Saturday, May 3, 2014

TOILET MAHOTSAV-Moti Bhoyan, Kalol Taluka, Gandhinagar District

Tata Housing and ESI have been organizing sanitation awareness campaigns in the 3 villages of Vadasar, Moti Bhoyan and Khatraj in Kalol block of Gandhinagar district. The demand for construction of new toilets
has increased in these villages after the village survey, 3 days campaign by Nandini Van, demo toilet inauguration and youth training. Hence 50 toilets were constructed in each of the 3 villages. These toilets wereconstructed for the poorest families in the villages.
Through all this work, there has been a steady increase in the momentum around people’s interest in sanitation. We felt it was an appropriate time to make it a people’s program and so we celebrated a ‘Toilet Mahotsav’ on March 10, 2014; centered on the theme of seeing ‘toilet as a temple’. A temple is for the purification of the mind and a toilet is for the purification of our body.
A team of 15 people from ESI organized this event. Before the event started, several activities were carried
out, such as cleaning and beautification of the toilets to be inaugurated, putting up an exhibition of various toilet designs and posters on sanitation and health, teaching kids about sanitation through games. A team of volunteers also went around the village generating excitement about the event among the villagers. It was beautiful to see many villagers join in and help with all the cleaning and setup.  
The event began at 11am with a short prayer, followed by welcome of the guests from Govt, Tata Housing and ESI with a toilet pin. Then, the guests and the ~400 villagers in the audience were given context about the sanitation project being done in the area and the intention of this event. After that, in the presence of the villagers, 5 toilets were inaugurated
in the same way as temples would be. Sanitation kits were also given to these 5 families, as an
encouragement to adopt sanitation as a way of life. Some villagers also shared how access to toilets has had a positive impact in their lives.

Thereafter, Mr. Ajit Pattnaik (GM, Tata Housing) and Mr. Jayesh bhai (Director, ESI) shared a few thoughts with the audience around their gratitude for being part of this project and sharing whatever resources they have. They also offered their continued support to the villagers in
further developing the state of sanitation in the area.
The event was concluded with a vote of thanks to all the villagers for being part of the gathering and to the representatives from Tata Housing for their support and coming for the gathering all the way from Mumbai. After that, prasad was offered to all those present.
Mr Piyush Waghela (Block Coordinator, Kalol)
Mr. Ajit Pattnaik (GM, Tata Housing)
Mr. Ritesh Darji (Tata Housing)
Mr. Sumit Gole (Tata Housing)
Mr. Jayeshbhai (Director, ESI)

Value-based training for Tata Housing villages youth


In order to create leaders of sanitation in the villages of Vadasar, Motibhoyan and Khatraj (Kalol block, Gandhinagar District), we invited a 6-member delegation from each village (3 youth workers, a primary school teacher, an anganwadi worker, a village panchayat member, an asha worker) and 2 block officers to a 3-day training workshop at Environment Sanitation Institute, Sughad, 16-18 September 2013.

Topics and sessions

Topic 1: Being the change through values. We strove to inculcate strong values and habits in participants through:
·         Daily prayer, safai, inspirational readings and circles of sharing.
·         Sharing of Gandhiji’s philosophy through visit to Sabarmati Ashram.

Topic 2: Sanitation and health. We trained participants on technical sanitation skills and habits through:
 Overview of Tata Housing and how we can work together to build model villages
·         Creating a vision of sanitation in villages with Jayeshbhai Patel, Director of ESI
·         Government Sanitation Schemes with two Taluka Panchayat members
·         Preventing water-borne diseases with Devenderbhai of ESI.
·     Building strong sanitation and nutrition for children with Sharmishtaben, principal of anganwadi worker training     centre.
·         Low cost sustainable Rural sanitation technology.
·         Showing them Documentary about sanitation, water & health. 

