Dreams of India

Last night I had a dream that I was back in the village of Saraiya.  I could see it as clear as I can the Salt Lake valley now looking out my window.  The sun was shining as I stood at the first junction of the road just past the community center.  I looked out into the fields and watched maintenance of the hand washing stations we built.  Actually, they were being rebuilt, in the dream having fallen into disrepair assuming that we wouldn’t be back to check on them.  But as I had suspected as much, I wasn’t upset by this.  Actually, I was delighted to see them caring so much about pleasing us, even if it was just while we were watching.

Woman #1Woman #2Woman #3

It was also nice to be able to be there unannounced, as it were.  I traveled down the road toward the homes with great anticipation of seeing the faces of the women I have been missing since my time there.  I see their faces on the website and in the pictures I have on my computer, but it’s not the same.  I imagined how I would be greeted, coming down the road like at the end of “The Color Purple” when Celie is reunited with her family.

Woman #4Woman #5

That’s when I woke up.  I suppose I will have to wait until the fall to see how it ends.

“The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor.”

I was recently in a conversation about whether or not vaccinations were suggested or required for Italy.  They are not, at least for those of us who have already had routine immunizations.  This is something that I made sure to check before I went.  That may sound silly to some of you, but before I travel I do try to ensure to the best of my ability a safe and happy voyage.  Getting recommended shots is just the smart thing to do.

I enjoyed this query because most people would never think to ask about vaccinations for Europe.  Many should, however, as this article points out.  Many more, naturally, have asked if or what shots are needed for India. ‘ A lot’ is the best answer I can give.  I had vaccinations for polio, Hepatitis series, tetanus, and Japanese Encephalitis the first round.  Second round was just JE and I have still yet one more round in October for Hep.  They suggested rabies but I felt my circumstances did not warrant it.

These are just the shots, mind you.  I also need to wash my clothes in Deet, wear lots of protective lotion while I am there, take Malaria meds almost constantly.  This is just to reduce the risk of serious illness.  There is still a very real chance I could get Dengue Fever or the like.

All this is nothing compared to the constant threat of ingesting something undesirable.  I have a prescription for that, as well, to reduce the chance that I will get sick enough to have to be air lifted to Singapore.  Should I get (very) sick in India, I cannot go to the local hospitals due to the extremely unsanitary conditions.

And yet I was actually surprised when those closest to me turned out to be not my greatest support in this endeavor but some of my biggest detractors.  I truly love them all the more for not giving a damn about others’ welfare so long as I am safe.  Everyone should have such amazing people in their lives.  Knowing how well-cared for I am allows me to go out into the world with less concern for myself because they have that covered.  They love me in a way I did not expect, but it turns out in a way that I really need.

I understand that I am putting myself in harm’s way.  I am going, come Hell or High Water.  Or illness, parasites, poop, or bad smells.  I will probably get at least a little sick.  I will be tired, hungry, dirty, and homesick.  If the greater the risk, the greater the reward, then I can’t wait!

Find a magnet, get free stuff!


Italy was fabulous!

You know the scene in “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan where she is walking the streets and she gestures her hand to the surrounding street saying, “Oh! Beautiful.  Gorgeous.  Wish you were here!”?  That’s what went through my mind several times on my trip.  The architecture, language, food, people, art, culture – all so new and interesting.  Each day left me physically, mentally, and visually exhausted.

I also left several magnets around the area.  I know people are used to stickers, but those are more permanent and I didn’t wish to be a Rude American, visiting another land and leaving graffiti everywhere.  Plus, people could have the option of taking the magnet with them, if they so chose.  Are you reading this post because you found one of our magnets?  If so, send me a pic of the magnet and where you found it and I will send you a free bracelet and hand sanitizer!  jodi@SUM1.org  Be sure to include your name and shipping address, as well. 🙂

And thank you to Christopher for posting while I was away and keeping everyone up-to-date.  We will hopefully hear more from him in his own future posts.

Speaking of such, I will be posting more about the trip as soon as I figure out what to share.  There were so many experiences relevant to our topic at hand.  Not to mention some jet lag to recover from.

Drum Roll Please!

Big changes!

Due to the popularity of the project, +1ndia will now become a separate project of a brand-spankin’-new organization.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to present to you, SUM1.  SUM1 = Sanitation Uniting Mankind, 1 person, 1 family, 1 village at a time to change the world.

We are currently in the works of getting our 501(c)3 status.  As soon as we do we are then clear to march ahead with BIG plans and exciting new ideas and ways you can help.

Please stay tuned!

