This is MDC student Ximena Prugue’s second dispatch from India, where she aims to introduce cheap solar-powered lights to the subcontinent’s rural poor. Check out our Feb. 16 post for more background on Prugue’s Giving The Green Light project.
I just arrived at the house where the members of the Real Medicine Foundation live in Jhabua. The past couple of days we spent in Khandwa, another district in Madhya Pradesh. We distributed the flashlights to the Ranai village in Khandwa. We actually sold the lights to the villagers at 100 rupees, which is about two dollars, but the money went into a village fund that will be used for any projects they would vote on. We held a village meeting with the Korku tribe to introduce ourselves and discuss their biggest challenges and concerns. The two main problems were 1) Electricity at night so their children can study more, and 2) Access to toilets. Almost everyone in the rural areas, or any poor areas of India, including slums, defecates in the open. It’s funny how when we asked where they had toilets in the village, everyone knows EXACTLY where they are because there are only about three of them for a village of 5,000 people. When I say toilet, I actually mean just a concrete 4×4 room that has a hole in one of the walls. It’s not even a hole in the floor.
We stayed the night in the village of Raina to distribute the lights and get a feel for village life at night. Everything is pretty much pitch-black, except for the village leader’s house, which has electricity from 9 to 11 p.m. every other day. They actually only get enough kerosene to fuel a lamp for two weeks each month. So two weeks out of the month, they can’t do anything after sundown. They also wake up at about 4 a.m. to start doing housework and working on their crops.
So far, the most fun I’ve had was that one night I stayed in Raina. We’re pretty much the only white people anyone in the village has ever seen, so they had so many questions for us and we were the biggest form of entertainment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so popular in my life. Another thing they love is photos. If there’s one thing Indian’s love across the country, it’s having their picture taken. (Which is great on my end! I never feel embarrassed asking to take their photo.)
Unfortunately, I got really sick the first day visiting the village. I can’t explain why because the stomach pains came very suddenly, and left just as suddenly. Right after lunch, I mentioned to Stephany that I wasn’t feeling well and we went to the car to get some Imodium just in case. Next thing I know, I feel myself being pulled into the car, waking up, feeling completely disoriented, and drenched in sweat. Thankfully, it was just those few moments that I felt horrible. I still ate crazy amounts of spicy food and felt great after. People here eat spicy food for ALL meals, including breakfast. I can’t tell you how much I miss a tall glass of OJ in the morning!
Tomorrow we’ll be working in the Bhil Academy, a boarding school the Real Medicine Foundation runs in Jhabua, and we’re going to check out a new solar panel they just installed, so I’m looking forward to it.
Check out Prugue’s first dispatch from India.