On our third CL day, we were split into four different groups, going on field trips of our choice. All of the activities were related to the day's theme: community service. In my group, we visited ANU, an NGO which aims to provide income for women living in a slum in Bangalore. They do this by recycling tetra packs and cement/rice bags into handbags, belts, baskets, and other accessories.
The first half of the day, we went away from school. We were introduced to several of the women who participate in the project, and then walked around the area where they live. After walking around the area for a while, we went to where the women worked, in a small room also acting as a shop for their products. The slum is located very near to the railway, and because the neighbourhood does not have trash collection, much of the rubbish is thrown onto the side of the track. We were able to see some of the products, which included different size handbags, mats, purses, shopping bags, and baskets. Most of the larger items are made from tetra packs, which are bought for 10 rupee/KG from several schools and restaurants.
ANU first started as a business, but this proved to be less profitable in India, because of the many rules that should be followed. Instead, ANU became a trust, relying mainly on donations. The money earned goes to the education of the children of the working women, and to pay the women's salaries.
Just before lunch, we started driving back to school. Two of the women from ANU came with us, and for the rest of the day, they taught us how to create baskets from woven tetra packs.
My favourite part of the day was walking through the area around ANU, because I thought it was very interesting to see how different, less fortunate people lived. Also, I liked how kind and open everyone was, especially the children. Although I enjoyed weaving the tetra packs, I feel it would have been nice to stay at ANU longer, so that we could have learnt more about the people who live there, and what their lives are like.
The two essential questions were "How was your understanding of Bangalore changed today?", and "How can a NGO or a small business help the people in your community?" My understanding of Bangalore was changed because I learnt a lot about how there are so many different people in the city. I also learned how big of differences there is between different areas in the city. An NGO or small businesses benefits people in a neighbourhood because it gives them work with a proper income. The women working at ANU all were the only working members in their families, meaning their incomes are essential.
Overall, I really enjoyed the day, and learned a lot more than if I would have learnt about it at school.
by Mark Nibbelke