Wednesday, 31 January 2007

We made the local press

Heres an article about the delegation in a local Nagpur paper!

Monday, 22 January 2007

All these thing we've done...

A short selection of pictures set to music that may hopefully convey to you the amazing work that we have seen here in India over the last two weeks.

We hope you enjoy it and do ask us any questions about what you see.

The pictures are in chronological order so the first half has pictures of the work in Nagour and the second, pictures of the post-tsunami work in kanyakumari

If your brower has problems showing the pictures, visit instead

Another Podcast: 8 Youth Workers and an airport

The group reflect on what they have learnt in their week in Nagpur as we wait to fly down south to Kanyakumari

Sunday, 21 January 2007

PODCAST: A very personal chat with JP Fernandez

Mike, Matt, Stuart and JP sit down on our last night in Nagpur over a glass of rum and very personally refelct on the previous week. Please note that the views expresed in this podcast are personal and are not necissarily the views of YCI's Youth Workers Network, Y Care International or Nagpur YMCA


Thursday, 18 January 2007

Women women everywhere…by Matt

Women women everywhere.....

The self help groups that we spent time with were inspiring in the extreme. I’ve never met such a fun, cheeky, determined group of women. Firstly it was a privilege to be allowed to join them in the first place, as men are usually not allowed at all. I joined their circle on the ground and immediately they wanted to talk to me and tell me about their lives, in particular who they have changed.

Many had sad stories about the tsunami, but they didn’t dwell on these. Instead they proudly showed me there savings book and talked to me about their new skills. They were making sea shell ornament, which they sell in the tourist markets on Kanyakumari. They are about to start learning tailoring, so they can branch out into saree making.

Yet it was there personal lives they were so keen to share with me and Iva. They all told how they had had arranged marriages, and without the help and support of the group they would not even be allowed out of there house

I cheekily asked which one of them had the most attractive husband, and was shocked at the distain with which they immediately said that all their husbands were awful to them. Our translator told us they then all began recalling stories of alcoholism and abuse.

They said how jealous they were that we had ‘love’ marriages in the UK. They all wished they could have had a ‘love’ marriage, and the older ones told stories of murder in abuse in such cases. They would try and bring their daughter up to look for these, but also said that it was their boys who actually needed to be re-educated, yet they said they had least control over them.

What was so interesting was that it provoked genuine debate amongst the group. In particular the older women, who were clearly in disagreement with the ‘radical’ views of their younger friends. But then one, who seemed the oldest, said that actually, she was really just jealous of the younger ones, as they had a chance to live a fuller life.

They have used such simple straight forward ways to empower these women. They have simply entrusted them with a small aunt of money and given them the skills to save and invest them. They are then trained in skills to be able to sell products and educated in basic social issues. Finally, and most importantly, they have created a safe and protected space and environment for them, where once a week they can meet, talk and discuss there problems, but more importantly, support and encourage each other.

As with most people I’ve met here, I will always remember these women and hope to be able to draw from their courage and inspiration.

Finally, what summed it up the afternoon was a man who came careering down the alley way where we sat on his flashy motorbike. He reached the women, and assuming that they would all stand up and move out of his way, stayed on his bike revving his engine. The women simply ignored him. The guy soon realised this, and was made to get off his bike, park it, and carefully squeeze past them on foot, having to continue the rest of the journey on foot. I caught on one of the older women’s eye at that point, and she flashed me a very cheeky and wry smile!


Thoughts on Kanyakumari - by Martina

Thoughts on Kanyakumari

We have now been in Kanyakumari since Sunday. I think the Indian people are similar to the Irish in that they cannot give you enough food and tea. I had come to India thinking I might lose a few pounds post Christmas but no such luck! On Monday we went to visit some women’s self help groups. These women were remarkable, basically there were about five different groups of about 20 in each group. Each week they met up and put together whatever money they had spare and banked it. This money was then used to give out small loans within the group, they were charged a nominal interest rate but this in turn was given back to the group. They used this interest to set up small businesses such as basket making or buying soap at cost price and selling it on. I had a chance to meet up with one of the groups, I spoke to them all for about half an hour. Even though they had very little English we still managed to communicate. They were some real characters in the group and it was clear that they really got a lot out of the group sessions.
At one stage they even managed to get me to sing a song, which is definitely a rarity considering I can’t really sing!!

