Jan 27, 2010

Day 4 (Saturday, January 11th)

I've been doing a lot of talking. Sorry, I like to talk, it's a problem. So I think today, I’m going to let my pictures do most of the talking.

Here is an overview of the entire area were we were working. You can see some EWB folks in brown on the left digging the trench that eventually led into the soak pit just beyond the left edge of this photo. Around the corner and down the street, on the right, is where we needed to install a new gutter system.

These pictures demonstrate why the soak pit was so important. Besides serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying Malaria, greywater got in the way of all types of traffic.

Clay (far left) and Keith working on the Soak pit with a passerby observer carrying some harvested crops:

Jardeesh and the EWB team working on the gutter leading to the soak pit:

All I could think the entire time we were working was how I wish my family could see me. My mother's side of the family are all farmers from Virginia so they pick on me for being from Connecticut because I guess people from CT just aren't as rough and tumble. And I'm the only girl out of all my cousins on my Dad's side of the family so obviously I get harassed because I've given up trying to be one of the guys. So here's proof that I can do some manual labor (ha, take that!):

Meanwhile, Keith was testing the well tanks at the girl's primary school for pH, bacteria (coliform, E. coli and Eubacterium) and any other contaminants.

He got help identifying the color change from his many short colleagues. It looks like there was a consensus.

When the kids got out of school they were more than happy to help us with the soak pit.

For a very very brief summary of everything we accomplished with the soak pit on day four, here is an interview with Dr. Pines (he’s hamming it up in front of the camera – a natural):

I went with the Design for Global Change gang, Natacha Poggio, Chris and Christa in the morning to have a meeting with the head master and mistress of the high school in Abheypur (above). We thought we were going to show them the posters on alcohol abuse prevention (below is a picture of us talking about the posters with our translator), but we ended up setting up a meeting for later in the day which I opted out of to work on the soak pit. So Since I didn’t get to see a lot of their work, I’ll let them talk about it. At the very end of this post is a video of Chris and Christa summarizing their day.

Jan 21, 2010

Day 3 (Sunday, January 10th) - Sadie

Today, I was not as excited to get up. Yes, we were going to the Taj Mahal, but it was also 4 a.m.. In my opinion, it’s hard to be excited about anything at 4 in the morning. However, considering the hour, and the fact that I haven't taken a class before 9:25 a.m. since freshmen year, I had one of the most enthralling class discussions of my college career before the sun had risen. No smart podiums, no laptops, no b.s.-ing my way through that discussion. Just two professors (Dr. den Ouden taught the class, but Dr. Pines was an active participator in most of our discussions), four students and one bumpy, noisy ride. We discussed how to empower oppressed rural women based a paper written by Martha Nussbaum titled, “Human Capabilities, Female Human Beings” which spoke about the universal sameness of human beings and how when looking from that angle, females from all over the world could be treated like human beings, rather than just women.

As an aside, any students who have an opportunity to study abroad should take it. The experience is especially memorable if you experience a culture that is extremely different than your own. India and Indian culture was more different than I could have possibly imagined. Being a proud American, I thought I came from the world’s melting pot and growing up so close to New York, I thought I had been exposed to most of the world’s cultures, but I realize now that when people say something is Americanized, it is nothing like the original. I did not know people lived this way. Words, pictures and videos cannot describe it. This probably is an exaggeration, but I felt like I learned more in those first three days in India then I learned in the first three years of college.

Today was also the first day I felt like we really bonded as a group. Because we had such a large group traveling and we were sort of disjointed into our different projects and busy preparing them before the trip, we never really got to spend time all together before leaving for India. I actually met the two Hartford Art School students, Christa and Chris, while getting dinner at JFK. However, I have learned that amazing things can happen when people are cold. We constantly cold because the day before we left, India started a unseasonable cold spell. The result was that everyone packed for 70 degree weather and it was about 50 degrees the entire time – I also lost my jacket on the plane ride there, smart move. India is also designed for the extreme heat; meaning every building has an open air front and there is no concept of a heating system anywhere (unless you count burning cow pies). Anyway, back to the bonding. This morning was particularly cold and we stopped for breakfast at a little roadside place. It was freezing inside and when I sat down I was shivering uncontrollably. Jessica and Sarah had pushed their chairs together and were interlocking their arms for warmth. I didn’t know Jessica very well at the time but, she just looked over at me and said, “hey my other side is cold, come ’mer.” And I gladly did. A few moments later I looked at Clay who was sitting on the other side of the table, looking very cold by himself and said, “Hey, you wanna get in on this?” He quickly brought his chair over and I was immediately comfortably warm. By the time we had ordered, all the students were sitting in a long line all interlocking arms, swaying in either direction and playing the game, telephone. I’ve learned that it is very easy for people to come together when they have a common need.

