Wednesday, May 25, 2016

View from a volunteer team leader

ednesday, 25 May 2016

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Water Harvesting Project, Rajasthan

When Developing World Connections offered me the opportunity to lead
a team to Bhindar, Rajasthan, I leapt at the chance of returning to India.
I had been there many times before helping home owners build a new
life with a solid roof over their heads. But this project was different.

It was not house building for one or two families but building a sub-surface
dam for a whole village. A what?! I hear you ask, and quite rightly as that
was my initial reaction. Thanks to the wonders of Google it didn't take
long for me to find out exactly what I had let myself and my team in for.
My next step was to check out the information provided by the DWC
in-country partner Sahyog Sansthan.

The task seemed daunting compared to my previous experiences, but I
love a challenge. I have to admit that the thought of digging and mixing
concrete for two weeks did not sound appealing and I thought it would be
a hard sell to the team. But I think the challenge and the benefits this
project would have for the village, outweighed any doubts we as a team
may have had.

Then the day arrived for us to be driven to the village from our hotel, A
bonus I must admit as the hotel was an old palace run by a 21st generation
family member of the original owner. We are not used to such luxury on
these projects.


As the two 4x4 jeeps made their way out of Bhindar toward the village of 
Bargatua Kella, it became apparent that water was a substance these lands 
had not seen for a long time. Dry fields spread out from the dirt track in 
all directions. The occasional block built home dotted along the roadside. 
water buffalo, cows and the occasional dog all looking thin and 
malnourished, the bones of a dead water buffalo lay at the side of the 
track having been picked clean by anything that could gain nourishment 
from its remains.


We moved on towards the village and passed a dam that had been built by 
previous team. It looked impressive sitting there in the dry gully formed 
by previous monsoons. Last year the monsoon was very poor and there was 
not enough water to refill the wells let alone irrigate the land. The people 
in this area rely on their crop to survive. There is rarely any surplus to take 
to market. Without the crop they have nothing to eat. After a good 
monsoon season they may, if lucky, get two crops in a year. For the past 
two years they have only managed one.  


The team were silent as we approached the village, both from the effects 
of seeing first hand the conditions in which the villagers live and also with 
the prospect of starting the first days work. On arrival at the work site, a 
dry river bed running past the village of 187 occupants, we were greeted 
by many of them and welcomed to a ceremony under a brightly coloured 
awning set beneath a tree offering shade in the 40C heat.


Following introductions and having marigold garlands placed around our
necks, friendship ribbons tied to our wrists, drums beaten and much shaking
of hands, we made our way to the work site for our first view of the task

To our amazement, the foundation trench had already been dug by a JCB
(backhoe) and I could see why. If we had to dig it by hand we may just
have finished it in the two weeks we had to complete our build. It was 2
metres deep and about one and a half metres wide. There were piles of
rocks of various sizes and sand dug by the women of the village piled ready
for the making of concrete mortar.


So the project begins, the team divided up into groups, some moving sand 
to the mortar mixing area, some moving rocks and others passing the 
mortar in pans through the line and out to the masons who were placing 
and rocks and filling in the gaps.


Mixing the mortar was a hot and energy consuming task, and it was 
continuous. As one pile was finished another was being started. The water 
supply for this purpose was extracted from the bottom of the foundation 
which had hit the water table. It was extracted by tin cans and water 
carrying pots and then tipped into two 45-gallon plastic drums. 


This process continued throughout the time we were there. The dam grew 
in height and width each day as more mortar and more rocks where placed 
in position. The accuracy checked by the mason, a village elder. In fact 
everybody on site (except the team of course) were a member of the village. 

The women worked tirelessly digging and carrying sand. The men were 
moving and breaking rocks.


The young girls Lila and Kusum passing pans full of heavy mortar down the
line and all the time smiling and laughing.

Temperatures were rising throughout the week, hitting 45C by the weekend. 
The team worked throughout and without complaint. In fact nobody 
complained about repetitive work or the conditions, we all took it in our 
stride. There was a job to do, we needed to get it done.


