All the planning in the world will always come to naught if hard work doesn’t follow. Our latest day in the village of Naga Valadia was without a doubt our hardest and most arduous day yet, yet I would say that beyond anything else, this single day has validated the effort the team has put in over the past year.
Today’s agenda encompassed the keystone events for both of our initiatives, with our team kept constantly on their feet (from waking at dawn to our analysis meeting far past midnight). Our literacy initiative required a large degree of preparation, but we conducted our first class (based upon our own self-devised curriculum) and pulled it off with great aplomb. The turnout for the first class was surprisingly large even by our projections, made even more impressive by the fact that we had to rework our schedule around the lives of the villagers (a vital consideration, as the mission would be of little purpose if nobody attended the school). It was a delicate balance, striving to keep adults challenged but having a good time, in the organized chaos of a classroom – and yet we managed to improvise our way to success. Setting up the classroom, readying our materials, and delivering a full-fledged lesson gave us an incredible hands-on experience in academia and left many of the villagers (particularly the women) excited for the future classes we had planned.
We also spent a large amount of time determining the exact villagers who would feature in our addiction pilot study, and we narrowed down our sample into two key categories: participants and distributors. The sarpanch, or village leader, was highly enthusiastic about our anti-tobacco campaign and delivered a riveting PSA about the ill effects of tobacco to the villagers. In addition, she recommended a young shopkeeper girl to us as an excellent distributor for our study, also advising us to take into account the willingness of the shopkeepers to distribute our anti-tobacco products as well as the names of whoever was willing to join in our mission. It was truly inspiring to see the entire community come together in the common cause of eradicating tobacco addiction.
In addition to our research, we held a mass education day for the women of the village, showing videos on smoking and having a nurse from the local Tolani Hospital give them advice on making informed decisions regarding addiction in their families. The purpose of our multimedia campaign was to educate the villagers on the detrimental social and familial effects of tobacco usage, and with the added consultation of local contacts at the Tolani Hospital and the Hari Om Trust Hospital, the villagers were incredibly receptive to our information.
Yet our campaigns don’t end with a few simple capstone events. The curriculum (following test cases) will develop into a full-fledged partnership and scholarship program handled by the village contacts as well as the local University, and we plan to provide free anti-tobacco alternatives (contributed by companies in the United States to our cause) as a gesture of goodwill to kick-start our campaign against oral cancer. We were amazed at not only the reception we received, but also at how corporations and medical organizations alike came together with us with the common goal of achieving philanthropic change around the globe. We truly gained perspective on what we learn from our initiatives, how to learn and adapt from our previous mistakes, and above all, the importance of ensuring that one’s charity remains