One of the women told me that before the self-help groups started she had not been able to leave the house at all. This was a really positive experience and I really feel that these women are being empowered.

I have found in general that Indian women are very strong. They really have the odds stacked against them in that they are second class citizens and through out all this they still manage to be positive and in the case of this group claim independence and something for themselves.

Yesterday we went to visit some families that have been re-housed since the tsunami. Ycare have provided houses for these families. We had the chance in pairs to meet with the families themselves. This gave us a chance to understand the reality of what actually happened in the Tsunami. Of the families I spoke to, luckily none of them had lost anyone. I felt to a certain extent that we weren’t really seeing the real loss and trauma of what happened in the Tsunami. I think this was because it was two years on and a lot of work had been done but at the same time I think there was definitely a lot more beneath the surface that we may not have seen on this particular day. These communities have managed to start again and I got a real sense from the people that I meant that that they were really happy in their new homes. One of the communities we met were involved in Bee-Keeping. A Bee-keeper gives them training over a period of six months, they are then provided with a hive and a colony and basically can be self sufficient from the honey they sell. We managed to get up close and personal with the bees which was a bit scary but we tasted the honey and it was delicious!! Will blog again in another few days!


Contrast - by Mike


Our reflection session yesterday revealed a common feeling amongst the group. Everyone has felt a sensation of being guided through the activities like a campaign and there is an opinion that the YMCA staff are very conscious of us ‘inspecting’ their work, rather than appreciating it.

This has made our stay here in Kayukamari very different to that in Nagpur. That is not to diminish the work of the YMCA here. On the contrary it is clear that the rebuilding projects that have been undertaken here are an incredible achievement given the problems with infrastructure in the wake of he Tsunami. The YMCA have pledged to build 610 houses nationwide to help the reconstruction of affected areas, which when combined with the other agencies who are taking part in India, will hopefully serve to have a massive effect on those whose lives were dramatically altered by the biggest earthquake and resulting Tsunami in modern times. That 550 of these houses are already complete (with the others due to be finished by the end of February), is a remarkable testament to the commitment of all those involved in the projects across southern India.

That said, it would be very easy to declare the job ‘done’, whereas the reality is that there is much more work and many more targets to achieve. The self help groups that we had chance to interact with seem to be a recurring feature of the redevelopment work that characterises the 2nd phase activity of the YMCA. While a step in the right direction, it appears that this could be a token effort on behalf of what is essentially a patriarchal society.

Compared to the frank openness of J.P. and his staff in Nagpur, this contrast has been difficult to adapt to. Whether this is a cultural idiosyncrasy or something else is not clear but after seeing how much value is added to projects when both genders are equally involved in the process, it is frustrating to see such conservative attitudes prevail in a situation that could have been used as a real opportunity for wholesale change.


Tuesday, 16 January 2007

YMCA Project Work

Hello Dave, things are good.
Nagpur YMCA has a building which houses a few offices and a couple of drop in centres, one for people living with HIV & Aids and one for Sarite a group which works with LGB & MSM (men who have sex with men). These act mostly as office bases and the majority of the work is outreach in the community. The project staff visit people in their homes providing vital support and friendship, they have a vocational training centre and they support other community activities and schools. I visited a hospital project providing an Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART), it was emotional but really opened my eyes to the reality of people living with HIV & AIDS. We met with some really ill people, who were very poor and reliant on ART. Poverty obviously has an huge impact on these peoples lives as the drugs are expensive and it is only the stage one drug that is available free through the project at the moment, so if they develop resisitance they don't have much hope.

In the evening I had a much more surreal experience, Iva and I joined Sarite crew to go 'cruising' round the pick up areas in Nagpur, they do contraception distribution and informationa and advice outreach work in a creative way! It opened my eyes particulary when I was asked to approach a 'mating' couple and help give out condoms! I enjoyed riding around Nagpur on the back of a scooter, the guys took us on a bit of tour we were supposed to be out for 1 hour but we were gone for about 2.5!