During the morning break, one of the villagers (Suresh) made chai over an
open fire under the shade of the tree. 

The team loved it so much that we regularly got hijacked by villagers and 
had to visit their homes for chai. I believe it became a competition between 
them as to who could get us into their home before and after work. As we 
drove along the dirt track in the mornings we would find a villager waiting 
to direct us into their home. And when we finished for the day there would 
be an invitation waiting for us at another house.


The weekend came and the team took off for Udaipur on a little R and R
visiting the largest fresh-water lake in Asia and sight seeing in the old town.

We also took in a Bollywood movie - well you just have to when in India, 
returning Sunday evening to our wonderful hotel. I happened to mention to 
Parthvi (the 21st generation manager) that the building reminded me of the 
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (those who have seen the films will understand). 
She in turn explained that the hotel used in the film was not too far away. 
So on an evening during our second week myself and another team member 
accompanied by Parthvi visited the hotel and received a guided tour and 
detailed explanation of the making of the films.


Monday came and we continued mixing, moving, lifting and laughing. More 
chai and more heat. By midweek the temperatures were hitting 50C. Did 
this slow down the project? Not at all. In hindsight, I am not sure how we 
all coped with that, but as each day went by the dam grew in stature and 
without complaint from anyone

On the Wednesday we ran out of water for mixing the mortar. We had dug 
two additional holes to try and obtain water as the foundation was by now 
complete and what water there was, was no longer accessible.

Whilst the two extra holes produced a small amount, they eventually ran 
dry. By the next morning there was enough to keep us going for a few hours.


A tanker had been ordered to provide enough to complete the project but
this had not arrived by the time we left site for the last time.

One evening during the second week we were invited to revisit the village
for a cultural evening. The whole village turned out and enthralled us with 
with music, songs and dancing. 

On another occasion we stopped at a nearby village to be invited to the 
Marriage celebrations of a young couple. Following congratulations and of 
course chai, we continued with our journey home.


We also visited another water harvesting project funded by a UK
organization, Wells for India. Dry wall irrigation and another sub-surface
dam. This land is so reliant on the monsoons for its water that the
ingenious methods they have developed to harvest and retain the rainfall 
are incredible. They need to replenish their wells as well as irrigate their 
land. Without these structures, the water would would sweep down the 
valley, washing away topsoil and not actually penetrating the earth deep 
enough to be of use for crop growing.

With these dams in place, the water is held back long enough to penetrate
the ground and raise the water level without reducing the effect further
down the line. It helps refill the wells which are currently dry, hopefully 
with enough water to last until the monsoons come again. It will also help 
the farmers with a second crop per year.

By the time we were due to leave, the dam was up to height but still had
the wing wall and the top sides to be built. This will take 15 days of hard
labour by the villagers and we know they will complete because it means
so much to them.


On our last day the whole village turned out to celebrate with us. They 
danced, sang songs and made speeches, prepared food and fed everyone 
including ourselves. 


We in turn thanked them for their hospitality and wished them well for the 
future and hopes of a good monsoon. 


When we started out with this project we had no idea what we were getting 
into. But now we are much more aware of the plight of the farmers in 
Rajasthan. We understand more about their needs and their suffering 
because of the lack of water. 

When we ran out of water to mix mortar, it was a hammer blow that made 
us realize how much we take water for granted here in the west. Driving 
across the dry landscape watching a dust devil twist across the work site 
lifting a column of dry dust high into the air, seeing animals made of just 
skin and bone, all reinforced to us the need for more help in this area.


Without this Developing World Connections team, this project would not 
have happened. The donation content paid by each team member funded 
this project. Unlike some organizations that pool the funds to support its 
projects, DWC actually funds the whole project through direct donation to 
cover the costs. These village farmers would not have had their sub-surface 
dam if it was not for DWC and the team of volunteers who made it happen. 
I, as their team leader, applaud them for their generosity and hard work 
in giving their time and money to make this project a success.

Our thoughts are with the people of Bargatua Kella and all those effected 
by the lack of water in Rajasthan and hope this years monsoon is a monster.