Topic 3: Leading others. We introduced participants to inspirational community leaders through:
·         Field visit to Safai Vidyalaya and Manav Sadhna, two NGOs based at the Gandhi Ashram working with sanitation, education and community development
·         Toilet inauguration in Vadasar village.
·         Session on becoming a community leader with Christopher Loman, leader in the Loving Community leprosy community in Ahmedabad
·         Session on Gram Swaraj, spirituality and service with Gopaldada, follower of Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave,
Feedback. Participants stated that they learned the following from the program:
·         Why toilets are important for the social, economic and physical health of a cillage
·         How to care for children in terms of sanitation

·         How to build unity in a village

Toilets as Temples and Construction with Compassion In TATA Housing villages

This ceremony was conducted as an experiment in love – a way of connecting the  internal purity of heart to the external cleanliness of sanitation practice. The experiment arose from Jayeshbhai’s thought of how a deep understanding of toilets, their spirit and their use can be inculcated in the poorest of the poor villages.
The Prem-pratishthaceremony was conducted in Vadasar village, by selecting one of the
poorest familiy, from different communities.  The toilet designs were Ishwarbhai’s designs, that included in them an understanding of who the users of the toilets were, their habits and their practices.
 Announcements of the shauchalayprempratishthaan (toilets installed with love) ceremony was made beforehand, and village had a special day allocated for this event. The volunteers from ESI explained to the assembled villagers their understanding of sanitation. They drew analogies to explain that just as T is for temple, similarly T is for toilet. Just as a temple is a place where the heart is purified, the toilet is a place where the body is purified. So, they can both be treated with due respect for attending to a human being soul (mind) and body.
Preparations were made in full swing for the events. ESI volunteers cleaned the streets and filled potholes in the roads with dirt. Decorative garlands of mango leaves were placed at different places in the village indicating an auspicious event. In front of new toilet constructed, a colorful rangoli (pavement design) was also created. Volunteers paid special attention to children in schools, explaining to them their understanding of sanitation and why it is necessary. we also explained the significance of the special toilet installation ceremony, thus inculcating in children a natural interest in the regular use of toilet.
The ceremonies were conducted on 18th Septmber 2013 in Vadasar. For this ceremony, a lot of officials were invited. The Gandhinagar district DRDA(District Rural Development Agency) head,  Taluk Development officer, local government officials and tata housing representatives . The assembled villagers shared with the community their opinions about the use of toilets, the reasons for their current sanitation conditions, thus giving a voice to the common man in the presence of government representatives. ESI volunteers shared with the community different drawings of toilets, and the specific designs of toilets for different users and communities, and their thoughts on use and maintenance.
For the inauguration event, all the assembled guests and villagers went to toilet and lighted a lamp at each location. Two-minutes of silence was maintained at toilet to absorb its significance, a coconut was broken at the entrance to new toilet and the coconut pieces distributed as offering to the crowd. (In India, each auspicious activity includes the breaking of a coconut and its offering to God, and the pieces of the coconut are eaten by devotees as a blessing).
The assembled guests and community members then had conversations with each of the six families that volunteered to have a toilet constructed in its home. The family members were active participants in the toilet construction, so each of them shared their experiences of the process. All were unanimous in the idea that they wanted toilets for family sanitation and safety (this was a primary concern for women) and that the construction was a fairly straightforward process.
A ShauchalayPrem-prathishthaan (toilet installation with love) ceremony was conducted in all the villages sponsored by the Tata CSR project. This was an experiment in connecting spirit with action – a way of connecting the internal purity of heart to the external cleanliness of sanitation practice. The experiment arose from Jayeshbhai’s thought of how a deep understanding of toilets, their spirit and their use can be inculcated in the poorest of the poor villages.
The fundamental spirit of this event was that the same essence that goes into the building and inauguration of a temple can also go into the inauguration of a toilet. In Indian temples, after carving an idol from rock, a ceremony called Praan-Pratishtha(installation of life)is performed. A mere rock in the shape of a deity is thus transformed, through faith, into a representation of the Divine. Once the praan-pratishtha is performed, people who would have kicked the piece of rock will now bow down to it. Similarly, Jayeshbhai suggested a ceremony of prem-pratishthaa (installation of love) for toilets; so that people could understand their spirit and inculcate them as a representation of sanitation into their lives.
Preparation for the event:
A survey was first conducted in all the villages to collect data about the villagers, the type of families, economic and social status, toilet and sanitation habits, etc. This was followed by an awareness campaign with Suresh bhai and Nandini, where knowledge of sanitary habits, their importance and their practice, was shared with the villagers. After some community gatherings and discussions, the villagers preferences and problems became more apparent. Once the villagers’ needs were identified, initial action focused on primary school kids and youth. Primary school kids were given special attention, and their awareness in cleanliness, habits, etc. was focused upon, all in a friendly way. The ESI team also conducted a youth training camp for three days to improve the awareness and habits of the youth, and raise their involvement in the change to be brought into the village. Thus the children and youth felt that they were an active part of the upcoming improvements.


