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.

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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.


Social-Light

guest post by Pablo Darelli

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  Though this exact phrase was popularized in modern times, its underlying philosophy has existed in some form for millennia.  Regardless of source, this bold declaration—one which is instantly recognized by our better natures and innate desire for fairness—is at the heart at what I hope will be a compelling argument to give and give freely.

As some, if not most, of you may already know, SUM1 has over the past year matured and grown from a mere collection of very good intentions and plans, to a bona fide charity with several contacts and partners in India, an ad filmed in Hindi, a slick website and two dedicated individuals who embarked last November in earnest on a comprehensive hygiene campaign for Saraiya.  This would not have been possible without the hard work of many volunteers and friends that have donated time, effort and funds towards this ambitious project.  That being said, our work is only beginning and great need in countless parts of the world will persist.  The success of future funding efforts will largely determine the ability of this organization to continue and expand the scope of its work.  This brings me back to my exhortation to give.

I understand that there are many individuals that are not in a position to donate financially to charities, and even fewer that can do so substantially.  Shouldn’t the ultra-wealthy, after all, carry the bulk of the burden for fulfilling this moral responsibility?   If they can bequeath millions to their pets — pets whose sole requirement in life is to abstain from defecating on carpets or in shoes — then surely they can be expected to donate more generously than the individual whose survival and success is (ostensibly) predicated on more than the ability to properly judge when and where to have a bowel movement.

Indeed, the declaration concerning an ability/need balance is just as applicable to those living on this continent as it is to those living on any other.  But I would like to make an important point now, just because one does not feel one can give much, or a belief that one’s donation will not have a significant impact, it does not mean that one is powerless to do anything.  By making the effort, by stepping forward with even a few dollars or simply deciding to share our mission with others, you will have transformed yourself from fretting bystander to empowered world citizen.  You will be SUM1.


SUM1 +1ndia Program Handwashing Video

This is the video we put together with a team of amazing volunteers. Our intervention educators took it with them to India in November as a teaching tool. The villagers all loved watching it!

The volunteers are speaking Hindi, many of whom learned it only that day. They are saying “I wash my hands with soap because…” followed by different phrases like “I love my child” or “I respect my neighbors.”

Going to work on subtitles for it all soon.

— Christopher


India 2012

Post by David Keifert

Welcome Ceremony

Never have I received such a warm welcome then when our 2 vehicle, 9 passenger caravan turned the corner to the charming village named Saraiya. The Muslims first performed their welcome ritual by placing fresh flower leis around our necks. The Hindus burned a substance, then the smoke traveled across us. Then they placed a dark red powder clay bindi dot on our foreheads as a blessing.

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After reaching the community center the crowd had increased, with so many questions and concerns in their minds. One woman requested that we freshen up before they bombard us. However, no one left the community center.

Many people came to us throughout the week, some having traveled from very far, because they had heard we were going to be at the community center. Most came with health related questions, some had been lied to by doctors in the big cities and had been prescribed quasi-medications. On the train we rode past some slums that had heaps of garbage with smoke coming out of a makeshift chimney.

The people in Saraiya are mostly farmers and can live off of the land, the men bring their product to market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The women primarily care for their family and perform other domestic duties. I don’t know at what point, but I realized my handwashing campaign was severely inadequate to address the current health issues the people were bringing to our attention, but I remind myself it’s just a start and handwashing with soap will prevent many illnesses and diseases.

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The children were very receptive to my message, eager for the knowledge and Glogerm experience. We covered the different types of bad-germs and how they enter our bodies and disrupt homeostasis. We played life-skill related games to encourage and educate children, so that the children can support each other we applauded after everyone’s turn. On the day I did laundry behind the community center, it gathered such a crowd of kids that we had to play some more games.

Flies are very prevalent here so we attempted to rig a one liter bottle into a fly trap, which wasn’t very successful. We explained that flies can land in animal/human feces and then land on us or our food and can transfer bad germs. I asked for some local help in putting up some tippy taps around the village in key locations to encourage hand washing with soap.

Upon returning SUM1 has been meeting regularly to discuss our next move in India, things that went well and still need to be done in Saraiya also  where we want to start future projects. We learned quite a lot from this trip and have adaptations to implement for our next trip.  


Travel in India + Diwali

Post by Christopher

New Delhi airport

So the team is on the ground, working their way toward the village and touring a bit of the country during Diwali. Needless to say, travel in India is not as easy as other parts of the world. Although train tickets were bought as much as two months ago, they were not allowed to board their first train. Even for just two of them, it’s been a struggle to find transportation.

Traveling during the largest holiday of the year has been a problem, as you might imagine. Diwali (or Devali) is a Festival of Lights akin to Christmas and New Years rolled into one. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and the slaying of the demon Narakasura by the hero Rama. Also the end of the harvest season in most of India. 

They made it to Jaipur from New Delhi and are there one more night, and tomorrow are forced to fly rather than take the train. They’ll bounce back to New Delhi then on to Varanasi, just south of Lucknow where they will meet up with the folks from KHEL. Then on to Basti and Saraiya.

Even though they’d been bracing themselves for it, they were shocked at the levels of pollution both in the air and on the ground. It’s a bit better in Jaipur than Delhi, but they’re not much looking forward to having to go back into “the thick of it” even for one night.

Monkey stole someone's lunch!

