Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Jagriti Yatra Diary - Joe Madiath of Gram Vikas, a student movement from Chennai transforming lives in Orissa.

Jan 2 - Mr.Shashank Mani had been telling for quite a while now that Mr.Joe Madiath was his favourite; Mr.Elango had rejoined the yatra at Hyderabad as he wanted to meet Mr.Joe as well. So, the expectations were quite high as we chugged into Jagannath Pur and boarded our buses to Berhampur.

Disappointingly, Mr.Joe's speech wasn't as powerful as his work or his message. Things got a bit exciting when when Mr.Elango joined him on stage for an interaction though :)

Mr.Joe a student union leader at Anna University along with his friends had gone to Orissa during a devastating cyclone in the early 1970s and had stayed back to work for those people! They started off with education and a bit of health, they realised water and sanitation were the major source of problem and tackled the issue through toilets, adjoining bathrooms, both with running water. They also help setup bio-gas plants and smokeless kitchens that help the people, especially the women. Men are given training that enable them to get jobs as semi skilled labourers in Orissa and other parts of India.

Post lunch we visited two tribal hamlets Batapalli and Sindurpur (home to 30 families) whose families are dependent on Shifting agriculture (Slash and burn technique) on the hills. Their dug wells and bore wells had dried up so Gram Vikas used a fascinatingly simple solution using intake well and gravity flow water to provide running water without electricity :O We checked out the kitchens and stayed there for a while before going to one of their schools.

The school at the base of the hill also had a hostel for the 400+ tribal children studying there for a small fee. With a 99% pass percentage in class 10 last year, need I say more?

38 years since he came to Orissa, Gram Vikas currently serves marginalised groups including tribals - over 2,50,000 people in 701 habitations from 21 districts!

In awe, we returned to the train - our home for the last ten days and had a group session where we discussed about the Yatra was going on for each one of us. I expressed my unhappiness to the group over not being able to contribute much as a facilitator to them. Mr.Elango and Aravind Eye Hospital was a common favourite across the group and everyone seemed quite content/overjoyed by the whole experience.

PS: I'll update the blog with some pictures later

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