Hope vs. Expectation

What is the difference between ‘hope’ and ‘expectation’?

Our first fundraising event was this past weekend, a variety show with dancing and musical acts. It’s fair to say that I had high hopes and lofty expectations that we would raise a huge chunk of money. We put a whole lot of ourselves into it for the past 3 or 4 months in preparation. There were promotions, social media blitzes, radio ads, posters and flyers, news articles, and more. I organized a presentation, personally performed four times during the show, contacted and arranged for a variety of artists and performers, as well as finding donations for a silent auction and raffles. We also sold custom bracelets and bottles of hand sanitizer printed with the HELP logo.

In the colors of the flag of India

Smells like Green Apple!

I absolutely didn’t do this alone. There were so many people involved that did so much. I have taken the time to acknowledge them and thank them personally, and doing so once more is the least I can do. Again, I am extremely grateful to all of you – you know who you are!  As with all things in life, some people involved were shining saviors while some were less helpful, but thankfully there we more of the former than the latter. I also took away some invaluable lessons about which things worked and what didn’t for future events like this.

But despite what everyone would deem a successful night, I can’t help but feel a little discouraged. That is completely my fault due to my high expectations. I made the mistake of comparing this to other events that I have heard about where people put a lot less effort into them and come out so much farther financially. “I just threw a party and raised $20,000” or “A 9-year-old gave up his birthday and raised $13,000.” I can’t even imagine raising that kind of money at such an event here. Sure, I hoped, but didn’t expect anything close to that. But I admit I did expect a larger turn-out, hoping even to sell out the small theater since that is where most of the planning energy and effort was focused. Simply put, more people in the seats would have equaled more money for Saraiya.

So despite the generous donations, the amazing performances, the volunteers who went above and beyond to help people they don’t know and will never meet, and despite the standing ovation I received, I cannot help but feel unimpressed by the final numbers.

To me, expectations are something concrete. You believe your own hype. They are what you tell yourself will happen, or at least should happen. Expectations are the foundation — stable or not — that you build upon. The reality of the situation tests that foundation and often finds it lacking.

Hopes on the other hand are far more ethereal. Their nature does not allow for anything to be built upon them and you can’t imagine even attempting to do such a thing. They are like sunshine, clouds, and dreams.

Well, time to stop believing my own hype.  I am officially moving on and getting over it.  More fundraising and presentations to be had!  Practice makes perfect, and I am sure that I will get lots of that.

Here and Now

“There are so many important charities out there.  Why should I give to you?”

I hear this a lot lately.  The answer cannot be summed up in just a few words, but I will try to keep it as brief as possible.

Reason #1: Children are dying.  3.5 million children die from diarrhea and acute respiratory infection every year.  Hand washing with soap can prevent these illnesses – it could save 1.2 million of these children.

Reason #2: You can make a difference today.  This is not to raise money for research for a cure or a vaccine.  This is hygiene education.  This is not something that will take place years from now.  It can happen right now.

Reason #3: Your money makes a difference.  It’s not going into anyone’s salary or pay.  I, and everyone involved, are 100% gratis.  So all the donations go to improving the quality of life for the people of India.

Allow me to use HIV research as an example.  You have most likely given some money, let’s say $10, towards this.  Your $10 paid a researcher’s salary for part of an hour.  Don’t get me wrong – what they are doing is important, like many other research foundations.  But they all require a lot of money for progress to be made – billions of dollars over several years.

Diarrhea kills more children under the age of five than AIDS, TB, and malaria combined. And today – right now – you can save 5 lives, 537 school days, and give 150 years of life to the village of Saraiya for $1.74 a person.  I assure you, these are conservative numbers.  If I add in the assistance we will be getting from other organizations like Eco Femme, you can now allow 12 girls to remain in school and empower 537 women for $3.73 a person.  Think about the ripple effect of this – countless numbers will be helped and saved.

Think about the last $10 or $20 you spent, perhaps at Starbucks or Subway.  You didn’t buy anything that made a real impact in anyone’s life.  $1.74 to change the world, today.

Giving to +1ndia you help 1 person, 1 family, 1 village at a time to transform India…and the world.  Look at that – I guess I was able to put it into a few words.

Please contact us via email to learn how you can donate.

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.

Open the Doors and Here’s All the People!

I received new pictures of the community center today, and they couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lately, I have been dealing with writing to NGOs (Non-Government Organizations), various companies, trying to help plan the upcoming fundraiser, and doing my best to communicate the need to a number of other people in an effort to get support for the project in one form or another.  And I will be honest in saying that the feeling that I am screaming into the void has been strong.  It’s hard to feel like you are accomplishing anything when you are desperately grasping for a helping hand and are only ignored for your effort.

