It is a pleasure to present a summary of our achievements so far to all of you… before I write to you next time about the problems faced and the bad surprises we got, all of which enabled us to learn more.
The best way to let you understand the impact of these actions is to share a family anecdote with you.
Some weeks back, on a bright Sunday afternoon, my husband and I heard these giggles coming from my son’s room. He and his friends and his elder sister (who usually doesn’t like to interact too much with her younger brother’s friends) were all laughing most suspiciously. So my husband, the family police asked, “what’s up? ” The children hid the computer screen and said, “You won’t like this video clip, it has bad words in it.” So of course, the next question was, “But why are you watching such video clips? you will show it immediately!”
Here the eldest of the group, my daughter began to explain, “Before you start screaming, we want you to know its all about globalization and environment and that’s why Amma is doing the tsunami reconstruction project and talking to us about toilets all the time and trying to develop the best model for a school toilet… you see, we are kids who are aware and we are simply appreciating a video clip which is heightening our awareness of the planet and how we must save it… and so go for the toilets, Amma!” And if you want to know why the kids never got punished, you just have to read on and find what they were laughing about…
First the summary of achievements… a complete version can be found at http://www.project-fir-tsunami.org/english/achieve-sep06.pdf.
1. Exposure Trip for women: From Kameshwaram to Tiruchi (Jan 2006)
Under the aegis of Project FIR, our collaborator NGO SCOPE organized an exposure visit for 15 fisherwomen from Kameshwaram (Tamil Nadu) to the Srimathi Indira Gandhi College in Tiruchirapalli. The exposure trip involving mothers and daughters was a great hit because it gave them an opportunity that they had never had before to interact with women outside of the village and observe the opportunities available to attain financial independence. Just this simple exposure made them feel more empowered. Thus, when discussions were held later on what they wanted, toilets or income generating projects, they were able to evaluate the two options. They first want toilets and once there is complete toilet coverage, the next step will be to examine how income generation can be improved, with special focus on the competencies of the women keeping in mind the constraint that they cannot leave the village for work.
2. Creation of Association Un-Ami in France (Feb 2006)
As the project became clearer, it was evident that the activities had to be centralized and managed by a team. For this purpose Association Un-Ami was created in Reims with Shyama V. Ramani as President, Christine Honoré as s Vice President and Maryse Gottschalk as Secretary.
3. Farmer’s Exposure Visit to a public agricultural extension centre KVK, Sikkal (May 2006)
This exposure trip resulted in an adoption-experiment of maize by five farmers. The seeds were given free by the research centre in a program to initiate the growing of new crops in this region. This is an experiment and the results of the integration of this new crop will determine whether the adoption of this crop, which has never been grown before in this region, can be extended.
4. Exposure Visit to Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute – (June 2006)
Under the aegis of Project FIR, our collaborator NGO SCOPE organized an exposure visit for 15 people from Kameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), including 5 fishermen and 10 fisherwomen, to the renowned Central Fisheries Technology, and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, (CIFT) Cochin (in Kerala) on June 7th 2006. They were exposed to a variety of fish processing methods, fishing equipment and a solar dryer. After reflecting on the various innovations that they had been exposed to, the participants of this mission from Kameshwaram concluded that a solar dryer would be the innovation that would help them the most given their current situation.
5. Creation of Trust Friend-in-Need (F.I.N.) (June 2006)
By January 2006, the project had also attracted a sizeable Indian base and in order to mobilize and manage the funds gathered from the Indian side, it was evident that a sister organization in India was necessary. For this purpose the Trust F.I.N. or Friend-in-Need was created at Tiruchirapalli in June 2006 with Shyama V. Ramani as Founder Trustee and Raji Srikant, Annappoorna Venkataraman, V.Vaijayanthi and V.Ganapathy as Trustees.
6. Construction of a Fish Market Yard (Apr-Jul 2006)
Discussions with the people of Kameshwaram revealed a “Fish market yard” to be the first need of the fishermen. At that time the fish was being spread over the sand, and this reduced the quality and hence the price of the fish. The fish yard has been completed successfully in July 2006 and it has generated both revenue and employment.
In return for the construction of the fish-market yard, the village panchayat signed a memorandum of understanding that a roof would be built by the villagers, the market place would be maintained by the villagers and a needy person (preferably a woman) would be employed to keep it clean.
Extension requested by fishermen: In fact, the traffic in the fish market yard has increased so much, that clearly a second fish market place is necessary to provide enough space and water for the trading of fish in Kameshwaram under hygienic and adequate conditions.
7. Construction of 100 Ecosanitary Toilets in Kameshwaram (July-Oct 2006)
Kameshwaram was a village without any toilet before project FIR. Now, a hundred eco-san toilets are gradually being constructed in the village of Kameshwaram. They are dry toilets, in the sense that instead of using water, ashes are thrown over solid wastes to convert them into compost. They are particularly adapted to developing countries and even more so, to regions with high water levels such as coastal regions.
8. Sending three French students to Pondicherry (July-August 2006)
Three student volunteers from France went to Pondicherry (using their own funds) with Association Un-Ami taking care of all the logistics and paying for their boarding and lodging in Pondicherry. They did a case study of the hygiene and sanitation and water access problems present at PMC and CMC.
Being a Friday night, I’ll be sweet and not bore you with a detailed explanation of the budget, but if you are interested in knowing, just write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyway, I’ll be putting it on the website soon… as soon as I get the time.
So you see we have done three things.
First, we have heightened awareness and empowered the villagers by taking them on discovery tours.
Second, we have increased income and employment through the creation of a market place and the installation of a solar drier. In return, the villagers have built the roof of the market place and have agreed to maintain a clean zone around the solar drier.
Third, we have improved sanitary and hygiene conditions by building toilets and creating awareness of their utilisation.
All this for what? Because as the children explained we don’t want to be like them, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APi5UM68OT8;we want to be like these people… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7fog5EjJTc
Best wishes and have a great weekend,
Shyama V. Ramani