Cyclone Phailin EMERGENCY RELIEF Appeal

Jeevika Trust is issuing an urgent appeal for donations after Cyclone Phailin struck the coast of eastern India on Saturday 12 October causing large-scale devastation within island communities that Jeevika supports there.

The cyclone has disrupted the lives of thousands of Indian villagers living around the Chilika Lake sea lagoon on the coast of Odisha state – an area where Jeevika has over the past 3 years established a valued presence supporting village livelihoods on the two islands of Mahinsa and Berhampur.  With 15 foot waves and 250 kmph winds the ‘shelter-belts’ of coconut and banana trees which have protected the villages have been largely uprooted, thatched houses flattened, boats smashed, fishing nets lost, goats and cows killed and kitchen gardens destroyed.

Our local partner organisation, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP) has been working in the Chilika Lake area for many years.  Traditional fishing livelihoods had been decimated by pollution flowing into the lake and this had already caused widespread unemployment.  But JRP has managed to save many island families in the area from poverty by building the capacity of women to cultivate crabs, prawns and fish in island ponds which catch the monsoon water.

In a country which was recently ranked among the five worst in the world in which to be female,
this project has enabled women islanders to achieve a degree of independence, helping them to contribute to household income. In the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin, this exciting progress in the Chilika Lake community is now severely threatened.

Many ponds are now seriously damaged and the crabs, prawns and fish swept back into the sea and homes destroyed have left villagers living with neighbours or squatting in cyclone shelters.

Please – give what funds you can to help us rescue the Chilika Lake community from slipping back into extreme poverty.

The good news is that our crab project offers a strong framework for the area to rebuild. But it needs your help.

Please donate here.

Oxford University Symposium – The Dilemma for Rural India

Urbanisation or Village Prosperity?

Join us on 13 November 2013 at Wolfson College, Oxford to examine India’s vision for her rural poor and whether urbanisation is the only route out of poverty for India’s 800 million villagers.  India has reached a historic fork in the road towards the social balance that will serve her people best: she can either drift into the socio-economic model of urban/rural balance which ‘developed’ countries have typically followed during the past century, or she can grasp this chance to lead on a ‘third way’ between the market and Mao.

India Urban Slum

Two contrasting models of development will be debated – massive unplanned urbanisation versus decentralised rural development. Panel sessions will then look at key issues and international and historical case studies associated with both models, and finally, explore solutions to urban and rural poverty and the respective roles of government, business and NGOs.

India Village Women

Keynote speakers will be:

Prof. Bob Rowthorne, Emeritus Professor of Economics (Cambridge University) & Prof. James Copestake, Professor of International Development (University of Bath) Panellists include: Jens Lerche (SOAS) on the agrarian crisis, George Kunnath (Oxford University) on the Maoists, Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (Oxford University) on appropriate technology And Dr D. K. Giri (Schumacher Centre, Delhi) on the trisector solutions to poverty

Overview from a UK or Indian Government minister to be announced shortly

Space for this exciting event is limited – to register please email

Suggested donation for non-students is £15, to support Jeevika’s vital village livelihood projects in India. If you can’t come but want to contribute to the development of further knowledge of India’s future please donate here

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Things I Learned as a Volunteer in India

Two years ago, I had the wonderful fortune of being introduced to Jeevika Trust. I was just about to travel to India for the first time, and when I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in writing about development issues, he connected me with Jeevika.

During my ten months in India, I went on several field visits to Jeevika’s projects in Orissa and Tamil Nadu, and I’m forever grateful for the chance to witness island crab farms on Chilika Lake, walk with women through Tamil villages, and converse with Jeevika team members and partners alike about pressing issues. Here are three things India taught me as a volunteer:

 1. We all have something to give.

Before volunteering with Jeevika, I had never been to India, nor had I ever worked with an NGO. I felt inexperienced and unsure of what I had to offer people with far more knowledge than myself. But my time in the field with Jeevika taught me that we all have something to give, even if it doesn’t feel like we do.

As a writer, photographer, and blogger, I was able to help both Jeevika and its partners by taking photographs of projects and their beneficiaries, setting up our first blog, and even putting together a 16-page pamphlet. We all have skills that could be of tremendous value to an organization.

volunteer india

2. More is gained than lost in translation

My first task with Jeevika was to interview rural Indian women and write case studies about how they benefitted from participating in our livelihood projects. Although the prospect of telling these women’s stories excited me, I was hesitant about how we would connect, only being able to communicate through a translator.

I needn’t have worried. Although there were always details that got lost in translation, I was struck by how we still connected. Nowhere did I feel this more than in the Orissan village of Bebari, as I watched one woman I was interviewing rest her hand on the leg of another woman. Such a simple gesture – as with a smile or laughter – goes a long way in connecting with people.

 3. Change does happen.

When focusing on small tasks, it isn’t always easy keeping the end goal in sight – what ultimate effect is our effort making? Can we really make a difference in a country as large as India? But while visiting our partner organization SCAD in Tamil Nadu this March, I found my answer, through a 17-year-old boy named Sudalaimani.

SCAD cerebral palsy

Sudalaimani was born with cerebral palsy, but over the last five years, SCAD has provided him with therapy, treatment, and even surgery, to the point that he is back living at home. As Sudalaimani walked towards us on his own, and later showed us how he can now ride a stationary bicycle, I was overwhelmed with the awareness that change does happen, one person at a time.

Every small thing – every story written, every step taken, every hour of our time donated to an important cause – helps in making a difference.

To donate your time and skills please email – if you cannot donate your time to changing the lives of Indian villagers for the better, donate your money