The work of Nagpur YMCA is fairly contraversial, front line and extremely innovative, but highly effective, these workers are inspirational, I think we have learn't a lot from them.

We arrived in Kanyukumari on Sunday and we have been visint Tsunami Projects, this YMCA is supporting some self help groups which empower women in a society where they have to constantly struggle for identity. The projects enable women to run their own businesses, obtain loans via a sort of credit union and save money. Each group has its own identity and business, even their own colour Saree. In other areas YMCA has developed new housing projects which again empower women as the houses are in their name, in this society this is really contraversial but the effect on these women is phenominal. They talked to us, invited us into their homes for Chai and cooked for us. The workers said that in the begginning they wouldn't come out of the houses. This work is vital.

Anyway out of time in the internet cafe, will update soon. Andrea

Mike first day in Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari – Pogol Festival and Self Help Groups

We arrived at the YMCA guesthouse in Kanyakumari last night. Just. The drive here was, shall we say, exhilarating. With at least one of our nine lives still in tact we were greeted by a full ceremonial welcome with garlands, drums and all the works by our new friends from Tamil Nadu.

The journey to Kanyakumari was a pleasant detour from the rigorous schedule of the previous few days. Following the emotional intensity of the HIV groups in Nagpur even a delayed flight was much welcomed following a stop-over in the palatial central YMCA of Mumbai (Bombay). Taking time to stop off for a very English lunch of sandwiches, chips and beer we spent several relaxing hours at a beach in Kerla. The only drawback here was the persistency of a group of tribal drum salesmen who were willing to take anything, even a towel, as currency. That mild irritation aside, this little window of free time allowed for some care-free thoughts, even if they were heavily seasoned with the crashing of the salt water waves. I wish I were a little bit taller…

Anyway, the hospitality we have been shown here so far as been nothing short of overwhelming. The food here is incredible and tastes almost Thai, with its milder Dahls and emphasis on cream and coconut – a stark contrast with the blander food of the North. The fresh fruit and variety of flavours all add up to quite the easting experience. Along with the standard of accommodation and transportation, it is clear that our experience in Kanyakumari is likely to be a little more than comfortable. That said I think everyone is concerned of being paraded around like Y-Care trustees, or worse still, western funding inspectors. Following our immersive stay in Nagpur it would be a shame to only be able to see a superlative fa├žade down south. I believe we are the first people to visit the area since the Tsunami who haven’t been contributing funding in some way, so it may be difficult to get this message across. Still, with our friend John from Delhi now safely arrived, I am hopeful that real interaction will be on the agenda.

If today’s experience is anything to go by, interaction with the locals here will no be an issue. In the space on five minutes of arriving to celebrate today’s Pogol festival all eight of us were readying ourselves for a round of musical chairs and swarmed by what felt like hundreds of young people, all eager to be photographed, greeted and introduced to. Following this fun and games (at which I would like to stress, Theresa cheated), the afternoon became a little more serious as we got the opportunity to meet with a number of Women’s Self Help Groups.

Set up just over a year ago, these groups have their roots in the cooperative philosophy of a weekly savings group through which members can club together to combine their credit ratings and be able to receive bigger and better loans from the bank. To say the impact of this has been big would be an understatement. The SHG consists of five individual groups, each with names (much like the “house” system many will recall from primary school?) like Jasmine, Cumin, Lotus, etc… These groups are autonomous and engage in a savings plan so that they may take out bank loans to purchase goods or raw materials that they can sell or manufacture for sale at the local market. This seems to be quite the money spinner, with groups selling anything from soap to hats or bags made from palm leaves or banana skin. Quite the little entrepreneurs!

All this adds up to much more equality among the sexes. A little over a year ago these women would not have ventured out of doors yet now they week on a weekly basis, empowered by the profits of their good fortunes and sound investments, their cause bountiful and their spirits high thanks to the fruits of their labours. One can only imagine the longer-term impact of such empowerment for the peoples of this satellite of Kanayakumari but I can hope with reasonable expectation that these women will have a prosperous future.


Podcast from Nagpur!

