Souvenirs from India

Growing up my family owned a successful business.  Although there were lots of upsides to this, one of the major downsides was that it meant that we couldn’t travel.  My annual summer activity with my parents was staying at a hotel downtown to watch the parade every July, which I looked forward to very much.  My oldest sister, however, was (and still is) a more restless sort.  She would travel to this place and that, and always brought back gifts for me and my other sister.  With each pencil, eraser, t-shirt, or miniature license plate there was always a story of where it came from.  I would imagine my sister in those places and listen to her experiences and create my own memories of a place I had never been.  I cherished those trinkets because I cherished the memories that they represented.

I still love to receive gifts from others travels.  Some, naturally, mean more to me than others.  I recently received some of the best I have ever had with Dr. Mohammad’s return from his recent trip to India and Saraiya.  Stories, news, pictures, and goals – all bright and shiny, laid out on that conference room table for us all to share.

Much of this was concerning the Community Center, of which construction was completed in December 2011.  The all-important road was also recently finished.

People have already started moving into the area. Note the cot on the right side of the photo.

Here is the new road leading to the SCC. Notice the cow on the left side.


You may be asking yourself “Why in the world is this community center so important?  Why not put the money into water sanitation or vocational education?”  So glad you asked!

The Saraiya Community Center (SCC) is a first step towards both of those goals, among others.   There are toilets, which is a BIG deal.  Indians leave an estimated 100,000 tons of excrement each day in the fields of food, along the roads which are jammed with trucks, scooters and pedestrians, and in the rivers used for bathing and drinking.  100,000 tons – I can’t even imagine a number that size.  So after doing a little math, it turns out that is more than 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools every single day.  Women walking up to a half a mile, even in the rain, just to find a relatively safe place to relieve themselves.  For girls, the crisis is especially acute: Many drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate lavatories, depriving the country of a generation of possible leaders.  Due to the higher burden placed on women regarding this issue the decision was made to, for the next 6 months, have the toilets be “women-only” facilities.  This includes small children.  After 6 months, the issue as to whether or not to allow the men access will be revisited.  As you can see, this was also a step towards empowerment of women in the area.

Here is Dr. Mohammad's mother handing the keys to the village chief at the official gifting to the village.

Speaking of empowerment, the presence of the SCC will be a center for vocational training.  5 computers have been gifted to the center and are soon to be installed. There will also be Chikan embroidery training, where the workers will keep 80% of the funds.

The committee for administration the of the SCC are the village chief, Sanjay, and one other. The woman on the right wished to also be considered. She will probably be added to the group upon the next visit to India. This group will check-in weekly to ensure that the SCC is used only for events and gatherings that benefit the entire community. No religious or political gathers are allowed.

1-day health camps are also soon to be conducted.  The children’s camp will consist of 3-4 doctors seeing 150-200 children.

The Saraiya Community Center makes so many things possible for this area.  It is the largest community meeting place within 100 miles, covering 50,000-100,000 people.  That’s a lot of hope and possibilities for just one little building.

Location of the SCC.

One Comment on “Souvenirs from India”

  1. Laurie R. says:

    Dr. Mohammad’s mother is so cute! This all represents so many huge changes for these people..and to think half-way across the world we take all these things for granted. The embroidery really intrigues me. I’ve heard of other villages where women do something similar and they earn enough money to support their families. That would be so empowering for them. It’s all so exciting!

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