Monday, 4 March 2013

One Week On - My Reflection of India

A village elder, he wanted me to take
his picture in the village of Nayagaon,
he believes WaterAid can
make a difference
This blog is an expression of my own views, they are not in anyway representative of any organisation or individual other than myself.

Way back in October 2012 I applied to take part in a trip to India with WaterAid as a water industry supporter, when I did I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  In November when I received the call to say that I had been selected I remember being so excited, I was over the moon and again thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  From then until I set off just over two weeks ago for India I prepared myself, I got my head around the facts, I knew things would be tough, I knew children were dying, I knew people suffered and I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime. My heart and brain were ready for an emotional rollercoaster, or so I thought.

Everything I thought I knew was correct, but there was so much more, so much that I was unable to prepare for, so many mixed emotions, tears, laughter and learnings.  Now that I am home and have been for just 8 days, I find myself reflecting back and processing everything I experienced, now I feel it is appropriate to share this reflection with you.....  So here it is:

So remote are some of the villages that roads, electricity,
water and toilets have yet to reach them.
Every now and then life offers up some amazing opportunities and the trip to India was certainly one of the most amazing things I have ever had the chance to take part in.  My journey was small in time but very big in terms of experience.  I laughed, I cried, I felt mental pain, on occasions I was lonely, at other times I felt embraced, I felt anger, embarrassed, confused, joy, happiness, humbled and so much more.  I saw the most beautiful, colourful and visually stunning sights, I also witnessed some horrific, disgusting, unthinkable and shocking sights, on both ends of the scale, good and bad these memories are now with me forever, something I am truly thankful for.  This trip was truly a journey of contrasts, where the extremes live side by side, where life for one person can be a world away from the life lived by another living just 10 feet away. I would not wish to change my experience, but I would change the poverty, the hardship and the basic lack of water & sanitation the people I met have to endure, whilst others live so easily.

Meet Ramu, she walks up to 5 hours a day
to collect water for her family from a potentially
contaminated stream.

At times she carries 30 kilos or 66lb of water
on her head
India is not a poor country, in fact it is a nation of rapid growth, it is a real player in the global market and for this reason it's poorest inhabitant suffer as a consequence of people not looking beyond economics. This is not acceptable and thank you WaterAid for showing me that you and your partners are doing what must be done. The work that needs to take place in India is crucial for the survival of children, adults and the right of all humans to be able to turn on a tap, drink water and not fear death or illness. WaterAid is spending time educating the people of India, influencing the government and raising international awareness that things can be better.

I have talked in my blog about legacies and sustainability, it was very apparent from my time in the slums and villages that when they have been empowered, mobilised and educated, they take ownership, responsibility and action to ensure their lives and that of generations to come are improved. This surely a good thing and something I believe we can all support.

This young boy and his family
will suffer for 4 months
each due to preventable water
related illnesses.
Village of Jonha
Some may say, why doesn't India look after itself, isn't it the Indian governments responsibility to sort out the lack of water and sanitation? The answer is yes, in my opinion it is and they should do more, they should direct money that is wasted on other wasteful projects to the people in need, but whilst I may feel this way I also know that change happens when the right actions are taken, the work of WaterAid is to help the people of India bring about this change, through partners they will immobilise the population to demand their rights to the basics we take for granted, they will teach the people to build toilets, maintain hygiene and how to secure clean water supplies. They will reduce the number of people dying, the number of mothers grieving, the number of school days lost, the amount if pain felt and the stress of living day to day. The work of WaterAid really is this powerful, taps and toilets is just a starting point, with these basic things, the truth is, WaterAid for many, changes the world.

