictures - both good and bad. Garbage was initially segregated and later was poured in at the same pit to be mixed up and eaten by all the cattle. Literally all the cattle ate up papers, plastics and whatever it got near them. It was really sad to see that happening in a "school" and children enjoying that. Rishika did a "dance" training session for girls on music and they enjoyed it and it was good to build more personal connect.
We did another session on MHM with girls, along with one teacher this time, who was really passionate about the subject and wanted to be a part of this. By now, the girls were more open and even wrote their queries and understanding on pieces of paper at the end of the session. It was overall a good session.
The last day was marked more by repeating the toilet going activity by 9th standard students at early morning with recording of pictures and videos. We repeated all the points to students and even teachers and made a very good personal connect with the school rector who was really inspired to do something. We made efforts to make them wear slippers and spoke to a couple of children about the importance. We left by around 1.30pm, but waited for the bus till 2.30pm or so. We constantly insisted on girls not going out in open and promised them that more toilets will be installed before they return to school after vacations.
Overall it was fruitful, for us as well as for the children, and at least the toilet started receiving usage.
a) Niranjan received only Rs. 75000 instead of Rs. 150000. Sevadham says that they havn't received any further money for the project, and this is what they had.
b) Niranjan claims he has already built 1 UDDT and with this money he cant go and install all 5 toilets, but he has built the required ones in workshop, but waiting for more money for all of them.
c) Mr. Londkar wants to know the status of the funds from GTO, why is there a delay in transfer? On inquiring about Sevadham's commitment for Euros 2600, he simply said that it was not to be in cash, but their staff's involvement and other things in kind. I am not really clear about that as we were personally not involved during the contract. It would help if Sven could speak directly once to Dr. Gore.
a) Communication is very slow. IF sven could subscribe to an affordable VOIP pack for calling India numbers, that would make the process very fast and he could call our mobile numbers anytime. It would also make it easy for us as internet is not good many times.
b) The slow progress is also because of a lot of administrative hurdles and funds not getting cleared on time. Also, if we could get more companies to meet in Pune and Mumbai, would be happy. (Our trip to delhi is cancelled for now).
c) The school desperately needs a full boundary fencing (with lower part concrete) to stop animals and snakes entering. Without this, a lot of plans like gardens, trees and waste management cannot be implemented. Lets see if we can manage this under our budget. Need to also speak to Mr. Gore in this aspect.
d) We need to make a strong crowd-funding campaign about this Internationally (may be on Kickstarter) and promote it a lot. This can bring us a lot of funds from not just India or Germany, but the entire world. We already have a lot of media, films and pictures, so can really do it.
a) The school is already a hot destination for people to donate and do charity. Most donors come and gift something, without much software part of the thing. This is leading to an imbalance in the basic understanding of life.
b) Recently, through external donations, solar power is being installed and by now, it must have started operating to make the school independent of the grid power. Also, running hot water facility is also expected to start with this. The work on the half-constructed building which had a dispute, has now resumed and will be fully constructed using government education fund.
c) There is definitely more inclination towards "traditional" Indian style toilets over the UDDTs, simply because thats a part and parcel of the society. To make people believe that UDDTs are more effective in long term, we need to "create" a very strong case study and fact checklist comparing them with traditional Indian style toilet. I believe this is "Very Important".