We got to Salim Chisti's tomb (above), located inside a beautiful Muslim Mosque around 11 am. Now, I could tell you all about the history of the Mosque, but if you really want to know, you can research that yourself because to be honest, that’s what I would have to do - I couldn’t understand a word of what our tour guide said. I could talk about how exquisite the artitechture and craftsmanship in the stone and marble was which it definitely was, but anyone could tell you that. What really struck me about that place were the little kids selling trinkets. Rather than being in school, getting an education so they could have some sort of a future, there there probably hundreds of kids scattered throughout the campus. Some followed us from our bus to the shuttle we had to take to get to the Mosque, telling us to remember their faces when we got off the bus coming the other way. Some of them followed us from the shuttle to the entrance to the Mosque. Some followed us while we were walking around inside. Some even stuck their little hands into openings of the sliding-glass bus windows as we were leaving to get our attention. They all had the same routine. First they would say, “hello, what is your name?” Then they would pull out post cards or booklets about the major tourist sites in Agra or bangles or anklets or a miniature chest set and they would not stop asking you to buy it until they were convinced you were not going to. It reminded me of an ingenious game that many children play where you annoy someone so much that they finally pay you to leave them alone. I, of course, was a master of that game. There was nothing you could do to discourage these kids. I tried telling them politely that I was not interested. I tried starting up a conversation with them to at least divert the conversation away from money. I tried telling them they were wasting their time. I even tried ignoring them, but then after a while they would say, “español? Italiano? Français?” If those kids knew that spiel they gave me in that many different languages, then they have some serious language skills. The whole day just got me thinking about the difference between urban and rural poverty. The kids in the village would never ask or beg for money. At one point, I opened up my bag in the village and about 500 lose Rupees fell out. Some school girls saw it and I just put the money back and zipped up my bag and didn’t think much about it. In the cities we were told to keep money in our front pocket and have our hand over our pockets constantly. It really was an effective scheme. If I was by myself at the tomb, I would have probably just given five or ten Rupees to as many kids as I could, but since I didn’t want to draw any more unwanted attention to our group, I refrained. I couldn’t bare to look into those kids eyes. They were so cute and yet so sad. I’m a sucker for kids and this was heartbreaking.

We got in the bus again and drove another three hours to the Taj Mahal. This time the hagglers came right onto our bus. We parked one place and took a camel-driven cart to the front gate. The thing that struck me here which I hadn’t really noticed in the village was the separation between men and women in Indian culture. There were not only different lines for natives and foreigners, but within the Indian line there were separate lines for men and women. Again, going through security there were separate lines for men and women, but at least here I could see a more practical purpose. All I can say about the Taj Mahal is that it is an absolutely breath taking feat of architecture, engineering and craftsmanship and I’m not even an engineering major, so just think what Clay, Amy, Jess and Sarah thought about it. It may be a bit of a tourist trap, but if you are ever in India, even if you are an agonizing eight hour bus ride away like we were, the Taj Mahal is well worth the trip. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was seeing countless severely impoverished people along the road, but the pessimist in me really came out that day (and a few other days as well). Looking at the grandiosity of the Taj Mahal and learning that it took twenty years and used 22,000 workers just made me think about the amount of money that was sunk into a tomb for one woman. The entire complex of buildings was originally built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife who had died in child birth. It was built in the 1600s when there was absolutely no concept of welfare for the poor so it is inconceivable that the money would be used for them anyway, but the cost to build the entire thing over time is best estimated to be about 32 million Rupees at the time. I’m sure building it created jobs, but at the same time it probably created a great need for certain jobs while it was being built and then when construction was completed, thousands of people were left without jobs. I just couldn’t help but think what India might be like if instead of building a very expensive tomb stone for his wife, the Emperor had invested that money into rural development, where the country might be today.