This is only a brief synopsis of the project and to tell the story in full would 
require a book and a good author. That person is not me. But I will always 
be happy to bore you with tales from the trip should we meet in person.

Ray Fowell
Team leader
India, May 2016

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16, 2015: Access To Knowledge Is Power


Access to knowledge is power. An easy thing to say but a difficult concept to grasp when we in North America live with a device attached to us at all times. We have the power to learn and to explore the world at our fingertips and we often forget how powerful that is – until you understand and experience life without technology.

Our group had the opportunity to take part in a panchayat (meeting) of all the regional leading women in the Railmagra Block.  These women meet to discuss social issues and present the grievances and challenges faced by the women of their respective communities. During the meeting, we had the opportunity to exchange questions and discuss the differences in our daily lives and cultures. We touched on household economics, education, gender, and even marriage. The contrasts in our lives are stark, and our knowledge of each others’ lives is minimal, but we all want the same thing – a better future for our families and our communities.
It was in this meeting that I truly began to understand the value technology will bring to this community. These women had little knowledge of life outside their village and thus found it hard to imagine life outside the roles and responsibilities defined by their communities. Technology provides a vehicle to access knowledge, to explore places and people far from home, and a space to craft a better future.

We often hear the phrase, “knowledge is power”, but I would like to revise that to, “Access to knowledge is power”. After we left the meeting, I was able to use my phone, connect to the internet, Google all the issues we discussed and learn why they exist – a luxury not available to these local women and their families. Technology provides me the power to access knowledge from anywhere about any topic.

As a result of this project, women and children will have access to exponentially more information and technical skill development than they can even imagine. The speeds and feeds, the network design, the software, is not what matters. What’s important is providing a vehicle for knowledge and power that puts the ability to learn literally at their fingertips.  Technology will provide a vehicle from them to explore the world.

Brittany Pepper
DWC/Softchoice Volunteer Participant
India. February 16, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015: India - A Feast For The Eyes

Glances out the window reveal life in action. A bare-foot and bare-bottomed boy running down an alleyway using a stick to control a rolling bicycle tire. An old man wrapped in many layers of clothing to ward off the morning cold, lighting his morning cigarette. A young girl, maybe 10, carrying a toddler along the sidewalk on her hip. Begging. Filthy. Her hair matted with dirt. But somehow pretty all the same.

An elephant, painted for some occasion-or maybe just for an everyday show. A platform strapped to his/her back with a single large rope. Moving through traffic, horns blaring on all sides, the sound of bells clanging as the huge beast rocks back and forth on a stiff march through the centre of the city. What is the look in his or her eye?

A groom riding a white horse as part of a noisy procession. Making his way to his wedding. Not a young man. Women, girls, young men colorfully dressed. All dancing along throwing some sort of powder in the air as they followed a small vehicle playing music over a loudspeaker.

A man working in a building 6 ft square – a barber shop. A look of pride and recognition as we make our way past his shop for the second time today. We see him and he sees us as he flicks a sheet around the shoulders of his next customer.

A woman on the back of a motorcycle. Dressed elegantly and colorfully. Barely hanging on, just balancing – years of experience. She has her head buried behind the drivers back, looking down at her cell phone - texting someone. Oblivious to us or the cows her driver is snaking through on the tiny village road.

India is a study of beauty. And that beauty is found right next to or between the filth. Focus on the stench, the garbage everywhere, the cacophony of noisy car horns blaring and you will have great distaste. But make eye contact with people, see their beauty, see the smiles, see through the dirty exterior and you will find the beauty of the human condition. And then it is gone.

India is a feast for the eyes and paying attention is the only requirement.

Nick Foster
DWC/Softchoice Volunteer Participant
India.  February 15, 2015.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 11, 2015: Unleashing the Hope within Rajasthan’s Local Youth

Children scare me. Why and when this fear developed, I’m not 100% sure. I do find them cute, and I do care about kids, but the thought of the responsibility to raise a child tends to bring out the fear in me. Therefore, I typically avoid situations that involve being around kids when I can.