Don't get too excited just yet. We've done it and its ready to go, but just spent an hour trying to upload it here in Kanyakumari. Watch this space....will try and find a faster connection somewhere

Saturday, 13 January 2007

The 'Art of Conversation'

Hi, Matt here - hope you are enjoying reading about the projects.

After 2 days now shadwoing at the truckers project what struck me the most was the staff’s skills in ‘conversation’. When we train to be youth workers we read books and books on what makes for a good conversation and how conversation must be at the heart of our work…yet here I saw the art of conversation practised. The work that goes on at the Highway 7 project with Truckers, cleaners and stall holders is outreach work at the extreme. They usually talk to over 100 people a day, giving condom demonstrations, discussing HIV, STIs and distributing condoms.

The way they were able to approach people, put them at ease and gain their confidence so quickly, so that within about one minute they were happy talking about their sexual history, whether they use sex workers and then practise putting a condom on a plastic penis! We were all amazed at how quickly they were able to turn a puzzled look that said “Why are you to coming to talk to me” to beginning a condom demonstration in what seemed an impossible short space of time.

Some men we talked to opened up to them for the first time that they had ‘embarrassing’ symptoms of STIs and had never be brave enough to tell people. Several people whilst I was there were diagnosed. One man, who it turned out had Ghonerea for over a year, opened up, telling us that he used sex workers whilst away. He had no idea about condoms, so had probably been passing it on to everyone he had sex with and almost certainly onto his wife back home. Within 10 minutes of talk to the team, they were then able to begin treatment and he can go away with a bag of condoms and the skills and confidence to use them and stop passing it on up the highway.

They cover in 10 minutes what would take 3 or 4 sessions in the UK, and this was 100% down to them being to put people at ease and discuss taboo subjects with them freely in a non-judgemental and constructive way.

After the 2-days we had spent shadowing them, we had a workshop with the staff where we discussed their work. I was determined to learn how they are so good at this. If I could only become 30% the conversationalists they are! We waited on tender hooks, like were about to receive the holy grail of youth work!....They all said that it was done simply by being natural and honest. Naresh explained his techniques. He said you cannot be direct and had to straight away try and develop a friendly atmosphere. He was aim was to be in their confidence. He would always start with a general discussion. ‘How they are’ where they are from’ what goods they are carrying etc. He would then get into the personal stuff by asking if they were married. If so, he’d ask that it must be very lonely being away from home for months on end and asking how they cope with that. He said this usually allowed him to then ask about their sexual activities and if they visited the local sex workers. From then on in, he was in, and would then go to talk about STIs HIV, use of condoms etc.

It was a pleasure to see them in action and I hope I can take a little bit of it home and become a better conversationalist – just 10% as good as these guys would be fantastic!

88Do drop us some comments and questions - we are off to Kanyakumari tonight (via a night in Mumbai)88

Martina's been shadowing

Today was our second shadowing of the project workers. Three of us went down to the trucker project again. We split up and myself and Theresa headed off with three of the outreach workers to meet the truckers and talk to them about the risks of HIV and do some Condom demonstrations. One thing that struck me about today was the relationship that the workers had with so many people around the halting site. We must have called in to at least four of the little outlet shops(Which also distributed condoms), a police point and many other gatherings where they chatted to the truckers and on all of these occasions managed to discuss the dangers of HIV/STI’S and demonstrate how to use a condom correctly. The banter along the highway today between ourselves and the outreach workers was brilliant. We really felt at ease and felt we definintely were not intruding on their work. At the end of the day we spent about an hour with all the workers discussing what we could learn from each other. They were eager for us to give them any suggestions on how they could improve their work. When they asked us this question the first thing that came to my mind was ‘I have never seen outreach work being so successful ‘. I voiced this and the workers were genuinely surprised. The dialogue was interesting and the three of us felt that this may have been the first time that any NGO’s have studied a project and asked advice from them instead of offering solutions!! This is definitely an outreach project that anyone can learn from and it was a spectacular experience!


Dancing the Day Away - by Mike

An emotional day for many of us today but we finished it smiling! Dancing outrageously with our new Indian friends following a meeting of the YMCA and the All Indian Christian Movement was just the tonic to what was quite a mentally exhausting day.