(some of the details in the stone at the Taj)

I enjoyed going to and the Taj Mahal very much, but considering the exceedingly long and uncomfortable bus ride, I would have rather gone to Abheypur that day. In fact, being that the excursion was so early in the trip (usually, its towards the end) I felt guilty all day about the work we could have been doing that day. Comparatively, even though the Taj Mahal is awe inspiring, some of the most spectacular things I witnessed while in India occurred in a small, dusty village.

Jan 19, 2010

Day 2 (Saturday, January 9th) - Sadie

Today was the first Saturday of my college career that I was so excited to get up in the morning, I woke up a full hour before my alarm. I had butterflies in my stomach during the entire bus ride to the village. We convened in the morning, discussed the plan for the day and broke up into three groups. One group went to examine the soak pit that the professional team installed in October, one group went to map out all of the existing wells in the village and one group went to interview villagers about the effects of EWB's work so far. In the morning, I joined the group of interviewers; Marcia Hughes, an associate director of the Center for Social Research; Parminder Parmar, a native of India and an associate professor of human development at Penn State University; Daniel Luedke, a philosophy major and Ellen Skoczenski, a sociology and environmental studies major. (photo, left to right: Parminder, Marcia, Ellen, Dan). I actually didn’t join their interviews again until the last morning in Abheypur because the only thing I was able to do when I was with them was take pictures of people standing around talking. However, looking back, I wish I had followed them more often. Watching Marcia and Parminder work was fascinating. That morning they were trying to do a quick assessment of the reaction they got to certain questions. They used this information to shape their interviews for the rest of the trip. Marcia said that before EWB’s work, the women, who's role it is to fetch water, were usually unsure where they would be getting their water from. The government well only turned on when, “the light came on” as they said, or when the electricity was on in their grid. Some went to a house with a private well and paid a small price for the water or got it for free from a friend’s pump, but those sources were not always reliable. Some of the basic questions they asked were, “where do you get your water now? How is getting the water different? What else has getting water from the girl’s school changed about your daily routine? And how do you spend your new free time?” I just enjoyed how well Marcia and Parminder got a conversation started. Imagine if a random Indian person who had to speak through a translator walked up to your door and started asking you questions about where you get your water. Would you talk to them? Marcia always seemed to ask the right questions to get the most information out of people and keep the conversation interesting. By the end of the trip, Marcia and Parminder were like celebrities in Abheypur. No, they didn't go crazy and shave their heads . . . everyone loved them. Villagers would come up to me asking to speak with them. They were always the first to leave the girl's school in the morning and the last ones to get on the bus in the evening.

After lunch we all went to visit the Surpanch in his home. The Surpanch is the village’s governmental leader and his support is critical to the success of all of our projects. Educating him so that he truly understood how important and helpful our projects would be to Abheypur was critical for the sustainability of all of EWB’s work. After that, I walked over to the soak pit to see the progress that was made in the morning by the team of Engineers: Dr. Pines, an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Clay Pipkin, a mechanical engineering and acoustics major; Sarah Shahin, a civil engineering and architecture major; Jessica Barringer, a civil engineering major and Amy Waraksa, a mechanical engineering major. Since the soak pit was full of water and greywater was still flowing down the middle of the road, it appeared that the soak pit was clogged which significantly reduced the rate at which greywater was able to infiltrate back into the ground.
(photo, L to R: Sarah (standing), Amy, Clay, Jessica, Dr. Pines, and of course our audience, the children of Abheypur)

They tested the peculation rate of the existing soak pit and determined it to be one inch per forty minutes. This slow rate was probably caused by the lack of a forebay, a wide part of the gutter that has a dam separating it from the soak pit, allowing sediment to settle. They designed a brick gutter system with the help of one of the villagers, Jardesh, for the road around the corner where a lot of greywater was collecting . Ultimately, they determined that the soak pit had to be much larger, it needed a forebay and there needed to be a more extensive gutter system leading into it.