The prem-pratishthaan ceremony had a very noticeable effect in all the three villages. The demand for toilet installations in each village increased very significantly. Many requests were made to ESI to install toilets, particularly the ones that serve the needs of individual families. While the demand was much higher, ESI decided to construct 50 toilets for each village. The criteria for selection of the homes were the size of the family and the number of people who would use the toilet, the number of women in the family, presence of widows or handicapped in the family, economic status, etc. Each of the families was also involved in the construction activity, both physically as well as financially. The benefactor family contributed Rs. 900, Tata CSR contributed Rs. 7000 and the government financed the construction to the tune of Rs. 4600. The total toilet construction – including the toilet, the soap pit and the composting system - was accomplished very economically at the cost of Rs. 12000.
ESI’s primary mission of raising awareness in the villages has been quite successfully accomplished, as seen by the hugely increased levels of demand for toilets. After constructing 50 toilets in each village, its primary mission accomplished, ESI has now decided to step back from the construction of the toilets and is now playing the role of intermediary and facilitator. ESI has now asked the villagers to construct the toilets for themselves, by applying to the government for financial assistance, and is now willing to facilitate by guiding the process in various ways. The goal of raising awareness has been reached because now the villagers are feeling the need for toilets and now the construction of toilets is a demand-based, decentralized and pull-based process instead of a push-based one. Meanwhile, the villagers are also empowered (without being dependent on ESI) by constructing their own toilets and championing their own needs.


Village Awareness Campaign-antej Village, Gandhinagar District

                Village Awareness Campaign
             Santej Village, Gandhinagar District

From 26 - 27 February, we traveled to Santej Village, Gandhinagar with the Nandini Van to conduct
new sanitation awareness programs. In addition to the core ESI staff, we were joined by a number of international volunteers from the United States, including Dr. Sarik from Stanford University in California who was in India conducting research based on some of our underlying values and methodologies and those from our partner organizations.

We reached Santaj on the morning of the 26th, a Wednesday. After receiving warm greetings, first step was to meet with the local leaders of the village to learn about their specific needs and challenges. As is typical in such poor,
rural setups, we heard and saw the sanitation issues in the form of improperly disposed of solid waste, poor health and hygiene habits, dirty drinking water, and we also heard about a number of issues with the women, such as the demoralizing problem of open defecation in the absence of toilets.
After, we shared our sanitation exhibition outside of the Nandini Van. We displayed a posters demonstrating good sanitation and hygiene practices, such as use of toilets, regularly washing hands, cutting finger nails, brushing teeth, and properly disposing of waste. This attention-grabbing exhibition is one of our ways of gathering the residents, lovingly
interacting with them, and passing on educational information. For some who visited with us, it was the 1st exposure to this kind of information and highly informative. Our impressive Nandini Van, standing tall and proud, also lets everybody know just how serious we take sanitation. She gives us credibility, which is important given the low education level in village setups, as well as the common lack of interest you find in such situations when trying to inspire change. We concluded this program by getting out our jadoos (brooms) and cleaning a portion of the community with the residents, this practice is also key for building the kind of relationships that inspire others to make positive changes in their lives and communities.

We then visited a nearby primary school and had the opportunity to address 500 students in their assembly hall. Here, as in the village, we shared about the vital importance of developing proper sanitation and hygiene habits, how this gives yourself dignity, and prevents disease. With kids, we tend share in the form of playful children’s songs, comedy skits, and puppet shows to make the experience and material more fun and age appropriate.

Many children joined us as we left the school for an inspired rally around the village. During this time we sang bhajans together and chanted sanitation slogans such as, “Pivano panni! Gade nahin pio!” Not only is this a lot of fun that gets everybody involved enthusiastic, but it also builds a motivational vibration that tends to make people want to adopt better sanitation and hygiene habits. It really does feel better to be actively involved in the betterment of your life and community than it does to be a part of the problem. As lovingly as possible, we try and help people to see this.

After some rest, we went door-to-door to all the homes spreading the word about our evening
program to try and encourage people to come. These home visits were not just about giving an invitation, but more importantly were a precious opportunity to talk with residents as if they were our next door neighbors. Sometimes we would stop for tea, share stories, listen to challenges, and pass on our values. This process also helps relationship building and so sustainability.

A number of residents did end up joining us for our formal sanitation presentation in the evening outside of the Nandini Van. We began, as we usually do, with an all religions prayer to ground our sharing in the right kind of spirit. From there, we introduced ourselves, introduced the work of ESI and Ishwardada Patel, our results and way of life. We showed a few short films about sanitation that, through humor, communicate the kind of values we are trying to pass on. Our goal during this time was to communicate as much information as we could in the limited time we had and most importantly,
inspire the residents to be the change by showing them just how important it is to do such basic things as use a toilet, wash hands, and dispose of waste.

We began the morning of Day 2, Thursday, with prahbatt feri, or singing of bhajans around the village. This creates a spiritual atmosphere in the community and also shows the residents this side of our work. We are not just trying to create an outcome of a cleaner society and world, we also feel as if we are serving God at the same time. This tends to touch people’s hearts and communicates we are not just trying to do a job, but are on a sacred mission.

After tea and breakfast and with the help of our volunteers, we painted inspirational sanitation slogans and images on some of the walls of the community to serve as a reminder in our absence.
Repeated exposure to positive sayings is known to cause similar behavioral change and is an effective tactic when trying to uplift a struggling community, i.e., outer to inner beauty.

We concluded the 2-day program by sitting with a number of women in the local Anganwdi (pre-school). In the absence of toilets, women have a particularly difficult time, as they will forego use until after dark when nobody can see them. This is unsafe and demoralizing. We wanted to hear from them and give them some reassurance that we would help in any way we could.

Sanitation Awareness Campaign — Gandhinagar City, Gujarat

Report of Sanitation Awareness Campaign — Gandhinagar City, Gujarat

By invitation of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) in Gandhinagar, Suresh Parmar and I traveled to Gandhinagar City on 20 February 2014 to lead a walking Sanitation Awareness Campaign. With our Nandini Van, we traveled there with the goal of raising awareness around sanitation and health and hygiene practices to address such issues in the rural areas surrounding the city. Over 200 people attended this program.

In our traditional Gandhian spirit of Love, Truth, and Values we marched five kilometres alongside members from the DRDA, local government officials including the District Collector and District Development Officer, and a number of invited guests from the surrounding areas, including quite a few people who joined along the way including school teachers and students. With the Nandini Van in tow, we sang bhajans, chanted sanitation slogans, and handed out posters with positive messages related to sanitation. Our goal during this time was to build rapport, emphasise the need for proper sanitation in modern day India, and create the inspiration for people to action in their own lives and villages. Though our approach is serious, we also try and have fun and engage people on the heart-to-heart level, as this is where the change ultimately starts.

The mind enjoys a peace during silence which it does not without it.  My experience tells me that silence soothes the nerves in a manner no drugs can.  With me, it also induces sleep.- Gandhiji.

After concluding the rally, we filed into a nearby social hall and gave a formal presentation about how to improve sanitation, health, and hygiene habits in our personal lives and in our communities. It’s one thing to talk about the need for improvement and another to take action. We want to ensure action is taken, so we attempt to provide the skills and inspiration to do so. In addition to our formal lecturing and sharing of experience, we also showed short, inspirational films that promoted various sanitation values, such as use of toilets,  washing hands, and using waste bins.  We appreciated the fact that the ministers of government who attended distributed green flags to a number of delegates from the various villages as a symbol that it is now their duty to take the inspiration received from the program and share it forward in their local space. That is always our hope and what our sustainability model is based on Inspiring others to be the change.

If we are need to reach real PEACE in this world, we shall to begin with the CHILDREN

Visit to Raghubhai’s Village

Visit to Raghubhai’s Village on 14th February 2014

Six days after Raghubhai’s passing, a caravan of cars from the Gandhi Ashram drove two hours to visit Raghubhai’s family and village. 

As we pull up the dirt roads into the humble village where Raghubhai grew up, children welcome us,
saying they’ve taken the day off from school just to see us. We walk into Raghubhai’s parent’s home—a multi-room hut with traditional earthen floors—and bow down to Raghubhai’s mother, her grieving face partially covered by her sari, traditional Indian dress. About thirty of us visitors gather in their front room/porch, as the rest of the village crowds around, in the room outside. Jayeshbhai introduces us— a mix of Gramshree staff, international volunteers, and members of the Manav Sadhna and Moved By Love ecosystems— as we pay respects to the parents of such a pillar of light and love for so many. Rameshbhai, a young man who incidentally lost the use of his legs due to polio, met Raghubhai once, and just a few days after his passing, came to Manav Sadhna inspired to serve with the Tyagg Nu Tiffin project as well as visit Raghubhai’s parents regularly.

