My story of clouds, cotton and communities!

By Hermon Amanuel, second year Pearson Business School student

I have always wanted to get involved in a social enterprise project and ever since I learnt about the fact that over 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India in the last 15 years due to financial hardships, leaving behind their wives & children to deal with the situation, I could not wait to get involved and find out more about the “Once upon a Doug”project.

Even though we flew out to India on April 2016, our work with “Once upon a Doug” started months in advance. We took over the project from the previous set of Pearson Business School students that were involved in it for over a year and we decided it was time for us to start thinking of new strategies that will allow the women get a reliable sustainable income.

After creating partnerships with SMB’s and organising events at Lush's flagship store as well as Pearson PLC, we flew out to India.  It was a rainy day in London when we flew to India, little did I know then that the women I would later meet in the cotton farming communities in India pray day and night for the rainy weather of England and many joke about it!

Once Upon A Doug

We arrived in Nagpur, India; it was 40 degrees celsius and we were all excited that we'd escaped the cold in London. However, the reality is that April is a time of the year in India that is known to be very dry with temperatures averaging around 40oc meaning that no crops are able to survive. Visiting Nagpur gave us the opportunity to meet the women face to face and understand their problems first hand by listening to the stories they wanted to share about their lives.

We found out how the movement has helped them and their surrounding communities so far. We also took a field trip around Chetana Vikas to see what the cotton farms would usually look like in reality, and how surrounding communities have been encouraged to create systems that can positively affect their yields.

Chetana Vikas is a non-profit organisation working with over 5000 farmer families in Wardha, India for rural development. The women that make 'Dougs' for the 'Once Upon a Doug' project are all part of Chetana Vikas so this was a valuable experience for us.

Once Upon A Doug
Once Upon A Doug

The experience in Nagpur brought the problems that we had been learning about and working to solve, and made them a reality. It was so eye-opening for our entire group to see how the collective hard work from all areas of the project (Chetana Vikas, No Nasties and Pearson College London) had contributed to changing the lives of these female farmers as well as their surrounding communities. It also enabled us to realise the scale of the problem, and although we are making an impact and good progress, there is still a lot of work to be done. We also gained further insight in to the actual issues that the women and their communities face, this experience could never be truly understood without the sharing of our combined skills, face to face with them.

After spending days with the women, we all formed a strong bond; unfortunately, we had to leave, as it was time for us to fly to Goa and work on the next phase of the project beside Once Upon a Doug’s main partners “No Nasties” (an ethical fashion brand created to help Indian cotton farmers. The Doug social enterprise was founded by the No Nasties team).

Once Upon A Doug
Once Upon A Doug
Once Upon A Doug
Once Upon A Doug

We flew to Goa which is situated on the coast rather than inland, where we had been previously. The scenery contrasted to Nagpur, as there was significantly more vegetation in Goa and the land appeared to be far more luscious. By this point, we felt very inspired by what we had learned and enthused to drive the progression of the project further. The change of location enabled us to freely reflect on the experiences learned in Nagpur and agree on future developments and actions for the project.

Our trip to India was truly inspirational and on reflection, a vital part of our own personal development that is embedded within us as well as the advancement of the life changing project “Once Upon a Doug.”

I believe we live in a world where it can be extremely difficult for young people to connect and understand with the disadvantages that communities around the world face; one way to overcome this is if young people take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way like the way Pearson College London collaborated with No Nasties and Chetana Vikas to positively influence the communities in India through the use of our skills and expertise. As Milton Berleonce said “If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door”.

Pearson Business School Social Enterprise students

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