Sairaj, Prime Minister
Thank you so much for supporting this project which I recently had the privilege of visiting.
Many of the children and families benefiting from your generosity live in a rather rural part of Maharashtra. Although only 150 miles from my starting point of Pune, the poor condition of the road meant a journey of several hours to reach a cluster of villages, displaced by the building of the Pimpalgaon Joge dam.
These villages represent one of the two key activity areas for the project, the other being the slum villages on the outskirts of the large town of Sangamner 70 miles away.
On first seeing the large expanse of water which has been created by the completion of the dam, I was fooled into thinking that this was a valuable resource which must be of benefit to the local community. I was wrong.
Underneath the water are the lost villages and fertile fields which once were home and larder to generations of this proud and previously self sufficient community.
At a village meeting, members of the local community painted the wider picture of the true nature of the significant negative effect of the construction of the dam.
The water for a start, I was told, is not fit for drinking without significant treatment. New villages have had to be established on the sides of the hill and the new land being claimed for agricultural use is unlevel and infertile. Until the project started, none of the households had drinking water or sanitation.
With no income through agriculture, the villagers have been forced to start day laboring. This work usually involves many days away from their homes and families, working long hours, for little pay, constructing and repairing highways.
Thanks to your support, I witnessed a JCB digger being used to level the land and so prepare it for agricultural use. The village I visited now boasts outside toilets for 80% of the homes. The same village now also has its own water supply complete with purifying system. I found it incomprehensible to think that these villagers had previously been walking for miles to find suitable water for drinking.
The mood of the village meeting was subdued as it is going to be a number of years before they will really know what the new land will produce. Having said that, there was certainly hope and much appreciation for the support they have been receiving from our donors for their village.
On reaching Sangamner I was fortunate enough to meet Sairaj, Prime Minister and his Ministers of the Pokhari village Child Parliament (beneficiaries of the project). Sairaj explained to me some of the issues facing children of the village, including malnourishment and school drop outs. He explained that the parliament meets weekly to identify issues and find solutions.
One significant problem, he explained, is that girls are being withdrawn from school early (aged 12 -14) and are not being allowed to complete their education.
The parliament devised a street play to show to parents. The play highlighted the problems of school drop out as well as the benefits of allowing girls to complete their education. Sairaj also explained that a representation party of the parliament visits families to understand their fears and encourage them to allow girls to complete their education.
The skills these children get from the Child Parliament are considerable. They learn how society operates, how village law works, how to engage with adults, how to present arguments, what their rights are and how to speak in public, to name but a few.
In all the projects I visited, these children, aged 11 to 16 years old were the most engaging, socially active and confident I met during my month long visit. Meeting these children gives me confidence that your generous donation is going to a very worthwhile cause. Thank you again for your continued support.
As a key stakeholder in this project, we would really appreciate your considered feedback. How could we attract more people to this project? What inspires you to support it? What can we do better?
The difference you are making is significant and really appreciated. Thank you.
The Child Parliament
Pimpalgaon Joge Dam