Thank you so much for your support in operating our farm for people living with HIV and retiring from sex work and helping nurture them to grow. While we still have 20 people living and working at our farm we are bringing this project into our Rehabiliatation Center which raises funds through our https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/rescue/ page.
You can rest assured that any donations made to that project will also directly benefit the individuals and families living at our farm too. They will continue to cultivate and provide the food for our Rehab Center and we will contintue to support them financially and emotionally. It's definitely not goodbye, with your continued support our cows will keep on providing all the milk for our project, their children will stay in school and we will also conintue to help our farm families wellbeing including finding them life partners and establishing their own safe and secure homes.
We cannot thank you enough for the support you have given us and we hope you continue to do so through our established rescue project.
Living at Snehalaya we are fortunate to receive many of the organic seasonal produce that’s grown at our Himmatgram farm.
In past posts we have often expounded on the delights of the intense flavors of juicy mangoes, tasty okra, carrots, sweet corn, spinach and much more that's grown by the community who reside there.
As I write this ripe tomatoes and aubergines can be seen growing in the fields in abundance and are ready for picking.
Over the years the Himmatgram beneficiaries are getting pretty adept at growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and being the adventurous souls they are, they're also game when it comes to experimenting with growing something new.
So it was with some excitement and anticipation we recently sowed the seeds that will hopefully become the Artemesia Annua plant.
This was first brought to our attention a while back when an USA supporter Susan Paul relayed to us the plant's benefits for people who are taking Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
Susan was a nurse in New York when people began displaying symptoms that at the time nobody knew anything about.
In time the virus was given the name HIV and when tested you were either negative or positive.
As you know millions would go on to get AIDS and the horrendous death toll began to rise all around the world.
Susan went on to become a full time professional practitioner in Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
She came across the Artemisia Annua plant (in Chinese medicine known as Qing Hao).
Originally used on patients suffering with Malaria to reduce fevers, it came to her attention that it was being used to great effect when treating people who are on ART, she noted that ART created a lot of heat and this could cause patients to suffer further complications.
When Qing Hao was administered it would lower body temperatures created by the drug.
Susan would later bring her work and knowledge to India, taking care of people who were sick with AIDS related illnesses.
She struck upon the great idea to cultivate Artemisia Annua here.
Unfortunately all attempts to grow it came to no avail, mainly because of high temperatures, it's worth noting that Artemisia grows in abundance on Afghanistan mountains.
Trying to replicate this in India you would be forgiven for thinking this was near impossible but Susan was informed by a friend that there was a farmer known as Mr Wagh who had success in growing the elusive Artemisia Annua.
A few of us decided to pay Mr Wagh a visit to see if we could get some tips.
When we arrived he informed us that he knew of Snehalaya and had always wanted to get involved in someway.
He conveyed to us that this beneficial plant was basically a weed and needs little attention, he instructed us to mix the seeds with lightly moistened sand, make sure they were covered after sowing and sprayed with a little water every day.
He wished us luck and told us to get in touch should we require further assistance.
Luck is really on our side as an enthusiastic supporter from Ireland who works in the Pharmaceutical business, kindly donated a large number of the Artemisia Annua seeds.
When it came to sowing, help was at hand from 2 of our Volunteers who are studying MSC Agriculture and Rural Development at Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Kolkata and gave some great advice and help.
Your help and support is making a difference for the residents of Himmatgram to continue with their agricultural vocational training and also cultivate skills for future endeavors such as this.
If this all goes according to plan it could help alleviate a lot of suffering for our beneficiaries who are on ART.
Keep your (green) fingers crossed.
Thank you for your support of our organic farm. You are helping children like Shivaji whose mother died of a HIV-related illness a few years ago. Although the seven-year-old’s father is also HIV+, Shivaji himself is negative and since his mother died Shivaji and his father, who looks after our 15 dairy cows, have been living at our Himmatgram.
Shivaji is really smart and speaks very good English which is why his father recently made the decision to move him to our Rehab Center where he can more easily attend our English Medium School. Living there also means he has 260 friends to learn alongside and play with as well as take part in the program of activities we arrange for our children outside of school time. He is settling in really well, he is getting very good marks in school and is a big fan of playing marbles with boys his own age. Although the father and son miss each other, they are only 7km apart and with our van travelling to and from our farm to deliver food from our Rehab Center three times a day they have plenty of opportunities to see each other.
