We first introduced you to Sarita here, but we wanted to give you the opportunity to hear from her first hand. While we wholeheartedly wish we could send each of you to Amber to sit down with the GBS team, share chai and listen to their incredible stories… we hope this will suffice!
I didn’t go to India expecting to meet a hero. But that’s exactly what happened when I visited a small village in Rajasthan.
The first two days in India were eye opening. You arrive, you see shantytowns on your drive to the hotel, you go shopping in busy markets, tour the City Palace and ride painted elephants. It’s very clear that this is another life, one far different than what you know. But you don’t really understand just how different until you get outside of the Pink City and past Amer Fort. It’s not until you meet someone, you meet people – who have been working for over 25 years to make a difference here. You drive an hour outside of the city with these people, down dirt roads further than you’re comfortable with until you reach villages with no electricity, no real housing, no drinking water. You are welcomed with warm smiles and nervous laughter, because these people have never met anyone from the United States before. It’s awkward at first, and hard and emotional. But you sit and you take it in and you return these warm smiles and nervous laughs and in this moment, you realize while everything seems so foreign, we’re all the same. At the core of it all, we’re human beings — with feelings and needs and we just want to be happy and healthy.
I had no idea what to expect from this particular day in Rajasthan. That morning, I didn’t even know what kind of transportation to expect from our hotel to the GBS office — and while I’m being honest, I had no idea what GBS stood for. I did know that through The Global Fund for Children, LaDonna and I were able to visit one of their grantee partners that worked to empower young girls and women. I knew that we would be visiting a few of the villages this organization worked with and I knew we were in good hands.
The ride from the hotel to the GBS office was an anxious one for me. The prior two days were a whirlwind. I had never been so far from home and in such a foreign place. Everything was new and strange and jet lag only caused a haze. But on that third day in India, as soon as we walked inside Gram Bharati Samiti’s office and shook hands with Bhawani (the GBS founder), my anxiety disappeared and I felt at home. The chaos of India seemed to slow down around me and I was immediately certain that indeed, we were in good hands and to trust that the day would pan out just as it should.
This season as we celebrate the color and culture of India, we also want to give back and make a difference in the lives of some of the children who live there.
Recently, two Tea employees traveled to Jaipur to meet the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti, or the Society for Rural Development. This non-profit organization partners with rural villages in the state of Rajasthan to educate women and girls about their right to information, education and healthcare.
They also restore ancient stepwells so more villages have access to clean and safe drinking water. And they teach girls a craft like how to weave carpets and dhurrie rugs, to embroider saris and sew cholis (the blouses worn beneath saris). When young girls have the ability to earn their own money, they are free from the threat of child marriage and have more opportunity for education and independence.
We recently visited three of the 17 villages that Gram Bharati Samiti works with, and met many of the young girls who have been educated and empowered. (Read more about the girls we met here and here.)
We have been so inspired by the work of this non-profit organization, we asked The Global Fund for Children if all the money donated through our site could go directly to Gram Bharati Samiti.
So this spring, when you donate on a Global Giving Thursday or any day of the month, your funds will be helping Rekha, Buja, Prinka and other girls like them in rural villages near Jaipur.
Perhaps small groups of girls quietly sewing or studying or shyly showing us their homemade handicrafts. Something simple. Something that would be easy to describe with a few well-chosen adjectives.
Instead, I found myself holding a bemused baby goat and thanking a smiling 14-year-old girl for her gift while trying to explain through a translator that there was no way I could get a goat through customs.
It was a Saturday in Jaipur and my Tea colleague Jessie and I were spending the day visiting villages with Gram Bharati Samiti, a non-profit funded by the Global Fund for Children. In Hindi, the name means “Society for Rural Development.”
Early that morning, we met the Gram Bharati Samiti founder, Bhawani, at his office near Amer Fort. A sixty-something man with sharp eyes and sparse hair, Bhawani welcomed us with a gentle greeting and masala chai. He introduced us to Kusum, a quiet woman in her fifties who has worked with Bhawani for 25 years. (Kusum has one of those smiles that makes you feel like everything is going to be ok.)
Bhawani explained that he and Kusum would take us to visit three of the 17 villages they’ve been working with—teaching them about safe drinking water, about healthcare and women’s rights and the power of education.
After an hour or more of jouncing down increasingly narrow roads, dodging cows, camels and overloaded motorbikes, our van pulled into the middle of Gaonli village and I sat and stared in open-mouthed astonishment.
There, in a dusty clearing between equally dusty mud dwellings, stood a huge tent teetering on bamboo poles. And beneath it, a rainbow of pink and yellow and purple saris.
A crowd of villagers, mostly women and girls, all turned to stare as we awkwardly climbed out of the van and then, as Jessie and I pressed our palms together and murmured, “Namaste. Namaste,” they all began to smile and laugh and bob their heads in greeting. They had been waiting for us.
We were led to the front of the tent and seated on folding chairs facing everyone as Sarita, another GBS staff member, picked up a microphone and began to introduce us.
We found out later that the sound system was powered by a generator that had been trucked in on the back of a motorcycle. Gaonli has no electricity or running water. The people who live there walk nearly two miles each morning to pump their water from a well. (Yet later, at every door we passed, someone came out to greet us holding dripping glasses of water for our refreshment.)
Dressed in their best and visibly nervous, several teenage girls put on a Rajasthani dance demonstration, one after another after another gracefully bobbing and twirling in front of us, anklets jingling.
At Tea, we believe in and wholeheartedly support the mission of The Global Fund for Children, and we began our tradition of Global Giving Thursdays in October. Every third Thursday of the month when you give to The Global Fund for Children on our site, we will match your donation. All proceeds go directly to our longtime charity partner.
For the month of December, we are matched up with The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project in Washington, D.C.. In the holiday spirit of giving, we are extending our Global Giving Thursdays to be everyday from December 2nd, 2014 until December 25th, 2014. During this time, when you buy one of Tea’s holiday styles, we’ll donate a similar style to the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.
Families with children find themselves homeless for a variety of reasons, including rising rent costs, job loss or a job that pays too little, domestic violence, and medical problems. Some families spend years in facilities that are intended to be short-term solutions. This vulnerable time in a child’s life presents unprecedented risks as families live and sleep in unsafe situations. Most family shelters have no programs or services for children.
At Tea, we believe in and wholeheartedly support the mission of The Global Fund for Children, and we’re excited to announce Global Giving Thursdays. For now on, every third Thursday of the month when you give to The Global Fund for Children on our site, we will match your donation. All proceeds go directly to our longtime charity partner. With each Global Giving Thursday, we’re spotlighting a different grantee. This month: Street Library in Duayaden, Ghana.
Children living in the Eastern Region of Ghana typically have limited access to education, and no access to reading materials outside of school. Most of these children have delayed reading skills for their age, which prevents them from succeeding in school.
Reaching multiple villages with its mobile library program, Street Library Ghana brings books to children who don’t have access to reading materials. SLG also offers mentorship and leadership training, tutors children who are unable to read, and organizes events like debates, quizzes, and writing competitions. SLG engages entire communities around the importance of reading. The library operates with the involvement of trained “community program officers” who are selected by village elders to run the program in each community.
Here at Tea, we are honored to partner with the Global Fund for Children and learn about how our donations have an affect on the grantees. The Street Library Ghana is a wonderful program that promotes literacy and engages communities to place a higher value on children’s education through reading.