Naga Valadia, a village thousands of miles across the globe in the Indian state of Gujarat, is home to a multifaceted group of people who live vastly different lives than those of us studying here at USC. They are immensely hardworking and dedicated. Most villagers do not take weekends off - children have school on Saturdays, and the men work in the fields all day, every day. Upon visiting, Project RISHI members were surprised to find that most villagers planned to fill predetermined labor and social roles, based on the jobs and statuses of their previous family members. Check out our three major takeaways:
The Warmth and Positive Energy Will Make You Feel at Home
Team India, the students who travelled to Naga Valadia this past year, all agree that the essence and heartbeat of the village, and the trip, was the intrinsic positivity that was throughout the village as they welcomed RISHI with open arms. Rahul Masson, a member of Team India, states, “The best part about visiting is seeing the high amount of positive energy that everyone emits and how they welcome strangers with such generosity.” Avi Borad relates that this personable nature and warmth from the villagers extends beyond even just our visits, explaining, “The other day Veerali and I were talking to Heeraram, one of the men in our village, and the conversation lasted for half an hour. It was very sweet because he kept telling us to call him when we get to India in the summer so that he could feed us chai, coffee, ice cream.” The relationship in and out of the village, is one that RISHI hopes to grow and continue, thanks to the wonderful memories that were made. The initiatives are always the main focus of Project RISHI’s India trips, but the community relationships are equally as important.
The Happy-Go-Lucky Children Will Light up Your Day
The children especially of NV were the highlight for most members, as they were always excited to be involved in the action that consumed RISHI. Another member of Team India, Raina, states, “The small children don’t really have a play school, so they used to just follow us around the village when we were trying to survey women for our literacy initiative. It was honestly quite a sight.” Between initiative implementation in the village, sweet memories were made amongst the villagers and Team India. One member recounts how a child of the village pretended to say his arm had glass in it from an injury a month previous to it just so he wouldn't have to go to school. Other fond memories included seeing the young girls preparing for an Independence Day dance that they had to perform in school, choreographing it themselves and being completely in sync.The girls then continued to even teach some RISHI members the steps!
The Unexpected Moments Will Be the Ones That You Cherish the Most
Teaching members how to Garba (a Gujrati dance), forming nicknames for each other, singing the new hit Bollywood song, and other activities helped all bridge the distance and cultural gap that previously was. Avi recounts another funny instance this past summer when the team tried to put up posters for our de-addiction tobacco campaign, but nothing seemed to stick, “We were quite stumped, when our driver, Natubhai, told us that we should use a flour paste. Obviously, we were pretty hesitant, but we thought we might as well try it. And it worked! The paste dried pretty quickly though, so me running around the village with it in my hands while others were trying to put the posters up was a pretty comical site. Even the elderly ladies of the village were laughing at us.” This moment reminded her and the team that even in the smallest of instances, all members need to adapt to the circumstances that are thrown at them and come up with innovative means in order to tackle issues, something that RISHI continues to do and implement as we get ready for our Summer initiative trip of 2017.