So when I learned that we were going to attend a youth center in India after a long and exhausting day of lifting bricks, the last ounce of my comfort zone was drained from me.
Sitting at the front of a room no bigger than my bedroom, 30 children ranging  from two to 14, majority boys, only a handful of girls, all sitting crossed leggeged on the floor, personal space non-existent, just stared at the spectacle which was us.

Our guide translated the purpose of the youth center which focuses on better education programs, sex education, and instilling hope that these kids can create their own futures. As translations went back and forth, my eyes would wander the room. So many of these kids just waited for me to make eye contact so we could exchange a smile and a small hand wave.
After listening to the translation of the teacher for a while, my curiosity took over and I asked our guide to translate to the kids “Does anyone have any questions for us?” I just wanted to know what these little minds were thinking.

The first question translated back to us:

“Do you have child marriages in Canada?”

I was stunned! I wasn’t sure what to anticipate and right from the start, their questions just seemed so surreal. I just  couldn’t believe what was on their minds. Throughout the hour, we were faced with more of the same sort of questions you wouldn’t expect from a group of children.

“Do children have to go to school? What happens if they don’t?”

“Do you have youth centers? What do they teach?”

“Do you have abortion? Do parents abort children of a certain sex?”

“What festivals do you celebrate?”

Both taboo and innocent questions were answered and translated for these kids. It started to hit me. These kids, full of song, curiosity, smiles, energy, and hope, struggle every day for their rights to just be kids.

They want to grow up to be police officers, doctors, engineers, teachers, soldiers, but they need to first find a way to avoid the typical reality that is life for many children in India: Marriage at the age of 10.

I initially feared being stuck in a room by a bunch of kids. Yet these children are scared of losing their rights, hope, freedom, and their youth.

This project is all about enabling these kids to unleash their potential by answering questions and providing them with access to information through the Internet and technology. We are here to teach them as much as we can in our short time here; but what they don’t realize is that they’ve also taught me so much about my own reality.

I can’t wait for the next time I get to be surrounded by these amazing, young and hopeful individuals.

Angela Cope
DWC/Softchoice Volunteer Participant
India. February 11, 2015.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015: When a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity Happens Twice

I’ve know from a very young age the importance of helping others and making an impact in their lives.  I remember when I was 10 years old, listening to my best friend’s father share his stories of those he had volunteered his time to support in rural Africa – and of those who still needed the help more than ever. I sat in amazement, listening and realizing that one day, I too wanted to visit and help.  It became a life long dream I never knew how I would make a reality until 2013 when I was lucky enough to be on the SC Cares Board that went to Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

This once in a lifetime opportunity provided me with the chance to work with a fantastic organization along side some of the best people.  We met amazing people and I came back a changed person.

With some hard work and a little more luck, I carried over to the 2014 board and that once in a lifetime opportunity came around for the second time.  Only this time the project wasn’t in Africa, it was in India.

India, a place that wasn’t really on my bucket list,  seemed so far away to me, and for a number of reasons, getting excited was a little difficult.

The purpose of the project for India was similar to the project in Kenya – help a community to learn and grow.  We had weekly meetings with the gentlemen from Jatan who were all friendly and thrilled we were coming.  We planned out what we were about to undertake, booked an exciting adventure for our weekend off and began to learn about the culture we were going to visit.

We boarded not one, but three planes and in all that I still wasn’t getting pumped up.  Everything seemed like a haze or a dream and I was just walking through it.  It wasn’t until we were driving through Udaipur and pulled over to for a look at one of the lakes that it really hit me.

As we began to meet the people we were to work with it was clear that the colour and energy felt around it came from the people themselves.  Their excitement for the potential we bring with us shined as brightly as that pink camel.

As I looked around, the true beauty of India woke me up and I became excited for the potential of what we could accomplish here!