We ended the day in the village on kind of an awkward note. We left the girls school and went to a birthday party for the nephew of the Surpanch. We sang him “Happy Birthday,” and then we stood around admiring how cute and shy the little boy was. I started to talk to Chris about how odd it would be if fifteen Indian people just showed up at your house and sang "Happy Birthday" to you in Hindi. A recurring theme of this trip was the constant cultural barrier in everything we did. After five years, most of the villagers have a sense of who we are and what we do, but they still don’t understand the most important element, why we are doing this. They don’t understand why someone would travel half-way around the world just to help out someone they can’t even have a conversation with. I think this is because in Indian culture, they have a very strong sense of family, but typically, very little sense of community. As Copil, one of our translators, said, “an Indian keeps his own house very clean, but he has no problem throwing his trash into his neighbor's yard.” One of the main challenges of this trip was convincing the villagers that we were only in Abheypur for their benefit and therefore, they should try to help us and maintain the work that we do after we leave. This is not to say that the people I met in Abheypur were not warm, welcoming and friendly. The villagers have a tremendous tradition of hospitality. I was offered more cups of steaming hot tea then I can remember and everyone was more than happy to talk, laugh and play with us. However, in terms of making a lasting difference in this community, educating them on the importance of our work and why they should want to sustain it was probably the most important aspect of our trip.

Jan 13, 2010

Day 1 (Friday, January 8th) - Sadie

It's our 6th day in India and seeing as I am still writing a post about the day we arrived, I realize that as much as I don’t want it to be, this is going to have to be a blog in retrospective. With everything we are trying to get done while we are here, there is simply not enough time to write, edit photos and edit videos to post. I want to spend my time experiencing everything now, documenting it and helping the rest of the team, rather than focus on this and miss out. I apologize since I am writing for a mostly American audience who all want, “news as it happens” and I admit, a five day lag time is slow by anyone’s standards, but I’ve learned that sometimes things just move a little bit slower in the village. (photo by Christa Tubach).

Arriving in India was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Getting off the plane was like stepping onto the set of a movie. It was about 3 a.m. and the fog was so thick that I wouldn’t have known if Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were conversing outside of the next terminal over. We took a bus to Immigration where we were promptly greeted by a tall thin man with a big smile and an even bigger gun. After we got our bags and left the airport for the parking lot, we were met with an even more interesting site. Let me just say that if you have never had a crowd of about 100 Indian men stare at you while you weaved your way through them, then you have no idea what awkward is.

The fog gave a shrouded feel to everything. We loaded our bags and got on the buses which, in a few short days we have all come to both love and hate, and made our way to Pathways. To be honest, I’m not really sure how we made it here in one piece. I wanted to sleep, but I was so excited that I couldn’t help but stare out the window and try to observe everything I could see through the dense fog and darkness. I could only ever see as far as the clay walls next to the road and I noticed that most of them had various types of barbed-wire at the top. Were we passing several prisons? Or secure military or industrial sites? Or were we just in a bad area of town? I couldn’t be sure at the time, but I learned later that day that barbed-wire is on top of walls around almost any building. The other scary and surreal part was just driving down the road. Only the highway had any street lights so I have no idea how the drivers knew where they were going on the rest of the roads. We could have easily been driving through a mustard field and I would never have known. Passing another car was even scarier because we had to stop to let them pass or vice versa and even then it always seemed like their headlights were going to come right at us as they just narrowly passed by.

When we finally arrived at Pathways at 7 a.m., we decided to sleep, shower and unpack until about noon. Again, I couldn’t sleep (unfortunately, that is a common theme of this trip). At noon, we got a quick lunch and left for Navjyoti India Foundation, a rural development center. We met with the head of the foundation and a few other members. Here the EWB team learned about some of the projects Navjyoti works. We also discussed what specific needs Abheypur has right now. Navjyoti works with thirty-four of the eighty-four villages in Sohna Block on various issues like female empowerment, domestic abuse counseling and recently, different environmental and social issues in partnership with Hartford. We discussed everything that still needs to be worked on, including:
· fixing the soak pit that the professional EWB chapter built in October
· repairing a small part of the rain water harvesting system
· mapping all the wells to determine the true demand for water in the village
· increasing awareness and education about the soak pit, village gutters and other water issues like the lowering water table through out the village.