Myself, Andrea and Hannah left the YMCA on the back of scooters (which was quite the experience – I have the video evidence to prove it!) and set off for our first meeting with one of the PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS).

The story of Purin was quite difficult to handle. Diagnosed with HIV eight years ago, Purin was an accomplished footballer who played and scored goals for India’s youth side following success at his local St John’s school. His family had seemingly not forgiven this “sin” until recently. Purin had been discharged from hospital only a few days ago but from the looks of him you would initially have not known. Only when he struggled to climb the stairs of his four-storey house and clearly had difficulty seeing and hearing everything could you tell that he was ill- such was his courage. His weakness was exposed but that did not prevent him from smiling and having optimism. He spoke of a foreigner in Calcutta who was distributing the second line anti retroviral drugs that he now requires with such hope that it was heartbreaking to think that this dream may well come to nothing.

More whizzing around the streets of Nagpur found us at a slum area of the city. A new client of the PLWHA programme was in need of a follow-up visit. The reality of this is difficult to put into words here. Stuart arrived with Iva in time to get some video footage of this, which will aid in the explanation. The situation, to summarise, was desperate. The family had essentially been destroyed by HIV since the father had been diagnosed HIV positive. His wife was clearly angry given her positive result which was received only 3 days previous and while their children visited (they stayed with grandparents 50km away) the father was laid up in bed, struck down by TB and clearly suffering from hallucinations. Having not drunk water or taken any food in the past four days, it was clear that without significant help this man would die soon and his family would be left in tatters.

It appears Andrea and I have the knack of choosing programmes that are heart-wrenching and really difficult to deal with. Still, I feel I have seen the reality of the HIV/AIDS problem in India and would bet that a similar problem exists in the rest of the developing world. The lack of education and the confusion regarding the drug treatment are a step that is overlooked by the press and politicians alike and it is only through visits like these that we can communicate this essential home truth to the decision makers at home.

Thankfully our day ended in some style and with much laughter as the whole group joined in with ‘traditional’ Indian dancing (to a rather disjointed Indo-Brit-Pop soundtrack), much to the amusement of the locals. Stuart thoughtfully decided to grab the camcorder so no doubt that footage will be posted on YouTube for the delight of the world.

A great way to end another rollercoaster day and while it’s easy to use such sweeping statements, the fact that all of us feel that we have been through so much that it feels like we have been here for months rather than days, is a testament to both the scale of the work and also the level of dedication that is going on here in Nagpur.

We will all be sad to leave here.


Friday, 12 January 2007

Our first day 'Shadowing' the staff here

Dedicated, courage, inspiring, selfless, denial, privilege, exciting, cutting edge, disinfectant, stunned, hospitality, power, wow, F**k, basic, desperate, dignity, crowded, welcome, shame, tension, surreal, amazed, intimate, mess, expectation, inspired, profound hope, helpless, harrowing, passion, opportunity, confusion, harrowing, dichotomy, harrowing, energised, ‘conversation’, frontline outreach

After the groups first day shadowing workers on the projects, as soon as we each returned we wrote the words above on the whiteboard in our room. We each wrote a few words that we felt summed up our emotions, feelings, experiences or anything else we felt like expressing to each other.

After our second day shadowing, we’ll reflect on these words in more detail. Do you guys back home have any reflections on these words??

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

What a great idea - do it in your Y now!

This is me holding a condom book! Today we visited a project that works with truckers giving HIV & AIDS advice and guidance. They had this book in their office full of condoms with instructions and prices etc, to show the men different types of condoms and to encourage them to take free condoms as they are quite expensive. I think it’s a great idea and that everyone should have one, maybe start a new trend in coffee table books. In fact young people from Barnsley look out, we are going to create one when I get back!

Martina's thoughts on the day

Today was our first day visiting the different projects the Nagpur YMCA are involved with. I am blown away by the work that is going on here! One highlight for me today was when we visited Robertson YMCA in Nagpur and were introduced to the members of a youth forum. This was a group of nine young people who are involved in some amazing projects including, health promotion, visiting young people in prisons, family health and hygiene training sessions. They are also involved in running leadership training for other young people in the area. The thing that amazed me so much was the enthusiasm and commitment they showed to working with other young people. It was really inspiring to be honest and they showed genuine interest in the work we did and were interested to learn from us.

