Extremely high temperatures, a constant lack of water and a population density of up to 120 people per km2 expose villagers living in the Thar to drastic living conditions and have a major impact on their health. The region around Gagadi is explicitly dryer than other parts of the Thar and therefore puts an even higher burden upon people’s well-being. Let’s take a look at what GRAVIS is doing in order to improve the lives of those living close to the village of Gagadi.
The field center in Gagadi was the first of today’s 15 centers across rural Rajasthan, Bundelkhand and Uttarakhand where GRAVIS started its work in 1983. Apart from being a place where projects in the communities are coordinated and staff members live, the field center contains a training center and a Girls Hostel.
Our training center is a place where for example volunteers are instructed as Para Vets or Village Health Workers (VHWs). After the instruction these VHWs go back to their villages, where they take care of urgent medical needs and spread knowledge on topics such as hygiene, health and how to prevent diseases connected to bad hygiene. In 2016 we held 8 of these training in which we instructed 592 VHWs.
The Girls Hostel was established to accommodate up to 16 girls from remote villages and give them a chance to access secondary and high school education, which they would not be able to obtain in their villages.
Close to the Gagadi field center GRAVIS set up one of its Anganwadi Centers, a facility mixing both crèche and play school, a while ago. At the moment 20 children between the age of one and five belong to this facility with the attendance rate being fairly high. Besides taking care of the children and educating them on very basic topics, it is the Anganwadi Workers (AWW) job to look after the weight and health of her “fosterlings”. She vaccinates them in order to shrink the risk of dangerous diseases and if needed she provides them with dietary supplements that consist of vital nutrients. When detecting that children are severely malnourished she takes action and sends these to the hospital. Additionally the AWW takes care of mothers to be. When coming to her facility these women also sustain dietary supplements in order to strengthen their immune system during the pregnancy and increase the potential of giving birth to a healthy child.
Ten minutes by car from the Anganwadi Center lives the family of Nahrudam. They have been working with GRAVIS for more than seven years and as of today they have received a Taanka and an Arid Horticulture Unit (AHU). Both these gadgets are essential for the survival of this and all other families that GRAVIS supports.
A Taanka is an underground water storage system that catches rainwater and can store up to 20,200 L, providing an average sized family with water for 4-8 months. Receiving a Taanka decreases health and financial related burdens, and allows girls, who in the past had to fetch for water, to attend school. To date GRAVIS has helped building 6635 Taankas.
AHUs are small gardens by the house of a family where green vegetables or fruits like lemons or bear berries can grow. Being rich in vital nutrients such as Vitamin C and iron these add tremendously to the health of villagers and help combat anemia, a crucial ailment among children and women in the Thar. As of today, we have set up 3,815 of these gardens.
The grandmother of the family told me how grateful they are about the support they have been receiving from GRAVIS. However, they are facing great difficulties in maintaining their garden, seeing that their Taanka is already empty and the next rain is expected to come in two months.
* by Anna Gall, Volunteer