After our meeting with Navjyoti, we all headed into the village to take a tour so that Dr. Pines and the rest of the engineers could see all of the work that needs to be done and those of us who have never seen the village before could see it. The village was an incredible sight. As we drove through, we were met by an increasing number of kids waving and smiling and staring until we got to the girl’s primary school, a.k.a. our base camp. As we walked around the village I was in a daze. This was somewhat from the lack of sleep, but also just because village life was astounding to witness firsthand. As we walked down the narrow streets of dust and mud, we passed everything from wild peacocks to stray skittish flea-bitten dogs to innumerable latchkey kids, some as young as two, being dragged around by their older siblings, with no one really watching them but each other. Some had funny fitting shoes that were too small so their toes stuck out. Some had flip-flops or sandals and their feet were caked in mud. Some had no shoes at all. I don’t mean to get uncharacteristically mushy on you, but as the sun set over the still somewhat foggy sky, I thought about how my photos would look that day and I actually refrained from taking a lot simply because it was so drab. Generally, when there is fog in landscapes, there is a sense of entrapment, like there is no escape. How are we going to help these people escape poverty? Can we? How are we going to make sure that these children’s children always have shoes on their feet? The one thing that gave me hope, other than being surrounded by some of the smartest, most caring individuals that I have met at Hartford, was the constant sound of laughter during our tour. One thing about Abheypur is that we are never alone; there is constantly a small group of children playing, laughing, probably daring their friends to come talk to us. I have worked with kids for the last two summers, as well as numerous other occasions and I have never heard as many children laughing as I heard that afternoon. That is the one thing I know now that I will never forget about Abheypur; it doesn’t take much to make a child laugh.

Jan 11, 2010

We are Alive! ...meaning we finally have internet

So I apologize for any parents, relatives and close friends (or stalkers) of the team out there who have been checking the blog religiously, trying to make sure their son/daughter/friend/stalkie arrived in India safely, but we have been living in the Dark Ages for the last four days. We have had no Internet connection! It’s been rough, but luckily everyone survived. Apparently, it’s been a problem almost every year that we come because of the overlap of the dates of Hartford’s winter break and Pathway's winter break. When we got to Pathways, the two hard wire ports that they have for us were not working yet because school is not in session. So since classes started yesterday, our Internet is finally working. The other problem is that with all the work in the village (and a bit of sight-seeing) there has been absolutely no time to work on the blog. So, since I am sitting here quiet bleary-eyed—sleeping an average of four hours a night for the past four nights will catch up to even the most hardened college student—I am just posting this to let everyone know that we actually made it and that I am going to back track on the last four days for you tomorrow morning. All I can say for now is that India and Abheypur have been incredible so far and so different from everything I was expecting.

To leave you with a little tid-bit, since I know you are hankering, here is a video from the second day in the village (January 9th). It is of Sarah and Clay taking about what they and most of the rest of the team did that morning with the soak pit. (A soak pit is basically a deep hole in the ground at a low point or a point where a lot of water collects so that greywater can collect there and have a chance to seep back into the ground, rather than puddle up in the streets, thereby raising the water table)

Jan 6, 2010

Some Reading for While We Are in the Air - Sadie

I find it amazing that I am leaving for the airport in just under an hour and yet we are not going to arrive in India until Friday. Our travel time is exceedingly long because we are going to be in the air for a total of fourteen staggering hours. We have a three-hour lay-over in Abu Dhabi and there is, of course, the time change… so now is the perfect time for a post explaining what this trip is really all about. I’m giving you all some light reading “for the plane,” so to speak. Unfortunately, the task of summarizing everything EWB has accomplished over the past five years and encompassing everything we hope to achieve with this trip is nearly impossible. It is especially hard for me because I just got involved with the project a few months ago. Some faculty advisors have been involved since the beginning and a few engineering students have been part of EWB for at least a couple of years. However, I will recap past trips and sum up our goals for this trip as best as I can. And once we are in India, what we do should become clearer—to both you and me—as we post videos and written posts from other engineering, sociology and art students and teachers who actually know what they are talking about (as apposed to me, who is just good at sounding like I know what I’m talking about).