Tommorow I am shadowing some workers in a trucker project which is basically a halting area for long haul drivers to eat and sleep. These sites are also places where sex workers look for trade. The YMCA are working here to educate the truckers on HIV/Aids and the dangers of having unprotected sex. Today we learned that in any one day they make contact and provide condom demonstrations for up to 300 people. I am both nervous and excited about shadowing a worker. I’ll update either tommorow or the day after to let you know how it goes!


Whirlwind Day!


Wow what a day we have had today! Full of beeping horns, whirlwind introductions and lots and lots of superb projects.

Our day started in earnest at 9 with a quick breakfast which was followed by a full welcome by all of the staff and project coordinators. Marked with a traditional Indian spot on the forehead and in receipt of a floer each (the first of many), we sat to listen eagerly to the various project members to hear details of their work. The range and depth of the work that goes on across Nagpur truly is amazing and is also quite humbling considering the dearth of resources.

Through the afternoon we had the opportunity to visit each of these projects in person. We saw the work of "Sarathi" (safety), at which the infamous satellite helpline telephone was the subject of much attention but not as much as one staff member who had spent 5 years living in Cork- I don't think Martina could believe the coincidence.

We also saw the work of the HIV/AIDS drop-in-centre. Situated underneath our hostel, this is a valuable resource which mixes drop-in advice with home visits.

The distribution of Anti-Retroviral (ART) drugs was the focus of another project. I will be able to elaborate on it's work further after I "shadow" one of its workers tomorrow, but needless to say that such work is so vital to people in need to ART drugs.

We also headed out to see the work of the Truckers programme. The setting was one of hustle and bustle but the work going on here was far from disorganised. The sheer amount of people that the staff here have educated in basic condom use is phenomenal considering it has only been in existence for a year. Combined with innovative outreach work in Kapri village (it's amazing how a game of coits to win a small prize can turn into an information service), this team is experimenting at the pioneering end of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Finally a word must be mentioned about the comedic genius of the folks at the Nagpur youth forum. Not only are they among the most committed and intelligent people I have encountered in charity work but they have certainly mastered the art of comedy. A real pleasure interacting with Blossomde, Yuri, Victor, Daniel, et al (see how I remember the easy names :S) and I think we are looking forward to more craziness from them all tomorrow night when they have threatened to invade 'uncle' J.P.s hostel for the evening!!

*forgets Hindi for 'goodbye'*

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Our First Day

Namaste from Nagpur YMCA. Im Theresa and i am one of the 8 Youth Workers taking part in the first Youth Worker's network pilot scheme in India. We arrived very early this morning after a very long and tiring flight. We were greeted by Matthew Jackson and JP from Nagpur YMCA. We then travelled to Nagpur where we are staying for the next four nights. We were all settled into our very lovely accommodation at Nagpur and rested for the day. This evening we were fortunate enough to have been invited to have dinner with the board members and share our experiences from our local YMCA's, the board are extremely lovely and hospitable people and very very funny. Tomorrow we have the opportunity to meet with all the Nagpur YMCA staff and will be given presentations on all the projects that they run. We as a delegation have many questions that we would like to pose to them but we are here to represent all from the network so we would love to hear from any questions or comments that you would like us to put forward to the team....... I look forward to hearing from you all very soon, and we will keep you updated. Theresa.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Welcome to the blog of YCI's Youth Workers Delegation to India

Welcome to our new blog.

on 9 Jan 2007, 8 Youth workers from YMCAs across the UK and Ireland will travel to India. There we will visit Nagpur YMCA, to find out all about their work to combat the growing HIV and Aids crisis in India. We'll then travel south, to Kanyakumari on the southern tip on India to find out about the work that has been done to re-build peoples lives following the devastation of the Tsunami.

We hope to learn from the YMCAs in India about the work they are doing and how this can impact on our own work back home and also to develop our won skills to use these experiences when we get home, sharing them through global youth work with the young people we work with.

We will also publish several podcasts during our keep coming back to visit us.