Ed, one of our students setting up a Social Enterprise in India as part of his degree, reflects on his last day with the project's beneficiaries, and what the project means for them in the long term.
Our penultimate day in Nagpur consisted of field visits to various villages, communities and townships which contained self help groups and enterprises supported by Chetana Vikas. It will be these projects who receive further benefit from our initiative alongside the salaries given to the individual producers of our product.
The first destination, a central cluster village, welcomed us with the extraordinary hospitality that has become the standard from those involved with Chetana Vikas. Padma, one of the women heavily involved in the initial meetings in the first days at Chetana Vikas' Wardha base, happily welcomed us into her home. Amongst the many villagers that had come to inspect what the convoy of jeeps contained, she kick started the day with accounts of her inspiring passion to assist those in need alongside her vast array of entrepreneurial exploits. Despite all of this, she went on to explain that she also achieved a BA through an open university and provides mediation services for anyone who requires it. Such fascinating stories were certainly a fitting beginning for the day.
Following this, we were involved in a open discussion among the self help group which allowed them to understand our plan while we got the opportunity to understand the women and the current issues affecting them in far more depth. It became apparent very early on that the motivation among them was extraordinary and that these would be the type of women who could push this initiative to a higher level.
This was only the first destination of the day. We continued onto five communities which all had their own identities and programmes but all shared the burning desire to support others while empowering themselves inexorably. Their stories and projects, ranging from initiating alcohol prohibition in a community ravaged by alcohol addiction to the formation of family counselling centres, allowed us to witness first hand some of what the project will further, support and develop.
Importantly, the day provided us with an invaluable insight into the beneficiaries' lives, which we never could have gained otherwise. We can now take this knowledge away with us and incorporate it into many aspects of the project including marketing, product development and operations. However, the benefits were not only those that could be directly related to the project. Speaking from my own experience, I took a huge inspiration out of their relentless mission to improve the standard of living for themselves, their families and their community in even the toughest of circumstances.
Frankly, the warmth and hospitality towards us throughout the day was truly astounding. It was realised, again and again, that we were privileged for the access and the insights we had the opportunity to gain. A special thank you has to be given to the women, the communities and Chetana Vikas as the organisation who enabled it to happen. Before we leave Nagpur for Mumbai, we'll also be visiting Chetna Organics, a local cotton producer, and visiting Gandhi's home.
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