The following table is a very brief synopsis of all past trips by both the Engineers Without Borders Hartford Professionals Chapter and University of Hartford Student Chapter over the past five years:
Our goals for the January 2010 trip are to follow-up on all of the previous water projects and to continue to set up a community water management plan so that all of these water systems are sustainable. The EWB team is also going to perform a detailed assessment of the greywater that accumulates on the main roads. For those of you out of the loop, greywater is waste water generated from domestic activities such as washing dishes, cleaning clothes and bathing. Since there is essentially no sewage system in the village, it collects in the roads, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes that possibly carry malaria and also serves as a source of nasty waterborne diseases. Because the water has already been used once, it cannot be purified enough to become drinking water again, but our hope is that we can purify it enough to be used for irrigation, which would lessen the strain on the potable water supply. If through the assessment we discover that it is feasible, we will design and develop a soak pit that can be implemented by the villagers and the EWB team during the next trip in March 2010.

Other goals for this trip include assessing the water demand throughout the village by mapping the private and public wells to estimate the total shortage of clean water left to be filled. We are also going to research local techniques for reducing irrigation water consumption without reducing crop yield for village farmers. We think that the majority of the water is being consumed for irrigation instead of its intended use as drinking water. Therefore, if we can somehow reduce the amount of water farmers are using for their crops, it will provide more drinking water for the villagers. Finally, we are going to work with the Navjyoti, the local women’s empowerment group, on the design requirements for a modern adobe home for future trips to hopefully provide less expensive and more reliable housing for the villagers. The faculty advisor for the engineering aspect of the trip is Dr. David Pines and the students working with him are the president of EWB, Clay Pipkin; project leader, Amy Waraksa; and Jessica Barringer and Sarah Shahin, fellow engineering students. Working with them will be Keith Viccaro, a Biology-Chemistry student, who will be running field tests for any foreign substances in the water. For more information on EWB visit http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/cee/ewb/.

For a number of years Marcia Hughes, a sociology professor, has been traveling with the EWB team assessing the impact that EWB has had on Abheypur. So far she has done so by interviewing several families and teachers throughout the village, using a technique studied and developed by Catherine Owens called the Contextual Interaction Theory. Marcia will be working with two students, Daniel Luedke and Ellen Skoczenski, during this trip.

Design for a Global Change linked up with EWB last January and has been working with the Navjyoti and the local high school’s Head Master on a Visual Communication Education Campaign. In 2009, Natacha Poggio, a graphic design professor, and five students from the Hartford Art School designed and painted a mural at the village school near the earliest well pump tanks to teach students and villagers the importance of cleanliness and how to respect and share the water. This year, Natacha and two new students, Chris Siharath and Christa Tubach, are expanding their campaign for better sanitation by providing teaching tools for the primary school teachers. They also want to start an awareness campaign that will target high school boys, teaching them about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Along with this, they are also working on a gender equality campaign for the girls and young women of Abheypur. For much more information on this side of the project, please visit http://designforglobalchange.org/.

Essentially, with this visit we are hoping to further provide water to the villagers and begin to ensure that the Navjoti and village officials can maintain the clean water supply themselves. Along with the work by Design for a Global Change to improve some of their social norms through graphic design and public art, we are trying to improve the villagers’ quality of life and lessen their poverty. All of our efforts during this trip are to ensure that one day we can let the villagers completely control the water systems themselves, and that our trips to Abheypur will no longer be necessary.

Packing List Lost - Sadie

I remember in one of our fall workshops all the faculty advisers and students who have been to India before told us not just to "pack light" but, to "pack as light as possible." Well anyone who knows me, knows I am notoriously not capable of packing light. I am actually a bit of a pack rat and I always like to be prepared for the worst. The end result is that I am very attached to my stuff, lots and lots and lots of stuff. Well, when EWB and the study aboard office each gave us a packing list about 3 pages long, I knew all hopes of gracefully carrying around a nice light duffel bag were out the window. So I wanted to share a few of the 1000 things I will be dragging halfway around the world and back.
In this mess is a small pharmacy, including prescription malaria prophylaxis and ciprofloxacin, Tylenol PM (sleep medicine), NoDoz (caffeine pills) and everything in between. I have tons of camera equipment including a SLR with a straight lens, an extra telephoto lens, a regular back-up digital camera and ALL of the necessary addendums - so for everyone who told me to take lots of photos, don't worry, I'm prepared. A few of the most unusual items are probably sunscreen (considering its January), toilet paper for the bathroom in the village, flip flops for the shower, a clothes line and a frisbee. When I was packing I started by putting all my non-clothing items in first and by the time I was done with just that, my suitcase was almost full. That was definitely a first for me. When we get back, I will include a list of everything I that I packed that I didn't actually use...and then I will probably slowly cry myself to sleep thinking about the all the stuff I could have left home.

