Monday, June 30, 2008
Sorry for the hiatus-- we've been incredibly busy/out of town for the past 5 days and are only now beginning to wind down.
On Thursday (which was also Michael's 16th birthday) we packed up and took a 6 hour bus ride to Satara, a part of rural Maharashtra. We spent 3 days there, learning about the Mann Deshi microcredit bank. The bank was run "by women, for women", and was a cutting edge example of the enormous impact that microcredit programs have on rural communities. In addition to meeting and speaking with Chetna Sinha, the founder of the bank, we visited the homes of several women in the community who were clients of the bank. One woman, Veneeta, had actually won an award from the Prime Minister of India, distinguishing her as one of many women who had benefitted from micro-finance institutions like Mann Deshi.
It was really nice to get out of the city for a few days to breathe some fresh air and see a different side of India. About 70% of India's population lives in rural areas like Satara, so we were actually seeing the lifestyle of the majority of the population. The bank funded each and every need of its clients, ranging from vaccination of goats to paper cup making, with the ultimate goal being women's empowerment and rise out of poverty. The women we met were incredibly self-assured and motivated to succeed in their endeavors, and we were inspired by their determination.
We also visited a fort built in the 17th century, and several ancient temples in the area. We even saw the filming of a Bollywood movie at one of the temples!
On Sunday we relaxed a bit back in Mumbai, went to see the Gateway of India and the world famous Taj hotel, and did some pretty intense shopping in the area. All of us are getting pretty good at bargaining, thanks to the instruction and example of Taranjeet and the Udayachal students, and all of us were able to score some pretty good buys.
Mr. and Mrs. Chase are also in town, visiting our program and attending a series of Andover-related events. They arrived on Sunday, and all of us were eager to see them. It's really nice to have a taste of home right here in Mumbai, and we were all excited to show them the work we've been doing and share our experiences with them.
Today we returned to STCI with Mr. and Mrs. Chase and showed them some of the work we'd been doing with the kids during our first week here. We were all so excited to be back at the school again, and we had a great time catching up with the kids (and enjoying the superior cafeteria cuisine of the wonderful STCI cooks). Mr. and Mrs. Chase went into the community with a few PA and Udayachal students, and visited the home of a STCI student, just as we had done earlier in the program.
Finally, we capped off today with a wonderful dinner hosted by the Godrej family, who are major sponsors of the Niswarth program. The dinner was attended by Andover alumni/ae, parents, current students, and various partners of the Niswarth program. We were able to meet successful executives such as Farzana Haque, Business Head for Retail and Consumer Products Group at Tata Consultancy Services, a billion-dollar industry. Her story was especially inspiring. Although she was extremely successful in the corporate world, her passion was development work, and she has continued to pursue this passion throughout her career. The event was a great way to recap our experiences on the trip and share them with others.
Tomorrow we're having the inaugural Niswarth conference, which we're all very excited about. We'll post again when we're done!
(Aditya M., PA '10 and Anabel, PA '09)