RISHI is defined by its engagement with the communities it serves – we are not simply a philanthropy that creates its own agenda and fosters self-gratifying delusions of “charity.” We are a grassroots organization devoted to sustainable and permanent change, and that is made effective primarily with the help of the RISHI liaisons that keep our presence felt in the village throughout the year.
Upon initial preparations for the second stages of our initiative, we talked with Dr. Kanchandani, one of our most valuable liaisons. First and foremost, we talked extensively about how the villagers’ thought processes were shaped by socioeconomics, and how someone within the village (say, a charitable organization like RISHI) would most effectively communicate to said villagers. The doctor broke down the two most effective routes we could take in pitching our missions: the religious and the medical. We could easily reach out to local priests to inform the villagers how chewing tobacco was contrary to religious discipline, or we could have a medical authority (in this case, a woman who worked as a social worker assigned to the village) talk to the people in person. We immediately decided the latter route was undoubtedly more effective, as she would know the demographics of the village far better than we and thus receive far greater recognition from her patients (whereas we were well-liked but not as widely-recognized).
We next set up a logistics meeting with Leela Bhen, another hugely influential contact in our work. Under her supervision, we revised and set out our finalized gameplans for both the literacy and the tobacco initiatives. A literacy class would be held tomorrow, with an experimental video session the day after. We found enormous difficulties in scheduling classes for men, due to logistical constraints and somewhat low demand. In response, our “anti-tobacco pledge” campaign was altered significantly to compensate for such logistical concerns. We would utilize a greater deal of the informational tobacco education day to address the large village trend of women using bhajar (snuff) without being aware of the tobacco in the product. Our campaign primarily focused upon informing the women of the affects of second-hand smoking (which would hopefully trickle down to the men), the economic repercussions following health concerns related to tobacco, and providing non-tobacco alternatives. Our tobacco pilot study, which would begin on Saturday with men who chew tobacco, was also altered to provide the non-tobacco alternatives we had been working towards procuring and having men (who had already quit their addiction) hold counsels as to the reasons and efficacy of their actions.
We further continued filming around the village for our media division, exploring everywhere from the local lake to the village temple and documenting daily patterns of life in the village. Perhaps most importantly for our research, we continued scouting out villagers for our tobacco survey data bank but increasingly ran across the same people – after hours of arduous trekking and lengthy interviews, we decided who we wanted to include in our pilot tobacco study.
This week has been an incredible experience, not in the least because our field work differs so greatly from the static environment of the college classroom. Without a doubt, this is one of the best experiences college has offered us so far, and we hope to learn even more from our grassroots work about applying our theoretical knowledge to the real world.