Entering the Abyss? - Sadie

Writing this post started because I just wanted to find an aerial map of Abheypur to show everyone exactly where we are going to be working. As it turns out, I couldn’t find one. Google maps failed me! Nothing! It auto-corrects to another town miles south of Abheypur. We are leaving later today and this discovery is the first thing that has caused me serious worry. I realized that I have never been to a place that Google maps couldn’t find. Maybe I will take some street photos while I’m there and send Google a nasty email.

So instead, just to give you an idea of the area, here is a map of Pathways World School, where we will be staying. I found the image of it to be quite amusing (Looks like we’re hoofin it!):
This is what the school actually looks like:
And I am assured Abheypur is about a forty-five minute bus ride from here.

Dec 3, 2009

An Introduction and a bit about the Project Showcase – Sadie

Hello and Welcome!

My name is Sadie Heald and I am a senior pre-medical Biology major in the School of Arts and Sciences. Most importantly, I am your fearless…flight attendant? Tour guide? Cruise director?? – I wish! I guess photojournalist is the simplest definition, but it certainly does not encompass all that goes with maintaining this blog. No matter what title you want to give me, I will be manning this beast over the next couple months. I hope you enjoy it!

I want to start out by saying thank you to EWB, Design for a Global Change and SGA for allowing all of the students that are traveling this wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the world. I sort of stumbled across this program a few months ago while looking for a study aboard program during winterterm. I started going to meetings about the up coming trip in January, and the more I learned, the more I thought “I’m in!” We had weekly workshops for four weeks. We listened to speakers on various topics including an overview of projects in India so far, hydrology, supporting women’s efforts for self-empowerment, the issue of poverty and how to adjust to and experience a new culture. The students and teachers began developing or furthering their own projects or group projects in preparation for January. As a photography minor at the Hartford Art School, I thought my best contribution would be to document the trip with photos. I will be taking photographs and collecting photos from other students and teachers and maintaining a blog about our efforts before, during and after the trip.

And now I finally have something to blog about! Blogging is considered the pinnacle of society according to most of my generation so after becoming a scholar student-athlete, the fundraising chair of my sorority and a member of the A and S honor society, I can finally say I have accomplished something important with my life today. Woohoo!

Thank you to all the students and faculty who came this past Thursday to the showcase we hosted of the past and ongoing projects in India and Kenya. There were displays demonstrating the solar-powered filtration system and the rainwater collection system already implemented in India which I am very excited to see in action. There was a project on a proposed personal water filtration system for the next trip for Kenya involving a clay pot fused with everyday organic materials such as coffee grounds and saw dust. Of course, there were a couple displays about our upcoming trip including one on the greywater filtration system, the sustainability of our efforts and the sociology project studying what effect bringing clean water to Abheypur has had on its people. There was also a display about the ongoing project by the Hartford Art School through Design for a Global Change to use graphic design with different medias to promote healthier living and the betterment of a society. Best of all, there was delicious traditional Indian cuisine served! Yum! And almost as good as the food – I tend to think with my stomach – is that we raised 240 dollars!!

I have to say that as a non-engineering, graphic design or sociology student, I have not really felt that involved in the project until this past Thursday . . . I got my vaccines, ouch! Now, I really feel like I’m going. We are scheduled to leave in a month from today and that feels very soon and too far away at the same time. In all seriousness, now that I’m posting my maiden blog post, I really do feel involved in the project. While still state-side, I will be working on the first half of my project which involves making a collection of photographs from the University of Hartford and the surrounding area (Hartford, Bloomfield, and West Hartford). This is so we can show our friends in India where we come from and expose them to a bit of American life and culture. I will be documenting all aspects of society; the very wealthy and the exceedingly impoverished, the mundane and the extravagant and everything in between. If you have any ideas or photographs for this half of my project, please email me at heald@hartford.edu. I will try to share at least some of these photos with our readers here too before we leave.

Well I guess that is all from me for now. Time to start studying for finals – wish me luck! Introductions from the entire India January 2010 team coming soon!

Read about the January 2009 trip to Abheypur, India:

Learn more about the Design for a Global Change program:

Explore the EWB page on the U of H CETA website: