For the last few years (since 2007) the Middletown Rotary Club joined with other clubs in our district to financially support the construction of Bio-sand filters to produce clean water in India.
Below is a letter and accompanying pictures from Cathy and Mike Forsberg (project coordinators) about their trip to India to check on the project.
November 14, 2008
We are back in this amazing country for three weeks to promote our Bio-sand water filter program, visit with old friends and make new ones.
Adventure in India is as close as the front door. Once that door is opened, it exposes you to sights and sounds and colors that are both wondrous and strange. An innocent request one afternoon turned into one such adventure.
On our brochure that we use to market our filters, there is a picture of a darling young girl with a blue dress and an infectious smile. She is so cute we use her picture in almost every presentation we have done for our clean water program. We knew the photograph was taken in the village of Nayakarahalli , about a half-hour drive from our Bio-sand filter workshop in Kolar. One afternoon we decided to drive to the village and find the child and take some more photos and to give her one of our pamphlets and a gift.
It was mid-afternoon so we thought that she would be back from school by the time we reached the village. The ride to Nayakarahalli is delightful. This area of the district has beautiful well tended fields of crops. The primary crop is dark millet called “ragi” and its ripened brown tassels grace the landscape in all directions. It is harvest time for ragi so the back country roads are full of the freshly cut crop. Yes, the roads are covered with the crop, our tires acting as a modern day threshing machine, separating the grain from the stalk. Buses, motorbikes and bullock carts also help this time honored process. The grain is then swept into baskets and winnowed in the wind to separate the last bit of chaff and dust from the road.
There are also fields of mulberry, whose leaves feed silkworms for the cottage silk industry in this area. Patches of tomatoes and beans and giant napier grasses, stands of eucalyptus trees and an occasional rice paddy dot the roadsides and give variety to the agricultural mosaic.
We passed through several small villages full of children playing and women and girls collecting water for the evening and old farmers resting under shade trees. Farm labor is manual in this part of the country so the fields are dotted with farm laborers, both men and women, harvesting and cultivating crops in the fields. We reached Nayakarahalli around 4:00, parked the car and walked into the village with one of our pamphlets asking some of the villagers where was this little girl’s home? At first no one could recognize her from the picture. That made us doubt if she even came from this village. We walked further into the village until we found someone who recognized her. Lo and behold we discovered that this little girl was visiting an aunt in Nayakarahalli when the photograph was taken and lived in another village supposedly 10 kilometers away!
The aunt invited us into her home for coffee and biscuits while she sent for her brother to guide us to the girl’s village. We took some photographs of the aunt’s family and presented them with a small gift and proceeded in the now very crowded car on our adventure. Ten kilometers turned out to be about 25 kilometers over some very bad roads through several villages but at last after an hour we arrived at the home we were looking for.
We met the girl, whose name is Chandra and her brother, Chetan. Both children are absolutely gorgeous with huge brown eyes and smooth delicate skin. Pictures are attached. The father is a village school teacher and was very appreciative that we admired his family. We took some family pictures and asked for their mailing address so we could send them the prints. After another round of biscuits and coffee we left the village as dusk was approaching. As we waived goodbye Chandra was scampering around showing her neighbors her picture on the brochure and the shiny new pen we gave her as a gift…..an absolute doll. After an hour over rough roads we reached the Bangalore-Madras highway. At that point we realized we were being taken directly to our hotel. The little girl’s uncle was so concerned with our comfort that he had insisted that we be taken home first and he would take a night bus from Kolar back to his village. It was already 7:00; it would be a late night for him and his dinner would be delayed. The kindness and thoughtfulness of the Indian people never cease to leave us astonished. It is this grace and hospitality that lure us back to this country.
We have several missions to accomplish in our stay here. One of them is to hire an executive director who can help our managing director with the day to day operations of the workshop. We have grown to the point where the complexities of the various projects take so much time and effort that we need management support to accomplish all of the tasks. Yesterday we interviewed several candidates but so far we have not found the right person.
Another goal of this trip is to create partnerships with other non-profit organizations so that they might adopt the Bio-sand filter technology as part of their development programs. Many of them are involved with hygiene and sanitation issues so our water filter program would dovetail nicely into their operations. Our next few days consist of a series of meetings with these organizations, some of which we have contacted before and some of which are new to us.
We will keep you posted on our progress. We have attached some photographs to share our experience with you.
Cathy and Mike Forsberg
Man and Child Sunset