Tag Archives: SICHREM

Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

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Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

Another exciting weekend as my third week in India draws to a close. Working days in the office so far this week have been fairly uneventful. I’ve been busy getting on with my assigned tasks, and though it’s very difficult working six days a week, sat in an office all day, I’m starting to get used to it.

Each morning I trawl the same six newspapers and select articles relating to human rights violations, or issues in general, and collect them to put into a quarterly report. This is my daily task for the year, and I’ll be doing four such reports, and hopefully the data will then contribute to a much larger annual report from SICHREM as a whole.

In addition to that, I’ve been working on a funding proposal for their Human Rights Helpline. My other longer-term task is to conduct a larger research project into the functioning of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission; interviewing Members and the Chairperson, as well as several civil society groups dealing with the Commission. I’ll hopefully finish my research and get the report written at least by May, which will then be published as part of SICHREM’s series of short reports they are bringing out. My own name in print!

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More excitingly though, Julika and I got called into Mr Mathews’ office on Friday. Thinking this could only be bad, I was totally surprised when he asked if we wanted to go to Kerala on SICHREM’s behalf, all expenses paid. “I’ll give you some days to think about it and give me your decision,” he says. Julika and I both instantly told him it was a definite yes. So as of this Thursday, we’ll be manning a stall at Thrissur’s own international film festival – VIBGYOR – raising money from the sale of SICHREM’s own branded mugs etc. Even better, we’re free to watch whatever films we like in between stall sessions, and attend talks and debates that are also happening alongside. I’ve already been poring over my Lonely Planet guide for things to do.

On Saturday I got the chance to accompany Chithra to a meeting with representatives from several other NGOs, where the discussion centred around an upcoming event they were planning. It was only when we arrived that I learnt we were at the offices of Vimochana – a charity I’d heard about in England, who work with gender issues and women’s rights – so I was in my element! The event being organised was to coincide with the global movement 1 Billion Rising. This movement is a protest by women the world over against the growing culture of violence in so many countries, and aims to use dance and movement as a means of resistance and hope.

 

So the event is going to focus on these two themes, using dance, music, poetry and spoken word, street plays, painting, rangolis on the street, and a candle-lit march at sundown. Amidst the continuous stream of argument and voices talking over one another, it emerged that they hoped to mobilise between 5000 and 10,000 people! I had no idea how big this way going to be. So many passionate individuals from youth theatre groups were there, and people were talking about flash mobs, and occupying the Police Commissioner’s office to get permission for the day. I can’t wait to be involved! I’m hoping I might be able to offer to document the day in some form with my camera, or blogging – who knows.

After the meeting, I went back to my original plan for the half-day, and continued onto a supposedly good area to shop called Kammanahalli, where I ended up buying material for four outfits (they’re just all so nice).

Sunday came and I left to meet a fellow volunteer from 2WayDevelopment called Emma, who was stationed with street children’s charity BOSCO. After Thalli, and exchanging stories of our respective placements, we spent the hot afternoon in CubbonPark. It was free – a nice surprise in a country where even looking is a commodity – and full of couples and children playing cricket. The place was stuffed with huge bamboo stalks and lots of massive, spreading trees that I wish I knew the name of. To tick some things off the tourist list, we headed over to the Government-run museum and art gallery within the park, which again was only 4 Rs, with no foreigner’s tax! Though the museum was full of poorly-labelled pottery fragments and weaponry (some shining examples were “brick”, “clay pieces”, and “swords”), the art gallery had plenty of interesting statues (read lots of very busty women in a state of undress) and some modern canvases upstairs.

We discovered a quiet spot next to a lily pond, and sat for a bit in the shade, before following the sound of loud drum beats and music to an event in a stadium nearby. It turns out this was an inspirational event being held to encourage young Bangaloreans to volunteer in their communities. We could glimpse some men dancing and playing drums, but felt a bit out of place with everyone else there wearing the event’s branded t-shirt.

Leaving for MG Road, the main shopping street, we stopped at India’s version of Starbucks – Café Coffee Day. Though ludicrously priced, the slice of chocolate cake I had, with melting sauce and toffee centre, was so delicious I didn’t really care. I’ve been craving cake since I got here! After a quick look at some books further up the road, the afternoon was getting late, so we parted ways and planned to meet up again. Hopefully at 1 Billion Rising!

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 14 February 2013, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

via One Billion Rising.

Mysore

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This weekend has been an eventful one. Julika and I left for the nearby city of Mysore early on Saturday morning, catching a local bus which only took three hours or so, and arrived to wide avenues with trees, and clear air. It made me so glad to escape the pollution and crowded streets in Bangalore.

After taking an auto (-rickshaw) whose meter seemed to clock round at an alarmingly fast rate, we checked into India’s very special international brand of youth hostel. I’ve never seen a hostel looking so well-maintained. It had huge gardens and lots of benches amidst the palms, and we even got our own sheet and pillowcase! Clean showers, flushing toilets, washing facilities and drinking water – there was even ping pong in the canteen – and it only cost 100 Rs. for the night. That’s about £1.30.