The group transitions to tents outside, where a photo of Raghubhai sits on a small makeshift alter, behind a candle. Sureshbhai and Jayeshbhai share insights on Raghubhai, his work and service, and the importance of sanitation within this small several hundred-person village that contains just 3 toilets. In village-style hospitality, we break off into groups of two or three, and are served lunch in various homes. Another volunteer, Meet, and I have lunch with Raghubhai’s cousin, his cousin’s
wife, and their three children. We sit and share stories and memories. His cousin tells us that when Raghubhai was young, he used to go door-to-door throughout the village after dinner and collect all the leftover rotis (round flatbread) to feed to the dogs. His commitment to service was so clear, even in his youth. After lunch, we visit and sit with various members of the community—housewives to elderly men, babies, schoolchildren to regular adults. Many of the village residents are related to Raghubhai in some way. Most of them work on the surrounding lands as farmers.

A large group gathers again under the tents, sharing about issues in the village—sanitation, addiction, and ways to improve. Once in an interview, Raghubhai was asked about his dream—what he wanted to do or see before he died. And he responded, “I want to see a smile on the face of every woman in India.” As he passed away, he had just moved into his own apartment in Ahmedabad, and had plans to have his parents live with him. He was always thinking of his family—he was always treating everyone as family. 

As the afternoon carries on, we walk to the cremation ground on the outskirts of the village. Traditionally, women do not enter these grounds. In funerals, only men attend, and even for
Raghubhai’s burial, no women were present. On this day, men, women, and children walk in a solemn yet spirited procession to his grave. We stand in a circle and join hands in a prayer. Adjacent to the mound of fresh earth that now covers Raghubhai’s body is a heart outlined by stones and filled with rose petals. Jayeshbhai extends an open invitation for people to put their tobacco inside it—to give up their addiction in honor of Raghubhai and the values for which he stood. Folks break off and toss cigarettes and packs of chewing tobacco into the heart. Women, children, and men bow and offer silent prayers. As we walk back, there is a sense of completeness, a faith in the flow of the nature, and a commitment to bettering the village and ourselves.  It's just been a couple of hours since I heard the news. One of my dearest friends, and inspirations, whom some people called a 'Love Warrior' passed away on 8th February in a road accident on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. 

Nandini Awareness Campaign at Kada Village

Tal. Visnagar, Dist. Mehsana

Nandini Van moves around the villages of Gujarat to spread the message of cleanliness, health and water
conservation. Mafatbhai Patel, father-in-law of Jayeshbhai is working in Kada Village, and Nandini Van visited his village to support Mafatbhai. Nandini Van along with the young volunteers worked in Kada village to spread the awareness about cleanliness, health and water conservation.
This was a 3 days camp and every morning they began with a prabhat feri followed by cleaning the village, spending time with the children and educating them about health and hygiene, and engaging the youth and the adults in various constructive activities. Post lunch the volunteers moved around the village spreading and increasing the magnitude and importance of cleanliness in the village. They collected the empty oil cans from the villagers and made dust-bins out of them and then the villagers themselves distributed these dust-bins to the shopkeepers of the village. They also spent time with the primary and high school children and inspired them on how they can spread cleanliness in the entire village by following hygiene practices themselves. 
Shri Jayeshbhai and Anarben also visited the village one day and spent time with the high school students sharing and inspiring them towards the importance of a clean village. Their talk inspired the kids to start cleaning activities in village. It was beautiful to see Jayeshbhai and Anarben join the children in all the cleaning they were doing. z
The urinal in the village was extremely dirty. They cleaned it, coloured the walls and wrote inspiring quotes about cleanliness on the walls. The toilet was inaugurated by Shri Mafatbhai. During these three days the mothers, youth and elders were shown the Nandini Van, Nandini exhibition and toilet models. Nandini itself is an ideal home. It inspires us to build an ideal home.
We tried to create a loving relationship with the villagers with the help of small acts of kindness and services. In the evening they gathered in a common space and shared the message of cleanliness, health and water conservation through theater and documentaries. Through discussions Shri Mafatbhai extended his loving feelings towards the village and heartily expressed his support.
These small but humble efforts inspired the 25 families of the village to construct toilets in their homes. It was
humbling to see that capable families extended their financial support to the underprivileged and needy families to build their own toilets. These capable families were inspired by Shri Mafatbhai’s and Jayeshbhai’s pure intentions for the village. At present the villagers are working on the construction of 250 toilets.

The voice of silence has never been denied.