Tara Bradbury
DWC/Softchoice Volunteer Participant
India. February 10, 2015.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Friday Oct 24th: Final Thoughts and a Bittersweet Goodbye

With Bob feeling under the weather and out for the count with a head cold the rest of us set off to sightsee the Chittoorgarh Fort. It is located a few kilometers south of Bhilwara and is the largest fort in India. It was once the capital of Mewar and is now a World Heritage Site. It is definitely quite grand and a site to behold. 

We gathered once again for dinner in the palace courtyard. The mood was joyful but certainly tinged with a hint of sadness as it is our final dinner at the palace and amongst our new friends. The princess had a beautiful cake brought in to celebrate the final day of Diwali and some final rounds of fire crackers were lit off. 

Given that it's our final day together as a DWC group we decided to leave you with some parting reflections from each of us. Tomorrow we're off to Delhi.

It is a bitter sweet morning excited to see Delhi but sad to leave my new friends and family. These past weeks were truly eye-opening. The people we were here to help, unknowingly, were helping me find myself. I am leaving with a better sense of family, the true meaning of friendship and giving of oneself without expecting anything in return. I am truly blessed to have also met 5 wonderful team mates who will be my friends forever. Looking forward to our next adventure with DWC.

Coming to India has been my first visit to a developing country. It has been an amazing experience to be involved in a project such as this. As a part of the program we have been able to immerse ourselves into the local culture while contributing to something that will benefit a community. While the work has been challenging, it has provided us with a unique insight into the daily lives of the villagers. Despite the additional hardships that they face, they have all warmly embraced us and allowed us all to feel welcome. It is an experience that I shall never forget and I am glad to have shared it with such supportive, like-minded people. I shall leave India with many new friends from across the globe.

I could not have asked for a better team and a better project. A huge thanks to Bob for taking the lead in my absence the first week and thank you Anya for the daily communications and updates. It was a challenge to lead from home but it worked out just fine, all because of the wonderful team. After arriving to the project site it was clear how big of an impact the dam will have on the villages in the area. Our host partner did a fantastic job in organizing the project and what a pleasure to work side by side with the locals. It amazes me how strong both the men and women are and could feel the excitement among the villagers. They clearly understand the long term benefit from all the work.

I can't say enough about our team. So much to appreciate from all the hard work to being flexible, respectful and caring. I hope I get to travel and experience new places with each of the team members again.

My biggest lesson: No matter where you come from, country, religion or culture, anything can be accomplished as a common community.

This was my first DWC experience and first time in India. It has been a great experience seeing how our efforts will impact the community. I felt warmly welcomed and enjoyed the time with the villagers with whom we were building. We worked hard but still had time to visit with the local villagers and learn about their daily lives. I have really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers and forming connections with them. I would encourage others to participate in an experience such as this.

This has been an awesome experience, it has lived up to and surpassed all my expectations. It always surprises me the commonality of the people we meet on DWC trips, we all want a better life for ourselves and the generation that follows us. The key word is always sustainability. In our small way we are adding to the quality of life of those not as fortunate as we. It's never too late to get involved.

Although this was my second volunteer opportunity with DWC the experience was no less profound. To be able to work cooperatively alongside and bond with people despite language barriers and cultural differences is truly extraordinary. I have no doubt that the work we have done will make a significant and positive impact for the villagers of Kosafala. I leave this trip with an incredible sense of gratitude and a love for India and the people we've bonded with. It has truly been an experience of a lifetime.

DWC Team
Udaipur, India: October 2014

Thursday Oct 23rd: Happy Diwali!

Being in India is an experience in and of itself. However, being in India and having the opportunity to participate in Diwali celebrations is simply priceless. Diwali, the festival of lights, in many ways can be compared to our version of Christmas. The royal family spent the day decorating the palace with lights, garlands of marigolds, flowers and gold bows. Excitement filled the air.

With half of the group feeling a little under the weather we were all thankful to have the day off work. Not to mention it was scorching hot with no breeze to be found. We had a relatively low key day and took a wander through Bhinder just after dusk to take in the sights and wish people a happy Diwali. We also eagerly anticipated the much talked about fireworks display that was lined up for later in the evening.

