Wednesday, June 3, 2015

If you're gonna Karnatalkatalka, you'll have to Karnawalkawalka

Today was the first of our two-day program with SAMUHA, a rural development NGO that promotes social, economic, and environmental development in rural areas of the state.
We hopped off the overnight train from Bangalore as the blood-red early morning sun rose over the mountains near Raichur.

From there we drove (over sextets of speedbumps) into the remote recesses of Karnataka.


We were welcomed to one of the campuses of SAMUHA, an organization that has been promoting social, economic, and environmental development in rural areas of the state since 1987.

Taking shelter from the midday heat, we first listened to presentations from SAMUHA leaders and organizers on various projects undertaken by their organization. The projects included a community-based rehabilitation program for people with disabilities, women's self-help microcredit groups, a pesticide-free farming management program, and a project for improving indoor air quality with less smoky cook stoves.

Steamy siesta between presentations.

Based on the presentations, I thought I knew what to expect from our afternoon visit to B. R. Gunda, a village with a long-term partnership with SAMUHA, but I was not prepared for our reception.

Dozens of villagers, especially children, followed us around as we toured the B. R. Gunda's government school and various homes, the click of a camera phone never far away.

Becca and Brady planting trees in the village. (Photo credit: Brian Bell)

Posing with the schoolchildren and teachers. (Photo credit: Brian Bell)

I didn't feel that we deserved such attention, but people assured us that they appreciated the fact that we had traveled so far to hear their stories.

Speaking with villagers about SAMUHA's Samarthya program for people with disabilities. (Photo credit: Brian Bell)

After a few women sang us a welcome song and the men helped (between chuckles) to fix Brady's lungi, I soon settled into the comfort and fun of this special opportunity. It was exciting to learn about community improvement initiatives through group discussions with the people themselves.

Discussion with a women's self-help microcredit group. (Photo credit: Brian Bell)

Overall, I was touched by the villagers' hospitality and, although discussions seemed to be largely directed by SAMUHA, this organization really does talk the talk and walk the walk.

I left impressed and inspired by the self-reliance and drive of the B. R. Gunda community in working together and taking charge of the projects facilitated by SAMUHA.

The next day, voters celebrated the victory of their party in the state elections.