Thank all that is good for Kathy at EcoFemme!  We recently had a Skype call where she shared with me several ideas and product possibilities for the upcoming intervention.  Plus, she shared with me the wonderful opportunity they have regarding micro-finance of their project.  It is a real chance for the women of India and the organization to help sustain its important work, as well.  I implore you to send some money.  Any amount will help! You can change the world for the better, and all it takes is for you to click here or visit http://www.razoo.com/story/Avag-Microfinancing-Grant#_=_

When the problem starts coming down to numbers it loses its face, its humanity.  The numbers I refer to are not only monies.  There is also social marketing surveys and scientific data.  And nothing seems to be possible without the numbers.  They become so important to everyone that they eventually become my focus, as well.  And a frustrating focus it is, too!

But today I saw faces.

Community Center Meeting

I think that's Dr. Mohammad in the striped shirt.











Dr. Mohammad’s words  from the email:  “The community center project is on a fast pace. Two days ago Mr. Raghu Raman was in town. We visited the village, invited every one for a meeting and informed them of our plans. Upon first announcement, only men came.  We then sent out word that we want men and women both and suddenly there were more women in the community hall than men. What was even more interesting is that more women came and talked with us after the meeting and expressed the desire to participate. As a result, we have decided to have three women and three men in the steering committee to oversee the community center. Watching during the meeting through my other glasses, I realized that women would be an ideal audience for you for they have a lot to say and a lot to learn. ”

In regards to the numbers: “Suggest we should focus on the common wisdom and continue as we have planned. Beside general awareness of hygiene, hand washing for all and women managing their periods hygienically should be two focus areas where we can make most impact in the shortest time. Even if there are no ‘measurable’ benefits, acts alone will make the society cleaner and help them focus on health and hygiene. The intangible benefits of this change in the mind set will be immense. Just by helping them stay clean, you’d shift the social paradigm in that you would be leveling the playing field between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Conventionally, in India, the poor and the untouchables were identified by their state of cleanliness.”

The immeasurable will be the reward.  ‘Nuff said.

A full room and an eager crowd!

A Dream That Measures 40×30 Feet

Here are the most current pictures of the community center that we have been building, or should I say built!

The access pathway is being paved. The windmill is visible in the background.

When I received these photos I was overjoyed.  I am just so happy to see this structure.  I am glad that there is little in the way of furnishings because it is already so full of potential! (I know, I know-perhaps a little cornball, but accurate.)

Northeast corner with front door on the left

I shouldn’t be too happy about the lack of furniture, though.  This is where I will be living for the 2 weeks that are currently planned for my stay in the area.

Another view of the southeast corner.

South-West view showing the side entrance.

East wall. Access to the 8th bathroom at the right corner.

I now find myself daydreaming of what will take place in here.  I imagine the local women of the village gathering, their saris a colorful contrast to the white room.  I will stand up and greet them, with the help of my interpreter.  What will they think of me?  I’m sure I will be a little nervous but more excited than anything as this is my current state whenever I think of it.  We will each then play a part in meetings that will change their health and the health of their families and neighbors.

The view as you stand at the front entrance looking North.

Am I putting too much into this?  Am I setting myself up for disappointment?  Perhaps I am over-romanticizing it, or perhaps I am too much of a dreamer.    Perhaps it’s the whiteness of the building that makes me feel that it’s a blank canvas for the people to begin to write their future.  It means so much to me that I can be even a small part of this.

Another view showing the toilets

South; row of 7 toilets

Although October will be here sooner than it feels and I am very grateful to have the much-needed time to prepare, I can hardly wait.  These pictures have made me so very anxious to be there.  I know that by allowing me the opportunity to teach and aide them, the people of the village of Saraiya will be giving back to me even more than I might deserve.  They have already brightened my world and put a glowing color to each of my days and I have yet to meet a single one of them.

Front entrance

Cyclone Thane vs. Auroville

In reply to a recent email conversation with EcoFemme:

“My apologies for such a late reply. We were hit by a cyclone on the 30th December and it did major damage to our community of Auoville – no power and huge damage from fallen trees. Its a big mess we are trying to clean up and my priorities have been elsewhere. ”

As they should be.  Send prayers and good energy to these people.

To see more images of the damage and to help out in the wake of Cyclone Thane please visit http://www.auroville.org/cyclone/cyclone.htm

Cyclone Damage