RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN ASIA
(Update Feb. 15 2014)
As far as I am concerned, life has only meaning, if next to taking care of oneself, one finds ways to stretch out one’s hand to the less lucky ones, to the downtrodden. Already aware of charitable issues and approaches in my previous (religious) life, shortly after reaching Geneva, I am put in contact with someone whom I assist in setting up an equitable marketing business. Just two years before that, in 1999, this person had created a Swiss association dedicated to rural development in India: Ushagram Suisse. I become her adviser and a member of the Board. In 2012, the association is entrusted to me.
Ushagram Suisse does fundraising in Switzerland for rural development programmes in India, supports the work of local NGOs selected for their serious, reliable and commendable work and accompanies their projects. For 12 years, Ushagram Suisse has raised an average of 60’000 CHF (50 000 EUR) to support a programme impacting more than 40 000 persons in West Bengal, close to the Bangladesh border and since 2009 supports a development programme dedicated to an aboriginal population in Kechala, State of Odisha (Orissa, India) that impacts some 2 500 villagers.
Odisha is one of the tribal States of India and one of the poorest. In India, the aboriginals make up 8.2% of the population. That is a whopping 100 million souls. 300 000 of them are displaced because of mining, of extraction of rare earths, hydro-power dams and lakes etc.
This population is left behind and does not benefit or take part in modern Indian development. The Government is investing a lot in rural and tribal development but only a small percentage of that reach the end beneficiaries. In Kechala in particular, the population has been displaced to make room for the Upper Kolab dam and its huge reservoir. They still do not benefit from the electricity produced on their ancestral inundated lands. Since their displacement, those mostly analphabetic tribals have lost their connection with their traditions and their ancestral way of life. This has been at the origin of the strong alcohol addiction of adults, with all ills that are associated with that, in particular for the well-being of the children that are exploited to take care of the agriculture and the livestock.
Numerous projects are financed by the funds raised by the Ushagram Suisse: first and foremost the education of the children, but also bore wells, dairy farm, water pumps, maintenance of the small ferries, bunk beds for children of the boarding school, electrification of the school, computer lab, science lab, cultivation and irrigation of plantations, afforestation, etc. Accessing the zone remains a problem with no road access, except a dirt track that remains impracticable during the rainy season.
Besides this, I plan to develop the activities of the association, looking for the programmes of other deserving local NGOs, in India, as in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia or in Myanmar. I will keep you up-to-date about the encounters and potentials I come across as my journey unfolds.
The Ushagram Suisse Association founded in 1999, whose projects are mostly supported by the administrations of the Geneva Canton, is recognised as a public charity and exempted from tax.
Officiel website: http://fundraising.ushagram-suisse.org/