Karuna Trust

Our vision is of a world without prejudice, in which every human being has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or beliefs. We aim to do this by challenging the ignorance and prejudice that trap people in poverty.
Mar 13, 2013

Education, Sanitation, and Globalgiving donation matching

Beneficiaries in front of toilet
Beneficiaries in front of toilet

Dear Donors,

Globalgiving are running a matching campaign on Wednesday 13th March. I have included some information at the end of the update. I hope it is of interest to some of you.

One of the main focusses of this integrated child rights project is health, and specifically sanitation. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand why sanitation awareness and toilet construction, are so important.

In the villages where these projects operate, there is almost no knowledge of basic hygeiene and sanitation amongst the people. Food is left uncovered where it can be infected, people do not use soap, and open defacation is rampant. One can imagine effect on the health and standard of living of all in the village, including the children.

The first school I visited on my trip, the children and teachers showed me, from the window, the area where most people from the village would openly deficate every morning. By the time the children came into class, the stench would be coming through the windows of all the main classrooms.

With so few toilet facilities, this was a common practice for most households in the village. The health risks from such a practice are twofold: Firstly there are the obvious dangers of disease from the exposed excretia; however, people also suffer illnesses regularly as a consequence of not being able to go to the toilet when they need to.

As one woman explained to me, "we have to go either early in the morning or late at night, so that people don't see us. I had to go to the doctor recently. It costs a lot to go to the doctor, and we have to travel very far. And when we women go, someone [another woman] has to come with us. He told me the problem was due to my not going to the toilet when I needed to." This story was not uncommon for the people, and especially the women, of many of the villages. 

In addition, not using soap, and poor hygeine around food preparation and storage, mean illness was common in the village.

Through the projects activties, campaigning, awareness raising and education, sanitation is improving. Across 50 villages, 2,350 families are being encouraged and assisted in constructing toilets, which is very significant. The woman to whom I spoke has recently built a toilet (pictured below). The children are learning about the importance of such things from an early age, and in many cases are imparting this knowledge to their parents in the home.

Healthier, cleaner, home and school environments make a big difference to the lives of these children, and their ability to study. This can be seen in that first classroom, where there is no more stench from the road. They can now study happily and safely, and sing songs they have learnt about the importance of not spitting, not defacating openly, washing their hands before they eat.

Thank you for helping to empower a community to create a healthy environment for their children. 

If you are able to donate again, on Wednesday 13th March, Globalgiving USA is matching all donations with a 30% contribution, up to $1,000 per donor. This is a unique opportunity to make your contribution to these activities count for even more than usual. Please do consider donating on this day, or letting people who might be interested know. The matching will begin at 9am ET. 

With gratitude and best wishes,

Keval Shah.

Sanitation poster
Sanitation poster
Mar 12, 2013

Sisterhood and self-confidence, and Globalgiving matching campaign.

Sara (furthest on the left, in black)
Sara (furthest on the left, in black)

Dear Donors,

Thank you for supporting for this important work. Below I have again included some experiences from my recent trip, which I hope are interesting for you. Also, Globalgiving are running a matching campaign on Wednesday 13th March, which I have included some information about underneath.

In a small room, in a building adjacent to the project offices in the Vishrantwadi slums, I sit amongst the latest batch of sewing students. They range in age from 13 to mid-20s, and chat and laugh as they work, apart from when trying to pay attention to some some new technique they are being taught. The experience of leaving their homes, forming friendships and discussing things with their peers is as important for these women as the hard skills they are learning.

The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is a warmth and friendship between the women. They have only known each other for a few months at the most, but in that time they have grown very close, and seeing each other most days of the week. 

They tell me that before coming to these classes they would do nothing. Nothing. That's the word they use. When I push them a little further, it seems nothing means housework and perhaps watching some televison. They say they never thought to do anything else. Those who were unmarried would be forbid from leaving the house by their parents and brothers, and those who were married would be similarly forbidden by their husbands. In addition, they themselves were scared to leave, with almost no confidence or social skills.

Sara tells me, among other things, about how they share their joys and their pains with one another. She tells me how good it is for all of them to have found others they can talk to, others that are experiencing the same thing. I ask them if they still experience resistance from their families and their husbands. "Oh yes, some mornings we start with a lot of tears" she says laughing. The other women laugh too.

However, somehow they have all managed to get themselves to classes. Some have changed the minds of their families and partners, while others come to classes secretly and when they can. Yet others, it seems, are just having to stand their ground. They can all do this because of the support they recieve from each other, which depends on the support they recieve from you.

Thank you all for supporting these women to gain the confidence they have lacked until now.

On Wednesday 13th March, Globalgiving USA is matching all donations with a 30% contribution, up to $1,000 per donor. This is a unique opportunity to make your contribution to these activities count for even more than usual. Please do consider donating on this day, or letting people who might be interested know. The matching will begin at 9am ET. 

With gratitude and best wishes,

Keval Shah.

Feb 28, 2013

Thoughts Following a Field Visit

Typical Beneficiary Village
Typical Beneficiary Village

Dear donors,

Apologies for the delay in updates. I have just returned from a field visit to many of the villages where the project is currently operating, as well as villages which have previously benefited from the project activities. 

The villages where the project operates typify rural India - largely agrarian and poor, the women do the housework, and the children do not study. This is the same situation that one can find in most of rural India. However, these project activities are changing these few villages into special exceptions.

In the newest villages the team reminded me again and again that the project had only been running for 6 months. Still, the impact was evident. The children sit proudly in their new uniforms, it not possible to tell which children came from the more privileged families. The distribution of uniforms, bags and materials, combined with the special teacher training, and improvements to the school building has resulted in over 90% attendance.

They perform songs that they had learnt about the dangers of drinking and addiction, about the importance of hygiene. The hygiene issue is a big one here: before the project activities began, the whole village used to defecate openly by the roadside behind the school. By 7 o'clock the smell would be coming in through the windows. This has ended now, with awareness raising and toilet construction throughout the village.

The children tell me how much they enjoy going to school now. A number who are members of the 'Bal Panchayat' (the 'Child Parliament') step forwards, introduce themselves and explain their roles. Each has their area of responsibility, in the school and in the village. The Education Minister is responsible for making sure that children attend school and complete their school work. The Health Minister is responsible for making sure they wash their hands and eat nutritiously, and importantly, that they understand why they should do these things.

In another village, I sit in on a 'reading improvement programme' class. Here, children who are struggling with their studies, and especially with basic literacy, are given special attention. The project team have produced a series of cards which very cleverly allows a teacher to combine many different letter combinations producing words. The cards progress in 6 sets as the children become more proficient. Under ordinary circumstances, village children who were struggling would simply be left to fail and drop out.

Indeed, if it were not for the project activities, the vast majority of children in these villages would have little chance of completing their education. Instead, on this trip, I saw many of the 'bidi' cigarette rolling houses where they would have been working, lying closed. 

Thanks to your donations, these children have the opportunity to escape the grinding poverty they would otherwise have remained in for generations.They understand the importance of education instead of going into employment early, and their aspirations are high. 

Thank you all for funding this life changing work.

Children of the school
Children of the school
Paintings on school
Paintings on school
Reading Improvement Class study materials.
Reading Improvement Class study materials.
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