An Inspiring Induction: Making a World of Difference with Vodafone

There is wisdom in smallness.”
– E. F. Schumacher

As Andrew mentioned in his post last week, both Candace and I are winners of Vodafone’s World of Difference (WOD) programme this year. I think Vodafone deserves a lot of credit for coming up with such an innovative CSR initiative.

At our induction day in late February, I had the pleasure of meeting lots of other winners from diverse walks of life. Like me, many of them are being enabled to transform the fortunes of small charities by the WOD programme.

A very small world

By very happy coincidence, one of the winners I met was Tom Stedall. Tom’s charity, The Converging World, works with the same Indian partner as Jeevika Trust in Tamil Nadu, Social Change and Development (SCAD).

Jeevika runs Project Pisces with SCAD, which has brought three traditional water reservoirs, known as ooranies, back into use providing water for farming and domestic use. Here’s an idea of how the transformation takes place:

Restoring ponds in India

Restoring ponds in India

Ooranie pond restoration in India

Additionally, in 2010 the ooranies were used for fish farming and the harvest was consumed and sold by 2,500 villagers in the Tuticorin area.

Ooranie pond restoration in India

The Converging World supports SCAD community development projects on GP consultations, education and women’s self help groups and is also developing renewable energy and woodstove initiatives.

Connecting Schumacher with World of Difference

Both The Converging World and Jeevika Trust draw inspiration from the radical economist, E.F. Schumacher, author of the book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered.

Schumacher rejected large scale industrial development based on the exploitation of finite, non-renewable resources.

He instead believed in tackling poverty by revitalising rural communities, promoting inclusive, sustainable development and creating and sharing appropriate knowledge and technology centred around human well-being.

At Vodafone’s inspirational induction day, listening to the fascinating stories of so many activists that are improving the world through grassroots, community-based organisations, it occurred to me that Schumacher’s belief that “Small is beautiful” is also a very apt description for the WOD programme itself.

Restoring ponds in India

To learn more about our water projects, such as Project Ooranie in Tamil Nadu, visit our website. Have a question about ooranie pond restoration? Leave a comment below and we’d love to tell you more!

Voices from India, part 1: Dhani in Orissa

For the next month here on our blog, we’ll be running a weekly series called “Voices from India.” Every Monday will bring you face-to-face with a new woman involved in the livelihood projects we support in India, from crab cultivation to getting involved with self-help groups. Today we travel to a forest tribal area in coastal Orissa…

When I first meet Dhani, her face is obscured behind the net of her beekeeper’s hat and her hands are full of honeycomb.

She works quickly, carefully lifting trays from the three hives set out around her house to assess which ones are ripe for the harvest.

Beekeeping in India

Born in Ambapadia, a small village in Orissa, India, Dhani is 30 years old and lives in the Chandaka Forest tribal area with her four children: two sons and two daughters, she tells me.

Through Project Madhu, set up by Jeevika and our partner in Orissa, Jeevan Rekha Parishad, Dhani has been involved in beekeeping activities for a year and currently serves as the project leader.

When not tending to her own hives, Dhani helps other women in the village care for their bees. To harvest the honey, thick layers of honeycomb, oozing with amber-coloured liquid, are scraped off each tray and then placed in a silver extraction drum, where the comb is spun by hand.

Beekeeping in India

Beekeeping in India

As the honey drips slowly down the walls of the drum, a tap at the bottom is opened and old whiskey bottles are recycled to hold the harvest. The women involved in beekeeping currently will keep half of the honey for their own use, and sell the other half in local markets.

Finally, as the last drop of honey is bottled up and sealed away, Dhani’s net comes off and her tools are set down. We find a seat on a fallen tree trunk and talk about her involvement with the project.

She says: “I was doing agricultural labour before, very seasonal work. Because of the project, the economic condition of my family has improved. We own this.

“Some money is saved in the self-help group fund, and some is used for the education of my children and medicine.”

And maybe that’s the only thing sweeter than honey to Dhani—the unmistakable feeling of ownership.

Beekeeping in India

Have you ever kept bees? We’d love to hear your beekeeping stories!

What a World of Difference!

Every Thursday, different members from the Jeevika team will take turns posting on our blog. Today we’re excited to hear from director Andrew Redpath, as he shares about our connection with Vodafone’s World of Difference scheme.

