I'm not so sure I have a coherent enough memory of this past week to write a super detailed and deep blog post, we worked around 60 hours and slept far too few hours. That combination makes for a fuzzy memory. But here's what I do remember!
5 new volunteers arrived on Wednesday and Thursday! That meant frequent and early morning trips to the airport, lots of orientation and training meetings, and lots of fresh enthusiasm for our team and the work we are doing.
Here are two newbies, Haylie and Jamison! They're our friends from Provo who happened to be in our ward before we even knew we were all going to India together! They rock :)
Many new projects are underway and the prep time has begun to make sure we complete each project successfully. Our new projects include (but are not limited to): ranging from putting plaques naming the donors who provided funding for our massive soilet project on each of the 86 soilets that have been built (or are currently being built) in the past year, painting murals on the walls of a women's community center and two pre-schools, building playgrounds for those two pre-schools, teaching more nutrition classes, physical education classes, life skills classes, english classes, environment health classes and community trash pick up days, crocheting and knitting classes, women's empowerment classes, and a few more that I can't even think of right now!
This is Fatima (above), she is one of our friends who always gives us chips and mango juice when we go check on the soilets being built in her village. She is so extremely kind. She, and people like her, are the reason we keep doing crazy amounts of projects.
At Fatima's house, our partner Bindhu always braids and puts flowers in our hair :)
We had a glorious rainy day on Saturday at the Golconda fort, a huge old fort built in the 1300s that has never been conquered and was seriously HUGEEEEEEE. Enjoy some magnificent pictures below and then I'll share some tips we've learned this week!
All in all, we have learned several important lessons this week:
1) A wise woman named Meera, the head of our main partner organization, told us on our very first day in India about 6 weeks ago some words of wisdom that her father shared with her as she was deciding whether or not to get her PhD in social work many years ago. He told her “if you are going to do this work, don’t do this work for your own convenience.” This week was one of those weeks that taught us this principle… This work is not for our convenience, it is done to increase the convenience, comfort, and standard of living for those we try to help. In the end, we benefit just as much as they do because as we focus on empowering these incredible people, we feel their power empower us.
2) Balance is key. Human beings are not meant to work 18 hour days several days in a row. The power of relaxation, pondering, personal spiritual time, time spent on your relationship with your spouse/family… those things make a big difference. However, we also have realized how much we care about this work because we were willing to push many things to the side to make sure everything runs smoothly for our volunteers and projects.
3) There are some things that transcend the physical needs of life that are often satisfy something within us more than anything material thing could satisfy. No matter what physical things you do or not have, they are insufficient without the relationships, connections, and spiritual fulfillment that truly satisfies. However, simultaneously, there are certain physical things that are absolutely necessary before any sort of spiritual, emotional, or existential satisfaction and peace can be reached. Such things include food, toilets, a home, and clean water. That’s why development work is so essential.
Shopping for sarees!!!
PS. We went to another Indian wedding and this one had the BEST dance party of all time, second only to our own dance party at our own wedding of course :) It was held on the military base here in Hyderabad, so we had to have a special clearance pass to get in! We got lost and the only military official who spoke fluent english at that time of night must have been extremely important because when he gave us a ride to the right location everyone saluted him and opened all the gates for him as we drove by. It was awesome.