Welcome Everyone!

Starting on 11th January 2011, we begin what we know will be an incredible journey to India. Join us - you won't regret it!

Thursday 20 January 2011

Just one more sleep to go........

This is a Young Boy from the Don Bosco Centre in Gujarat, fixing the Saris for us (his Dad is a tailor).

Judi, Ellie and our new friend Chantelle from Malta.

Well you asked for it and here it is, some pretty ladies in Saris.

Here we are on our sight seeing trip, outside the Taj Mahal Hotel! Honestly we haven't been staying here.

We met these beautiful young ladies today, while visiting a Hindu Temple, in the centre of Mumbai.

Last day and we have no problems uploading photos!! Typical!

Were do we go from here........

Last night we had a group discussion to plan our hopes and aspirations for what we hope to achieve when we return to Glasgow.
The group were on a high with a lot of energy in the room.
The meeting lasted considerable longer than expected and it was exciting to see how valuable this trip has been in moving us forward on our journey.
It is very true that although our journey in India is now near it's end, its really only beginning when we return to our own communities and beyond.
Some of our self help groups that we plan to set up will include enterprise around skills such as sewing, cooking, gardening- The world is our oyster!

Today we had a more relaxed day as Noel took us on a sightseeing tour of Mumbai city.
We fought our way through endless traffic to reach the Gateway of India, The Taj hotel, a Hindu Temple and a street shopping spree.
After a few lessons from Noel, you would be proud of our battering skills as we haggled the prices down by sometimes as much as 250% of the original asking price! So some of your presents were a real bargain!

Tomorrow morning will be spent planning an amazing presentation to summarise our experiences and plans which we will share on Tuesday 22nd February at Sandyford Henderson memorial church in Partick we hope to see you all there!
For any more details contact Lynne or Kat at Priority Areas office phone 0141 248 2905

So grab your hankies! we are sorry to say that this is the last blog entry of our wonderful trip.
We must extend a huge thanks to everybody here that has supported us, Noel who has guided us with much humour every step of the way and of course to all of you who have supported us by following this blog of our adventures.
So Dhanyavad and Alvivida! ( so thanks and goodbye! )

Why walk when we can dance.............

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Back in Mumbai

We arrived back in Mumbai, having rushed of our train, nearly missing our stop. Tracy running off bra in hand, saying " I think I have left my book".
We had an amazing time in Gujarat,  and arrived to a very warm welcome from the boys and staff. Noel and Tricia keeping up tradition by smashing the coconut at the front door as a blessing, we were all very emotional  and humbled by this welcome. We also visited the tribal communities, trying to marry Tracy off...... calm down we still have her!!
We met a wonderful girl, chantelle from Malta who is volunteering at Don Bosco for around four months. Chantelle also took us to the local village market, where the locals we gobsmacked at 15 white females walking around Glasweigen accents lol -Chantelle and Judi of course!
We got some saris and had a women come to Don Bosco to help us to put them on, we were all very gorgeous!! We will upload them after Ellie airbrushes them!!

Monday 17 January 2011

Day 5 & 6

where do we start, don't even know what day it is!!

the dodgy tummy remark was premature as we now have 2 down, hopefully no more to go...

Saturday was filled  with a visit to creative handicrafts, where we were able to interact with a variety of self help groups involved in the textile industry.  Thanks to Jonny Joseph for his hospitality.

After a somewhat late departure from Don Bosco, Mumbai we were hastily thrown into a few taxis to renegotiate our route to Mumbai Central to catch our connection for our overnight train to Gujurat.  If you are wondering what Indian first class trains are like don't imagine the Orient Express!  it really has to be seen to be believed.  We arrived in Baroda at 6.00am and climbed aboard our bone shaker bus for a 2 hour journey to our new accommodation at Don Bosco School, Kawant.

Here we experienced an amazing welcome from all 210 boys at the school who sang to us and presented each of us with a marigold, it was very moving.  The hospitality of everyone here has been astonishing including an evening cultural performance by the boys and girls from the nearby convent school who sang and danced their hearts out.

We have had several outings to visit women in rural villages and these experiences have been something very special.  e.g. today we met a very shy group of women who lived a very simple life supporting their families through agriculture.  They sang to us and adorned Tracey with traditional costume including their very valuable silver jewellery.  It is encouraging to see how successful SHG have been in this region and we are constantly struck by their sense of complete community.  They speak again and again of the confidence being involved in a SHG has given them.

We had a very interesting presentation from the Baroda Regional Director of NABARD (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development)

He was able to give us a full account from the banks perspective of the structure of banking industry, the self help groups and the linkages between the two.

He explained in some detail the financial details and requirements in the implementation of the SHGs.  We understand he travelled a great distance to share his experience and expertise with us for which we are very grateful.

We are awaiting dinner (if lunch was anything to go by this will be another gastronomic delight!) and have been given access by the school staff to use their equipment to place this blog as there is no internet access in Kawant.  We have been told that the internet is down because of a Kite festival on 14th January as many of the kites have become entangled in the wires. (that's not an excuse we've come across before!)

Hence the lack of video and photo upload over recent days but hopefully we will upload soon.  Sorry need to rush to dinner now will update you as soon as we can.

Friday 14 January 2011

Day Three

Day 3

A fascinating morning was spent in the company of Mrs Leena Joshi from Apanlaya, a community development project within the slum community (http://www.apanalaya.org/).  Mrs Joshi stressed the importance of identifying a common goal within the community which was non threatening to the male population in order to allow the women to be involved in the project.  Initially this proved to be the provision of: clean water, access to health services and child education.  We were fortunate to have an onsite visit to her project in the afternoon.

