On all our Fairific tags you see the phrase Get Good, Give Good™. Once our website is live, the getting will be easy— you’ll shop our store and get good, maybe even great, stuff. But the giving… come to think of it, that’s easy, too. For every order you place with us, we give a GoodBag™ full of supplies to a community in the developing world. It’s really as simple as that, and we’ve already gotten started.
Our first GoodBag™ project is in collaboration with the Annapurna Vocational Center, run by the non-profit, non-governmental organization DISCC. Annapurna Center is the brainchild of psychologist Dr. Tulsi Das, and it’s located in the northeastern Indian village of Bachhaon, near the city of Varanasi.
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We don’t suppose to know what good means to the people of Bachhaon, so we asked Dr. Tulsi to find out. The answer? Mosquito nets for the coming rainy season. Mosquitoes transmit malaria and dengue fever among other things, and a simple net hung around the bed during sleep can dramatically reduce the likelihood of an infectious bite. The Annapurna Center, overseen by Dr. Tulsi, serves as the distribution point for our GoodBags™.
[Local woman holding a new pink mosquito net, and her adorable baby!]
In May 2011 we talked to Dr. Tulsi to learn more about the Annapurna Center and the trouble of mosquitoes. We’ll ask our readers to note that while Dr. Tulsi’s English is very good, some alterations have been made to his wording. The alterations are intended only to clarify his meaning for a Western audience.
Fairific: What can you tell us about Bachhaon village where the Annapurna Vocation Center is located?
Dr. Tulsi: Bachhaon village has a population of about 15,000 people, including a village head known as Gram Pradhan who is an elected member from the community. Almost 99% of the village population are farmers by profession, though they each have very little land. The farmers are highly dependent on the rains and seasons for their crop, which means that there is sometimes hunger if the crop is poor. Most live in mud houses, but some have small homes made of brick.
Fairific: What is life like for women and girls in Bachhaon?
Dr. Tulsi: About 80% of children, including girls, go to school and this ratio has increased due partly to the various awareness programs by the Annapurna Center. Some girls’ educations are even sponsored by the Annapurna Center when they are too poor to pay for their own studies.
Generally, women are limited to child rearing and household work, and most of the time they are confined to the four walls of the house. Typically, their recreation and time to express their pent-up emotions comes near the village well where they all gather to clean their utensils, a village fair, or coming to the Annapurna Center. For income apart from farming, the ladies and girls also participate in small house based earning programs like making bead chains or stitching work on saris. However, this activity is limited to a few families.
Fairific: What is a typical day like at the Annapurna Center?
Dr. Tulsi: A typical day at Annapurna starts around 10am and, depending on the time available to the girls or women, it runs up to 2pm. However, this time changes season to season. When girls come to Annapurna they work under the coordinator Mrs. Vidya Patel, who is a trained teacher of sewing and stitching. The girls first clean the center, do some gardening, some group prayer, and then learn stitching and sewing skills, paper work, and some other decorative skills based on their interests and hobbies.
[Girls piecing sewing work together at the Annapurna Center]
After almost one year the girl is trained to work on a hand sewing machine and at least make small clothes for children, blouses, petticoats, and can also mend old clothes. Sometimes if the girl is very poor we also try to help her buy a sewing machine, which costs about $67 USD. The women also learn cooking and occasionally take time to go on a picnic. The important thing here is that they come here to enjoy their time and also through enjoyment they learn good communication skills, expressions of feelings, and become more confident.
Fairific: What is the age range of women who come to Annapurna?
Dr. Tulsi: The age range of women is generally adolescent girls between the age of 13 to 20 and sometimes newlywed brides who have come to the village. They generally come to Annapurna to learn new skills so they can empower themselves, not only in household activities but so that after marrying they can start earning a little bit of pocket money for themselves.
Fairific: Are any men or boys allowed at Annapurna?
Dr. Tulsi: No, no men or boys are allowed at the center except one security person who stays over night. In the day time whole centre is managed by Ms. Vidya Patel under my direction.
Fairific: We’ve talked about the women learning to sew, embellish, and cook, and I have also read that they learn to make candles and incense sticks. Why has Annapurna chosen to teach those specific skills?
Dr. Tulsi: They learn all of those skills, and they also learn how to care for their body, communicate well, manage anger, do yoga, and speak English. We hope these skills will make them stronger and more confident so that after marriage they can live a happy life with some kind of earning.
Fairific: How are the women able to utilize the skills they build at Annapurna to generate more income for themselves and their families?
Dr. Tulsi: At present the major income generating skill is stitching and sewing, through which they earn a little money, maybe $3-5 per month, which is better than nothing. How they use it is up to them, but some save it for emergencies.
[Products of the Annapurna Center]
Fairific: Are there any special success stories from the Annapurna Center?
Dr. Tulsi: Hiran is a girl of 20 years, tall and slim, with a sister and a brother. Her mother is very old and uneducated and her father is no more. Hiran came to the Annapurna Center for 10 years and she was very enthusiastic about learning these skills and also educating herself to become a nurse who could help the village community. Ultimately, after a lot of hard work she is now doing her Bachelor of Nursing degree, which involves a lot of money, but thanks to people around the world who are helping her become a nurse, she is so happy!
Fairific: Do the women face any social consequences, positive or negative, for going to the center?
Dr. Tulsi: Earlier, when the Annapurna Center was started in 1995 the whole village was little apprehensive about what it was going to offer their community. However, with constant efforts and group counseling, skill based programs, community lunches for women, and medical and health camps the community came to know that it really would be beneficial. Now it has a positive impact not only on the girls, some of whom travel over an hour to come, but also on the overall community.
Fairific: Let’s switch gears and talk about the living conditions that prompt a need for the GoodBags™ with mosquito nets.
Dr. Tulsi: 70% of Indians live in villages with lots of trees, mud houses, and livestock. This environment breeds mosquitoes which can cause deadly fevers like dengue and malaria. Some villagers have mosquito nets, but most of the time the nets are utilized by men. The rest of the population become a target for malaria. We would like to help them by providing a mosquito net so that more people can be saved from malaria problems.
[A meeting with members of Bacchaon Village to determine a need that GoodBags can meet.]
Fairific: What role with the Annapurna Center play in distributing the mosquito nets?
Dr. Tulsi: The Annapurna Center will be the apex which will select the beneficiaries, make them aware of malaria, and give them nets to use when they are sleeping.
Fairific: Is there anything else you want the Fairific community to know?
Dr. Tulsi: East is east and west is west, and it’s true that we are different socio-culturally and spiritually, and that we have such different problems. However, there are some common things like sleep and nutrition which are important for every human being. If you have good sleep, you can work all day long, and if you have poor sleep then everybody knows that what is going to happen in the daytime. This kind of help, the mosquito nets, can really make a difference in people’s physical and mental processes and thinking styles.
Fairific: We’re glad to help, and to have found such a great partner to kick off our GoodBag™ program.
Have Question? Email us at goodbag [at] fairific [dot] com.