My focus in April-May was:
- Indian Skateboarding Championships in Chandigarh
- Distributing water filters in the village
- Making the kitchen garden near the skatepark
Once again the village of Janwaar was on fire. 12 kids were getting ready to travel to Chandigarh to participate in the Indian Skateboarding Championships in Chandigarh. Excitement was in the air and expectations were flying high. It was THE talk in the village. The parents were happy and bought new clothes and bags for their kids.
1. An Unexpected Turn
A few days before departure the team met with an obstacle. Asha and Arun, the most senior skateboarders in the village, were diagnosed with Typhoid. Usually it’s them who lead and guide the youngsters. Their experience and the awards they won before put them in an outstanding position. They’d represented India on the world stage in the World Championships in China.
The Typhoid diagnosis was yet only ONE part of the story. Luckily we showed Arun’s and Asha’s medicines, which were prescribed by the local Bengali doctor, to doctors in Delhi. The result was shocking. Some of the medicines are banned in India. With the help of the Delhi doctors we got the right treatment for them and Asha recovered on time, Arun was hit harder and had to stay at home. Our complaint to the CMO in Panna remains unanswered until today.
We were afraid that Typhoid was spreading in the village. So we checked many kids and luckily only found a few cases. Relief set in – the caravan was ready to leave.
2. Indian Skateboarding Championships
Before departure I had to ensure that all the kids who were travelling had a functional skateboard. So we repaired boards, replaced old with new spare parts, stripped out of the old boards everything we could – and some of the kids got brand new boards. Motivation was high and the kids practiced daily.
Leaving the village with a group of kids always involves a lot of talking to the parents. Besides the administrative stuff (aadhar cards, registration and so on) we assured the parents that we got all the Corona precautions right. We were traveling in our own bus to avoid public transportation, the kids got tested and were wearing masks.
At the Covid Test Center was a story of its own 🙂 I booked a time slot and made sure the kids were ready on time. They had no idea what was waiting for them. When they saw the doctor taking samples from peoples’ noises they were ready to leave and go back to the village. Quiet, calm and very hesitant they were sitting in a row observing the scene. They were scared, no doubt. Yet the trip and the desire to participate in the championships trumped their fear and made them stay. Everyone tested negative and they were ready to go. Relief.
We left Janwaar on 5th April, 2021. The bus was there, hotels and guides were booked – we were ready to go.
In many conversations with Ulrike I learned to understand my role on this trip better and better. It became clear to me that I needed to play an active role to enrich the journey for all of us. I tried this in different ways:
- I shared responsibilities. Our day started with a circle session where we discussed the daily duties. The kids discussed who will arrange breakfast, lunch and dinner, who will take care of drinking water and who will ensure that everyone is wearing masks. It wasn’t me telling them, it was on them to find common ground and solutions. Another example was when Vinay and Brijesh, who have both participated in earlier championships, needed shoes. I gave them a budget and it was on them to negotiate at the shop. It was very interesting. Initially they were very shy to speak but as they went into more shops they started to negotiate. They learned to bargain with the shopkeeper and choose the right shoes.
- We had circle sessions twice a day. The circle sessions were a safe space for everyone to open up and be receptive. The goal was to enable the kids to solve their problems by discussing them, to learn working in a team and to reflect on their behaviour. The circle sessions quickly became an important part of our daily routine – we discussed our issues, argued, laughed and even hugged each other. Its impact became obvious to me when we played a game. Each kid had a souvenir and the game was, to pass on this souvenir to another kid and to tell us why she/he would pass it on to this specific person. We heard beautiful stories. The kids were full of joy and embraced each other with a lot of love. Durga, one of the youngest on this trip, made an amazing gesture after the activity. She gave her souvenir to our host and thanked him for cooking dinner. I felt immensely proud to see this.
- Explore places. We visited some amazing places on this trip Taj Mahal, Red Fort in Agra and the beautiful city of Chandigarh. We had guides at all places and I sat down with them and we plotted out some exciting games for the kids. The kids should explore the places, not only go and see. We wanted the kids to be involved in a learning process and not be just mere listeners. In this manner the Rock Garden in Chandigarh became an exciting learning space for them. They realized that these gardens were made of waste material. This fostered their imagination and they became creative with the resources they have.
Our girls rocked the Championships. Asha, Dilasha and Durga, won two gold and one silver medal in three out of four categories. The boys showed great spirit in their performances and left Chandigarh with lessons learned in planning and discipline. Discipline is essential for them to excel in new and better tricks. Planning will ensure they show the right combination of tricks in the three minutes they get.
The second wave of covid struck India right after we left Chandigarh. I decided to stay back in my hometown Sonipat and work virtually after returning from Chandigarh.
3. Water Filters for the Village
Typhoid once again reminded us of the poor water quality in the village. In summer, when the water level in the wells is low the water quality even gets worse. So we decided to tackle the issue and provide water filters and buckets for all households.
Within a week we raised the money to buy 100 Sawyer SP180 filters. We had them before; they are very reliable, easy to handle and clean. And the villagers were familiar with them. In addition to the filters we bought 100 buckets and in a community effort we attached the filters to the buckets.
We asked the villagers to sign a contract and to pay 50 rupees for the 3000 rupees package. We believe that giving things away for free doesn’t really support the idea of taking care. Most of the villagers paid the 50 rupees without hesitation, the poorest families got the filters for free.
My job was to follow up with Asha and Pappu (Pappu is our local backbone, ready for any kind of challenge) that the contracts were ready, got signed by the villagers and the filters were distributed in the village. The villagers turned up in high numbers and now these families have much better drinking water.
4. Kitchen Garden
The land beside our new skatepark was always meant to become in parts a kitchen garden. We started the project now to be ready to sow the seeds and plant the trees in the third week of June.
Pappu and I gathered the information needed for the project like the no. of people needed, resources needed, cost of the resources and the right time for sowing. Ulrike connected me with Prem Singh, an experienced organic farmer who runs a Kisan School in Banda, UP. Ulrike used to work with him over many years. He advised us on the quality of soil needed for a kitchen garden, the right time of sowing, the quality and quantity of compost to be used, where to plant the trees and so on.
Pappu started the work after we had all the information. He filled the land with the right soil for sowing, ploughed the area and laid out beds for the kitchen garden. The first few days turned out to be very chaotic. Pappu built the beds in a wrong way and I only found out later. This happened because I didn’t have proper monitoring in place. I changed the process. I decided to have, twice a day a call with Pappu, one in the beginning and another at the end of the day. We discussed the work finished, the issues faced, reviewed the photos to ensure there is no miscommunication and discussed the next step in our process. After the call I communicate the progress with Ulrike.
I realized that this way of communication reduces confusion.
Pappu is now working on the fence. After that we will wait for the monsoon to sow the seeds.
However, our work will not stop. We want the people of the village to learn organic farming practices from Prem Singh. So, we have weekly zoom calls with Prem Singh. He will share his ideas, the benefits and the proper way for organic farming in these calls.
Outlook for June:
- Sowing the crops and planting the trees in the kitchen garden
- Regular weekly calls with Prem Singh
- Repairing the skatepark