The earlier part of the afternoon we spent on a bus negotiating Mumbai's traffic which can only be likened to a visit to the dodgems!!!  Suprisingly without accidents we visited Stree Mukti Sanghatana - a project working with women waste pickers were a number of self help groups have been formed to support women whose livelihoods depend upon gathering waste from the city dump.

following a presentation from the president Mrs Jyoti, we spent some time working with a translator asking and sharing stories with two women who had progressed from waste picking to the management level of the organisation.  This was truly inspirational, largely because of the dignity and confidence they displayed as they shared their journey of empowerment.  It is noteable that through the project both have moved from an earning of 10 Rupees to 100 Rupees per month.  Both spoke with passion of the growth in their own self esteem and the effects this has had on both themselves and their families.

A few comments from team members:

I am astonished as to how the people who live in the slums are so happy to see us visit.  They are all very welcoming I could learn an awful lot from them.

Slums were not as bad as I thought and seem well organised even though on a dump site.

It's been a fantastic experience to have the opportunity to be here.  Opens your eyes.

Our own kids should think themselves lucky and maybe a wee bit privileged to live the lifestyle they do and to have the things they have in life compared to these people who live in the slums with a smile on their faces every day.
(Liz McRowey)

What a lovely friendly place, love the people and how they are so hospitable with what little they have I have not seen one person with a sad face especially in the slums.


"We as women.............."  Noel!!!!!!!!!!!

On a more personal note if any of you are wondering how we are all coping.........  although they make us function from 8am til 11pm, we managed to escape briefly in the evening to market shops and ice cream vendors.

Today it was Karen's turn to fall off the chair so we are all waiting to see who is next!

The only reason we can function for such extended hours is due to the amazing catering provided by our own personal cook Maureen   what an amazing woman!  We've had some interesting dishes at even more interesting times e.g.  semolina with almond and cardamom pods for breakfast, chinese for lunch, piece n' jam all day long, pieces n' coriander for a twist and many varied Indian dishes  which everyone has thouroughly enjoyed.  We are all so grateful for her expertise, kindness and attentiveness.  Day 3 and not an upset tummy in sight.

Just a quick note to warn you that you won't hear from us tomorrow as we have a full programme visiting a handicraft based project during the day and taking the night train to Baroda, Gujarat to look at rural initiatives.  We'll catch you up with our news the following day.  Meantime keep posting to our blog as it really brightens up our day.
ps  We hear some of you have had difficulty posting our resident 'techi' advises you to ensure you 'publish' your blog and do not navigate away from the page until it advises that your post is successful.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Day Two Mumbai

This video is of us travelling to our afternoon visit to Lijjat Papa, passing the Dharavi slums.

The sounds of the city started early - about 5.00 a.m. Noel had already walked the streets looking for some tea and probably drinking in the atmosphere of home.  For most of us waking from a very welcome sleep, working out how to work the shower and turning up for breakfast at 8am was enough of a challenge for the start of the day.
The morning was filled with a session about women as entrepreneurs by Dr. Mala Shravasta from the Naseerji Muryi Management Institute.  Much discussion was had and we were all struck by the similar barriers faced by women in both India and Scotland.

Our afternoon took us to the administration offices of Lijjat Papas - an organisation founded in 1959 by seven women to produce papadoms.  The seven women has now grown to over 42,000 all over India.  This was a striking example of self-help and empowerment.  The uniqueness of the organisation is that all 42,000 of the women involved in producing the papadoms has a share in the business.

We are all, as expected, responding differently to the varied experiences before us .... with a number of inspiring conversations springing up over tea and coffee at many points throughout the itinerary..

As usual there are many lighthearted moments to be shared...Catherine falling off dining chairs,us all attempting to gain as many waves as possible out the bus window and the constant challenge of keeping track of the group as Tricia attempts to 'hide' from various members !! One thing we are not short of within the group is a keen sense of fun and support for each other..!

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Day 1 Mumbai

We have arrived in Mumbai after our momentous journey from Glasgow it took us around 20 hours but we are all well and ready to take on this challenge-and what a challenge it is !!!!

The plane trip went well even had the pilot wishing Liz a happy birthday.  Poor Liz what a short birthday it was !!!

Having left Glasgow late as they had to de-ice the plane we are now sitting in a balmy 20 odd degrees of heat looking forward to our dinner especailly Marie as she is starving.

We have already had our first session with Dr Nayreen Daruwalla a woman who heads up a large organisation that works with self help groups in Dharavi slum area here in Mumbai.

It was fascinating to hear how these self help groups have developed over the last 10 years and had the opportunity to ask loads of questions.

The three things that struck us the most were
  • That groups will challenge and take action against unacceptable behaviour from group members and their families
  • To begin to discover that the social and community benefits are almost always as important as the loan itself
  • That we were surprised at the level of committment within the self help groups and to one and other
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.  Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen        This was a quote on the wall of the room where we met for our first meeting and impacted on our group as a whole.

Thanks for checking us out we will keep you posted daily.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Day One

Well, here we are at the airport downing our last bacon rolls and tea. We've successfully negotiated security and nobodys been impounded yet.

How do we feel? Just about every emotion under the sun from anxious, nervous, very positive, scared, tired, chilled to excited!

But all ready with an open mind to share an Experience of a lifetime.

Why walk when we can dance?...... Let the dance begin......