Hats off to Vodafone for its imaginative and ‘really useful’ programme, World of Difference. Currently in its second year, the scheme provides 500 awards of £2,500 each to place willing workers in selected charities for a 2-month stint.

Jeevika has been a proud beneficiary of the scheme this year for the first time – and twice over: we celebrate our two World of Difference winners, Mark Hoda and Candace Rose Rardon – just look at them!

We congratulate them on their achievement. That achievement is not just winning the award, but what they have each done for us with it.

How what we do in India…

Jeevika’s job is reaching out to communities, families, women and children in ‘village India’, the vast rural hinterland of over 600,000 villages whose poverty statistics are the worst on the planet.

While one in eight of the planet’s population lives in an Indian village, there are more really poor people in just the 8 poorest states (out of 28) in India, than in the 26 poorest countries in Africa.

…connects to our work in the UK.

So that’s why we need to raise money for the projects which we plan and deliver with our 6 Indian NGO partners in rural India. These are projects to provide water for drinking, cooking, sanitation and kitchen gardens.

We also run projects to help women working in self help groups generate family income in all sorts of ways, independently of their men-folk.

Here in the UK, if we don’t keep raising the funds for all this, it can’t keep happening.

Jeevika Trust livelihood projects

And this is where Candace and Mark’s hard work backed by Vodafone comes into the picture. Candace is a writer and photographer who is at home with the internet: she is the one who has just designed and launched the blog you are now reading – the first we have had to draw attention to our website.

In the time she’s worked for us she has also organised and tagged some 15,000 pictures we’ve stored from our India trips and projects and made them easy for us all to access on Picasa – what a difference!

Meanwhile Mark, who is taking a break from a busy profession in public affairs, has brought to us his special talents for event-planning and major fund-raising. In late January he organised a stimulating public discussion in Richmond on ‘Is Small still Beautiful?’ led by a panel with local MP Zach Goldsmith and others, and is now working on summer and autumn events like our annual ‘Walk for Water’ near here in late September.

These two have brought a real buzz to our little office and truly made a World of Difference! We shall miss them.

Are you ready for a journey?

Man on bicycle in IndiaToday is an exciting day for us at Jeevika—the kind of day where you wake up before the alarm (which doesn’t happen often) and actually get to the train station on time.

All of this Christmas-morning-like anticipation has to do with one thing—the launch of this, our very first Jeevika blog. You may ask, why a blog? Why bother? Why start one now? And don’t worry, we’ve asked ourselves similar questions, but the answer we came up with is really quite simple.

The answer is you.

Since the new year, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking—indeed our office has become quite tricky to navigate with so many brainstorms and ideas zipping through the air—all to see what we can do to kick 2012 off with as big a bang as possible.

What we’ve felt is missing at the moment is a place to engage with you, our friends and supporters who are interested in rural development in India and want to learn more about the diversity of livelihood projects we’re helping to support. What’s missing is a conversation.

To change this, we want to invite you on a journey.

This isn’t the kind of journey that needs a passport or visa, and thankfully it doesn’t involve lugging overweight suitcases to the airport. All you need to bring is yourself. (Now that’s a packing list even I can handle…)

A journey with Jeevika might be an Indian woman’s involvement in a livelihood we help to support. It might also be one of our partner NGOs learning to deliver a new project or a UK supporter taking part in one of our annual events.

Jeevika Trust Livelihood Projects

Jeevika Trust partner NGOs

Jeevika Trust Fundraising Events

The important thing is that everyone can come on a journey with Jeevika. As though it were as easy as hopping on a train, it’s possible for anyone—whether in the UK, India or elsewhere—to come along and join us for the ride.

For a taste of what’s to come, here are a few things we’ve got planned so far:

  • “Voices from India” – a series of stories following several women that have been involved with our projects. From Basanti in Orissa to Priya in Tamil Nadu, we can’t wait for you to meet them.
  • “Jeevika in the Field” – a ground-level look at some of our team visits to India. These visits are an exciting chance to connect with our local partners in India, and we want you to come along, too.
  • Inspiring photo essays on livelihood projects such as crab cultivation and beekeeping—have you ever wondered how something as small as a crab or bee could change a life?

So the only question that remains is: are you ready for a journey?

Because we are, and we can’t wait to set out on it with you.

What are some of the things you’d like to read about and see on this blog? Leave us a comment–we’d love to hear your ideas!