This woman's name is Vidhya
Her story was tragic and one I cried over several times!
She looked at me in the face and told me how
she feels the pain everyday
for her 3 year old child who
died from diarrhoea

She lives in the slums and still finds
a way of looking forward 
I know some people who have said that they will not support a charity that is putting money into a country that has enough finances to sort things out themselves. I challenge this view point for the following reasons, for every 20 seconds these people oppose the support that WaterAid gives, another child dies in this wonderful world of ours due to preventable water and sanitation related diseases. That means in the last 5 minutes 15 children have passed away and 15 families are currently breaking their hearts. In the last hour that's another 180 children dead, their lives extinguished, for what, because they were born into a country that we feel do not deserve WaterAids support. The salvation of these children is not for us to decide based on politics, surely not, how can it be when we are surrounded by luxuries, when our wants are generally material. For the cost of a blu-ray film, tools to build a well can be purchased, that is just £15 and for £25 training can be provided to a village committee to ensure generations to come, reap the benefits of WaterAid interventions. Can we really justify our denial of these fellow humans, because we have an opinion about their government... No is my answer, life is far too precious, no one person deserves to be a victim based on politics.

Ramvati Vishwakarma, a women who'slife
has changed since WaterAid
worked with her local community.
Her quote to me was:
"I dreamed of a home, I now have one
I dreamed of my family not being ill anymore, they are now healthy
I dreamed of having water & a toilet,I now have this
I dream my children would have an eduction,they are now at university
I live in a slum but I will never stop dreaming,
that is the only way I will become more"
One of my wishes for the people of India is that their government invests the money they need to make a difference.  My greatest wish is that in the future women are no longer raped because they need to go to the toilet in the fields and land surrounding their homes, that no mother feels the pain the women I met felt through losing their children, that no single person fears for their health because they are thirsty and the water that quenches their thirst may be poison and that the successes I have seen where WaterAid has intervened continue, with more and more communities receiving the benefits.

India has taken a place in my heart forever, the people that occupy this country are amazing and I am blessed, honoured and thankful to have met so many wonderful souls.

I would like to give thanks to my fellow WaterAid supporters who came on this journey with me, who I have not mentioned greatly throughout my blog, but would like to make clear that at times I would have found it very difficult to get through if it wasn't for their support, encouragement and understanding.

I encourage you as the reader of this blog to help make a difference in anyway you can; by supporting WaterAid, donating, sharing my blog or spreading my messages by word of mouth, whatever you do is a great deal better than doing nothing.

I am not writing this blog because I believe I can change the entire world, but at the time if writing this update my blog has received nearly 2,800 hits, for me that's making a difference, one reader at a time.

To donate to WaterAid or find out how you can support in other ways please click on the link below:

I struggle with my emotions in the slums
meeting with people that have lost children
suffer regular illness and are forced to use
the streets as sewers.
Whilst I have now completed my blog regarding my time in India, I have decided to carry on for a short while longer, I would like to share what I am doing now and how my trip to India has a legacy of its own, so check back soon to hear about radio interviews, press releases, presentations and whatever else comes my way... You never know their may just be someone reading this that can help me get what I believe is an important message out there and if they do you can be sure I'll write about it.

Take care all and remember to appreciate all you have...


  1. I hope this well written summery will help you achieve all you wish to for these people .Reading your blogs has totally changed my way of thinking I do believe wateraid have quite a job on their hand Unfortunately, as it is now in India and other countries Just a few have control of the Government Banks Industry and proberly the press.To much economic power in just a few hands .All the Indian people want is a better life education and health for their children and Money cannot keep being the passport to a better bearable life .It appears to me you my son Wateraid and its workers and helpers are giving the Indian people the help to take the first steps to have this And how to approach their Government and make demands for a fairer distribution of Indias wealth in a peaceful way....Any donations made to Wateraid will not only go to help people improve their Water supply and Sanitation but also to enable more representatives to go and help educate people to campaign for their rights as human beings I am old enough to remember as a child visiting my Granny in the Slums of the East End and sharing a toilet in the back yard with 9/10 other tenants and getting the water from a turnpike on the corner I cant remember even though I was young being at all repulsed by this it was after all the Norm for the 40s ,In fact my first home in the 60s in Laindon hills had a dig a hole and throw it in loo but must admit i did have running water. Going back to the 40s it was people power that bought about the birth of the NHS and a change of life for us all Maybe not in my life time But people like you and Wateraid will bring about a change where it is needed not just in India but all over the world and i sincerely from the bottom of my heart wish you every success in the future well done my son for every word you have written ...

    1. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, you yourself are an inspiration. Also thank you for sharing your memories, people too easily forget that we have not always lived with luxuries we have today.

      Keep being you, because you are the best x


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