Also making the 7km between our farm and Rehab Center is our brand-new water pipe. It has long been an ambition for our organisation to reduce our costs by pumping water from the dam at our farm to provide fresh drinking water to our 350+ beneficiaries and staff living in our shelter home. It may seem like an easy task but the railway line running between our two projects proved a major stumbling block in laying the pipeline. After many negotiations with the Indian Railways authorities we finally received permission to lay the line under the train tracks and the water started flowing earlier this month. We are already making substantial savings by reducing the number of water tank deliveries we require each day.
We also recently opened our new Agricultural Training Center, just outside the boundaries of our farm. This means that the agri-entrepreneurs studying on our agriculture technology course have their own specially designed accommodation and teaching facilities to learn more about farming processes and techniques and also means more interaction between the students and our farm residents. The center blends into the natural landscape and has been cleverly designed to maximise natural light and ventilation.
Your support enables us to keep cultivating the lives of our beneficiaries and also the facilities we offer and the projects we deliver to them. Thank you so much for investing in our growth.
The main aim of any farm is to cultivate and grow. Therefore, we’re really pleased that this report is all about growth in different areas.
First off, we have an extra three acres. We wanted more land to expand the variety of produce we provide to our shelter home. It took one month to turn the rocky terrain into arable land and put in the topsoil and irrigation. Having this extra acreage means we can now grow more protein-rich staples like mung beans, red-eyed beans, soya bean as well as cereals such as maize and sorghum. It also means we can start providing variety in the vegetables and pulses we deliver to our shelter home, providing a more balanced diet to our beneficiaries.
Other crops we grow:BeetrootBitter gourdCabbageCarrotCauliflowerCluster beansCorianderCucumberCurry leafDillEggplantFenugreekGreen peasOkraRadishRed pepperRidge gourdSafflowerSorrelSpinachTomato
We also have a new project manager. Kalidas left a career in banking and finance three years ago to join Snehalaya. Facing a transfer with the bank to another city and within a few days of his imminent departure he paid a visit to Snehalaya. He realised that his heart was in his home city and giving back to society through social work. We were very lucky and instead of packing for a big move to a new city he moved into our shelter home becoming a caregiver to some of the boys who live with us.
He did a great job in that role and earlier this year he was promoted to the role of project manager of our Himmatgram. He and his wife and baby son moved to our GKN Center, which is where our over 18 boys live, on the doorstep of our farm. As well as working with the 26 people living and working at the farm he is also able to keep a fatherly eye on our older boys.
He says: “There are challenges in my role, for example we are not making any profit yet and water is a constant issue (at the time of writing we are still awaiting the full start of the monsoon). I’d like to welcome more beneficiaries to our home of courage which in turn would increase production and the supplies to our other projects. For now though, as long as everyone I work with is happy then I am happy too.”
We are also really happy that you have chosen to support this project - thank you!
Meet Manusha, one of the newest residents at our farm. She's really taken to the life your support offers at our rural retreat. Thanks to you she has cultivated a new interest which she is using to further her education.
we are so proud to tell you that she is the first female graduate of the first cohort of our Agricultural Technology Assistant training course. The 45-day residential course aims to create a new generation of agri-entrepreneurs and agriculture technology assistants with the functional knowledge and skills to apply agricultural technology in rural farming communities and is partly delivered at our own bio-farm.
Manusha has come a long way since she first landed at our women’s shelter with her seven-year-old son Pratik, bearing the physical and emotional scars of domestic abuse after fleeing her violent husband. She doesn’t like to dwell on what happened and is very self-conscious covering her scarred arm with carefully-placed scarves. her facial scars are harder to hide however, it hasn’t knocked her confidence or ambition and while at our shelter she continued her studies and became an advocate for girls’ education as a street player during our Malala campaign, performing in front of thousands.
A few months ago, she moved the few kilometres from our shelter home to our farm to take advantage of the tranquil, rural setting. She settled in with the close-knit family community there very quickly, developing an interest in the workings and management of the farm. When we started recruiting for our new course we were keen to nurture this interest and encouraged her to apply. After successfully passing the rigorous recruitment process she took her place among young men from our local rural communities.
Being the only girl in class of over 30 didn’t daunt her and she recently graduated with flying colours as well as gaining great knowledge and even more confidence. She's already taking more of a lead in the running of the farm and helping improve our farming techniques. We believe the seeds have been sown for a great future and she has the potential to go far, watch this space…
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