And what a show it was! We thought that we were going to be the highlight of the night after purchasing some fireworks in Udaipur. Boy, were we wrong. Let me tell you, the royal family knows how to throw a party and put on a fireworks display like no other. If any of us have hearing left by morning it'll be a miracle.

Short and sweet for today but wishing you all a happy Diwali!

Anya Malda
DWC Participant
Udaipur, India: October 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wednesday Oct 22nd: "Chalo!" aka "Let's Go!"

So today was a morning much like all the rest in the sense that it started with Bob's yoga class and a full on spicy breakfast. We knew that today was going to involve a ceremony, however, when we showed up at the job site the villagers were ready and waiting for a full on party! So much for squeezing in an hour and a half of work before the festivities Tommy ;)

Over night our little shaded area had expanded five fold. It was complete with a backdrop, canopy and a large sound system. With Bollywood tunes filling the air we went and inspected the wall. Once again the villagers had been hard at work after we left yesterday, both on the wall and setting up the ceremony area. While the structure may not yet be complete (as it will take approximately another two weeks before it is finished) it stands at an impressive height of 1.75 meters above ground. We took advantage of the photo op and mingled a bit with the villagers.

With the music cranked it didn't take long for some of the girls, Kim included, to start bustin' a move. There's no question that they love their music and their dancing. Arguably even more impressive was their artistic talent and steady hand at creating henna. Denise, Kim and I were all treated to our own henna hand, each with their own artistic expression.

We were told yesterday that the official ceremony would start at 10:00am. Keeping consistent with Indian Standard Time, things really didn't get underway until about 11:45am. You'd think that we'd be somewhat more accustomed to this by now.

The President, the King and a PhD student were only a few of the many dignitaries present at the ceremony today. Villagers from far and wide came to join in the festivities. There must have been over 300 men, women and children in attendance.


Once officially underway representatives from the village, Sahyog and our team addressed the crowd and spoke about the importance of the work that was being done through the self-help groups and the positive impact that the water harvesting structure would have on the village. One of the things the villagers kept commenting on was our hard work ethic as a group, funny because at times we felt like we were struggling to keep up with them. We were honoured when we were officially welcomed into the brotherhood of the village, complete with traditional wraps for us ladies and turbans for the guys.

Our team also had the opportunity to present the local school teacher with enough books, pencils, sharpeners and erasers for each of the school children. We had also purchased some sporting equipment for the school kids. Between 61 students we are sure that each and every piece will be put to good use.

After our legs had gone numb and our backs began to ache (honestly, that squat position on the hard ground is impossible after about 30 minutes) the ceremony finally ended. We were more than just a little relieved. The large gathering then headed over to one of the villagers homes for a community lunch. You'd think that with such a large amount of people to cater for and then serve, a certain amount of chaos would ensue. However, the organization and the systems that the locals have in place are so interesting, impressive and effective that there was no problem. The men were the ones who were not only cooking but also serving everyone. I'm telling you, I could get used to some of these customs and traditions.

It was a sad farewell as we left the dinner party. There were many waves, photos, and attempts to try and keep us there. After forming such a strong bond with so many of the villagers it's hard to imagine that we won't be working alongside them again. It makes it even more difficult to say goodbye when you know that in all likelihood this may very well be the last time we see them. We left with a feeling of sadness but also a strong sense of happiness knowing how much the village will benefit from the water harvesting structure.

Anya Malda
DWC Participant 
Udaipur, India: October 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuesday Oct 21st: Pump it Up!

With today being the last full working day on the project there was widespread enthusiasm amongst the team to make it a productive one. Despite being a man down, with Bob showing some signs of succumbing to the local cuisine, the team put in a solid days work. Perhaps it was a case of the team following Bob's solid work ethic that he had displayed throughout the first week during his role as stand in team leader.

