A brief introduction
Sainji is a village of around 400 people situated in the foothills of the Himalayas in the North Indian state of Uttarakahand. The villagers live by growing rice, wheat, maize and vegetables on steeply terraced hillsides. All children in India are required by law to be enrolled in school between the ages of 6 and 14 and the government provide free education in government run schools. Unfortunately the quality of this education is often extremely poor and the surrounding villages have until recently had little prospect of gaining an education which will help them improve upon a life of subsistence farming and poverty.
In 2009 they started a privately run school, GEMS, where around 200 children from the area are able to gain an education which will give them choices; to work within and for the community to ease the toil and hardship of village life or seek paid employment elsewhere and return remittances to their families. The school teaches in English, giving its pupils a vital skill to enable them to compete with their better off peers for paid employment.
Despite the significant progress there is still much to do and you are likely to have knowledge, experience and skills which you can use to make a difference at the school or in the village.
What will you be doing in Sainji?
There are four main themes for student projects which are both practical and important.
1 Teaching the teachers
Most volunteers who come to the village spend the majority of their time teaching in the school. They bring new ideas and ways of teaching based on their own experiences. Whilst this greatly benefits the students whose classes they take we aim to focus on training the teachers, so that the students will continue to benefit from our experience and knowledge when we have returned home.
2 Health and Nutrition
Chronic poor health is the root cause of many of the difficulties that people face in their day to day lives and often creates a vicious circle of poverty. Learning the basics; the importance of washing hands after going to the toilet or cleaning out cow shed will play an important role in reducing the prevalence of common complaints ensure they are properly treated. Basic nutritional advice (they grow the key ingredients) could have a major impact on the health and development of their children.
3 Safe water supply
The pipeline that delivers spring water to the village is old, rusty and leaking. Whilst the source is probably unpolluted, by the time it is used by villagers it is contaminated with bacteria and possibly parasites. A new water supply infrastructure is needed but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. We would like to be able to identify and measure the sites and sorts of contamination in order to help villagers understand what is happening and how to avoid it.
4 Village and school maintenance.
Torrential monsoon rains, termites, poor quality building materials and poor quality construction mean that maintaining homes and school buildings is a constant project. The charity Engineers Without Borders is also (slowly) installing a sewage system in the village. There will always be walls to paint and repair, and as the sewage project moves forward, building and installing toilets in individual homes will become a priority.
What will you take away from your visit?
We hope that the time you spend in Sainji will provide you with a new perspective with which to view the world and your future within it.
You will learn about and experience living in a traditional Indian hill village, learn to cook organic vegetarian curries using the villagers home grown produce, understand some of the complexities, conflicts and compromises of sustainable development and experience some of the most enthusiastic and helpful children on the planet. What you take away with you will probably stay with you for many years.
Anglia Ruskin’s Employability Service has a number of resources to help you gain employment once you graduate and we recommend that you use this to help you identify what you can offer employers.