Here at home, “Mission Control” is scrambling to help when trains have failed and hotels need to be located. And when AT&T shut off Jodi’s phone because she went over roaming charges that were supposed to be changed on the 7th before they left. And there have been issues with purchases being run as Dollars instead of Rupees, which has sent personal accounts into our own little hurricane Sandy until it can be resolved. One American dollar equals about 55 rupees, so you can imagine the mess. Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

It’s been an adventure, some good and some bad. But they’re in good spirits and looking forward to reaching Saraiya and meeting the people, delivering their educational message, and helping the village. One week down, two to go. Send all your light and love to them.


Superstition vs. Science

Guest post by Christopher

One of the hurdles that has tripped me up since we started this whole grand venture, and has been a huge challenge for me to get past, is the exasperation I feel when we run up against superstition in this culture.

Don’t get me wrong, superstition is a normal human trait, and exists in every culture around the world. It’s ingrained into the human brain, I think. We have our beliefs in the West, as well, which are just as unsubstantiated as they are anywhere else. I live in America, which is often full of backwards and illogical thinking, especially surrounding politics. It’s an election year here, and I get just as frustrated by our own crazy thinking. Just this morning, I was listening to the local morning show on the radio while they spoke with a comedian going on about vaccinations being a conspiracy and causing autism. A superstition like his is caused by fear—whether fear of needles or of doctors—the same fears and irrationality that gave rise to the Black Death in Europe hundreds of years ago. Such crazy fears are giving rise in whooping cough and other diseases in my own country which had been almost eradicated decades ago.

I have been a student of mythology and religions since I was very young and I’ve studied many different myth cycles. Mostly European but I’ve spent some time with Hindu myths and legends – Hanuman is a personal favorite of mine. I enjoy old stories, and many times they give the reader valuable lessons in behavior through parables and epic storytelling. As a writer, I have to love that.

But sometimes myths can also give rise to superstition and irrational fear, or the belief that cause and effect don’t have to bear any relation to logic. I’ve been hearing many things since I started to learn about India and the causes for the problems they face with sanitation, and some have made my jaw drop and prompted me to launch into tirades. I won’t do that here, but I’d like to share some of the things I’ve heard and let you judge for yourself:

  • That newborn children get diarrhea because their parents have sex too soon after their birth.
  • The idea that your hands somehow magically get clean while you’re preparing meals, so you don’t have to wash them before handling food.
  • That feces are just harmless dirt, and you don’t need to wash your hands after handling it.
  • That flies that were just crawling over human and animal waste are harmless creatures and don’t need to be kept away from food or open mouths.
  • Stories from travelers to India of food dishes or clothing being washed in the same water that is also urinated or defecated in, and the subsequent life-threatening illness that followed.
  • That the rivers in India are so holy they cannot become polluted, which in turn leads companies and communities to use them as sewage and chemical dumping grounds.
  • Pictures of people bathing or even drinking from the same water where corpses are floating a few yards away, or where animals are relieving their bowels into the river.

These things flabbergast me. They make me throw my hands in the air and pace about. And they also highlight the fact that the people we are trying to help desperately need education, and to set aside superstition in favor of the clear light of scientific reasoning. I’m not saying they must discard their legends and myths – I am simply saying they must no longer let magical thinking continue to cause this level of illness and death due to ignorance and fear. To do otherwise is gross negligence.

In 2011 almost one-quarter of all worldwide deaths of children under the age of 5 occurred in India. That’s far more than any other country. 1.7 million children and infants. More than 4650 deaths per day.Somewhere, somehow, superstition has to stop and real learning and change must begin.


Through education we can save lives. Many lives.

guest post by Nina Claunch:

I was born in Madrid, Spain and that was the beginning of an early life filled with travel. My parents were missionaries and we moved anywhere from every few months to every few years. I spent my childhood mostly in South-East Asia, then we came to the US and continued traveling. I’ve been to many different countries and one of the things that I remember most about the places where I grew up is the filth that I saw. I vividly remember the flies, the stench, the diseases, and the children suffering from all of the poverty, dirt and diseases. I remember the hopelessness that surrounds these people whose kids are dying.

When I was a teenager, I rebelled against my parents and I left home to start my own journey at the age of 14. I refused to be a part of anything that was associated with missionaries and I built my own life the way that I wanted it.

I grew up, got married, had kids, put what I had seen away on a shelf, and have lived my life as most other mothers do: trying to give my children a safe, healthy and happy life.

I mostly forgot about charity. Then I was introduced to this project by Dr. Mohammad, and I began to realize that not a lot of people have the capability to move on and make a better life for themselves.

Not all the mothers in the world know with certainty that their kid is not going to die today from diarrhea or another horrible, water-borne illness. I have that privilege. I know for a fact that today will not be the day that my children succumb to diarrheal disease or something else because of lack of sanitation and hygiene. I know that they will have clean water today and every day to drink and bathe with. I also know that they know how to wash their hands and they are very good about practicing it daily. I know that because I’ve taught them how to and instilled in them a habit that has according to the statistics about diarrheal deaths and hand-washing, has saved their lives.

That itself makes me responsible. It makes me responsible because I have the knowledge to prevent diarrheal deaths. I have prevented it in my own three sons partially due to the fact that the country that I live in is culturally aware of basic sanitation. We know that by washing our hands before eating and after using the restroom we can prevent a great deal of horrible, nasty diseases and even deaths.

My education makes me responsible to others. That is why I am a part of the SUM1 team. Because through education we can save lives. Many lives. We don’t even know how many lives could possibly be saved through just this first trip. But we do know that if we don’t go, a lot of kids will die this year. Even just this minute. I feel that my first-world privilege makes me responsible to others. And if at this point all I can do is lend my hand to help SUM1 with educating the village of Saraiya about hand-washing and hygiene practices, then I am on board.