Tommy's enthusiasm was infectious on the work site as his cries of "Pump it up" were even being copied by the local villagers. They may not have quite known what it meant, although they matched Tommy's enthusiasm with the same grit and determination that they have displayed each and every day. Kim took the opportunity to learn a new skill as she ferried water on her head from the nearby well to the wall. Both Denise and Anya were on mortar duty today and as the wall grew higher they had to lift the pans higher and higher.

It was a productive day of work, although there was still the opportunity to take breaks for chai tea and for Tommy to participate in a playful game with some of the girls from the village. There is still some doubt over who won, if there was a winner at all.

We also took a brief excursion during the working day to visit a nearby well that has been previously developed through Sahyog's projects. The well is 15 meters deep and is used to provide water to nearby farming land and while it was funded through multiple sources, the adjoining farmers contributed 40% of the costs. The on site visit to the well helped to reveal the extent of Sahyog's projects within the local area as well as reaffirm that outcomes are reached through empowerment, collaboration and consultation.

We left the job site at around 1pm after a solid day of work under the hot Indian sun. When we returned to the palace we found that Bob was thankfully feeling much better.

Following lunch the team decided to wander the streets of Bhindar and take in what the town has to offer. We were again the subject of much curiosity with many of the locals keen to greet us as we walked past. We even found some familiar faces from Sahyog down at the local material shop. They informed us that they would visit the palace at 5.30pm with shirts for the men to try on for the upcoming celebration. This was in addition to a local sari maker coming to the palace to conduct a fitting for the ladies.

We learned that today is 'Money day' in the Indian calendar. In the lead up to Diwali this day is a traditional day to purchase gold and/or silver, as it is believed that if you purchase it today it will have doubled in value by this time next year. As Diwali approaches a number of townsfolk have been busily preparing by decorating their homes or businesses with themed items or with lights. It is very much their version of putting up lights for Christmas. We had a guided tour of the streets of Bhindar prior to dinner. Amongst the various lights and artwork that adorns the pavement outside many shops and homes, there is the sound of firecrackers being set off throughout the streets.

The countdown to Diwali is on and it is sure to be a party that our team will remember! Of Course we'll join in any way we can.

David Hood 
DWC Participant 
Udaipur, India: October 2014

Monday Oct 20th: First day for some

Not surprisingly, we returned to the job site this morning to find that an incredible amount of work had been done over the weekend. The entire length of the wall (27 meters) is now about 0.75 meters above ground. Not only that but the backside of the wall has been reinforced significantly. Where mounds of dirt had sat throughout the past week was now an intricate placement of rock and dirt that will provide extra strength for the wall when the monsoon rains fall. The locals had surely been busy while we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Udaipur.

The vibe at the worksite seemed to be a little more relaxed today. A brief ceremony was held in order to officially welcome Tommy and Denise as new members of the team and they jumped straight into the action. Tommy was keen to cart some heavy rocks and Denise was tossing pans full or mortar with the villagers in no time. We learned that today would only be a half day of work for everyone because a funeral celebration/food exchange was going to be held in the afternoon at a neighbouring village. It being quite a hot day again, none of us were overly disappointed. Well, all of us except Tommy perhaps. Although he was pleased that he was recruited rather quickly to using the stretcher and carrying the big rocks.

It was only a matter of time before the Australian in India was roped into playing cricket, as a group of children from the local village started a game next to the break area at the work site. Although on a rock strewn pitch, the local village children proved their superiority and Dave wasn't able to uphold the lofty Australian standards of cricket.

Heera came to visit this afternoon at the palace and while the group watched a presentation on the previous water structures that Sahyog had assisted with, I had a chai tea making lesson with the princess. It's safe to say that if I can find tea powder back home I'll be making chai tea from now on! Heera informed us that a celebration will be held this coming Wednesday with over 200 participants. Essentially everyone who is impacted in some way by the creation of our water harvesting structure has been invited to partake. Put your party hats on!

With this in mind we set out to find a small gift we could bring for the 60+ children who are expected to be in attendance. We settled on purchasing a pencil, eraser, sharpener and notebook each for the kids. Hopefully it'll be something they can all put to good use.

Anya Malda
DWC Participant 
Udaipur, India: Oct 2014