I was starting to feel a little bit awful around lunch time, as we got a local bus back into the centre for some sight-seeing. I didn’t expect to get sick so soon into my trip, but we had been eating out a lot, and in most street-based restaurants they don’t have soap. Anyway, I nibbled at an idli in a back-street by the main circle (roundabout) before attempting to have a gander at the Maharaja’s Palace. By this time I’d already taken painkillers and Julika’s natural remedy for painful stomach cramps, to no avail. Doubled over by the main road and hanging onto a railing, I was in no mood to be the centre of every Indian national’s attention.

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A cow tries to catch a rickshaw ride

When an auto driver came to stop next to us I just ignored him, but Julika then told me he was offering to drive us round to the palace gate for free. Once we realised he wasn’t trying to con us, I collapsed into the seat and he took us the 600m or so to our destination. He was a very rare man indeed, and insisted I sit for five minutes to recover inside the auto, and he didn’t want a penny off us. It was when we saw the masses of people swarming into the palace gates that we decided to recuperate in the shade for an hour, after waving him off.

As the cramps finally started to abate, we made it through the hordes of people, and I pulled my trick of producing the visa registration certificate at the ticket counter.

“200 rupees M’am.” The foreigner’s price (I call it white-person tax).

“Oh no, I work in India.”

“Please give me proof.”

“Here you go,” handing over photocopy, with impressive-looking government stamp.

“OK, 40 rupees.”

Wohoo, I’m officially an Indian!

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Maharaja’s Palace, Mysore

The Maharaja’s Palace itself was breath-taking – all red and gold domes and grandeur. In walking towards the entrance I think at least three or four different people asked to be photographed with us. Whether it’s a status thing or not to be in a photo with a white person I don’t know, but I often get people walking past who comment on my “beautiful pale skin”. One woman even stroked my arm. Children are always trying to touch you, or parents proffer their kids’ hands to shake. This is fine in moderation, but on this day there were so many people due to it being a public holiday, that we didn’t get given space to breath.

It was so crowded inside that only a shuffle was possible. Apart from other people’s heads, I can really only recall what the ceilings of various rooms looked like. When we stopped to sit and rest in the main hall, people would look at us as they passed, or comment, or point. So far, so normal. Then out of nowhere, a large family group suddenly pressed upon us trying to get their children to speak English, and all wanting to ask the same questions – “What is your good name?” “Where are you from?” – and treating us like animals in a zoo.

It was too much, still being ill, and I was so glad to escape into the cool gardens after we swam through the rest of the crowds.

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Coloured powder at Devaraja Market, Mysore

A trip to Devaraja Market with plenty of haggling over incense sticks and coloured powders made the day complete. I was looking forward to some sleep and hopefully no more stomach cramps back in the hostel. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow however, a large party of over-excited young Indian girls crowded into the female dormitory, and subsequently spent the night chatting and laughing. I think I had no more than 4 hours sleep. To top things off, we arrived in the canteen for breakfast at the allotted time, to be told that it only lasted half an hour, and we had just missed it by two minutes. Grrrrr.

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Hindu’s performing puja at Chamundeswari Temple, Chamundi Hill

Not to be perturbed we devoted our Sunday to Chamundi Hill, site of the ChamundeswariTemple. Taking the bus up, a road sign declared it to be one of the eight most sacred hills in south India. A vision of incense and quiet meditation entered my mind’s eye, with pilgrims going to worship in the temple, perhaps with the sound of the wind rustling the trees. In typical Indian fashion though, things were very different to the expectation. Rows of stalls selling stuffed tigers and ice creams lined the street, and so many food stands surrounded the main circle that I couldn’t even see the temple.

I managed to lose Julika as we separated in the market, and spent the next 45 minutes running from one useless police officer to another. “Oh yes Madam, make an announcement…loudspeaker! Loudspeaker!” Then they would walk off, leaving me in the middle of a crowd of Indian tourists and pilgrims to try and find someone else who would help me. In the end, I got so frustrated and it was so hot, that I marched back towards the bus drop-off, ignoring one poor girl who really wanted a picture (again), in mounting panic to try and find my friend. Then I suddenly saw Julika jump up from the roadside where she had been waiting patiently for me. It turned out she hadn’t really moved, and I’d been spending my time running around at the wrong end of the market. It was time for some lunch.

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The 1000 steps to the temple

To edit out the boring bits, suffice to say that we finished with a leisurely walk down the 1000 steps of the hill, passing several youths placing coloured powder onto each step as they walked up. I should do some research on this – it looked like a rite of passage or something. We also had our first follower of the trip, a man in his forties skulking behind as we descended. After I told him to go away, and we waited for another group to pass which we could join with, he disappeared, only to re-emerge further down. He was like our very own Gollum, slithering over the boulders and just looking at us. Pretty harmless though.

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Shiva’s Bull statue

At the large bull statue halfway down, built in dedication to the god Shiva, I did a small currency exchange with a street hawker who couldn’t change a £10 note somebody had given him. Taking advantage of the favour I’d done him, I bought one of his gorgeous miniature statues at a steal of 50 Rs. Mini-Shiva is now sat in the SICHREM office, watching that I don’t go on facebook too often.

We caught the bus back after a long, long queue for tickets across the tarmac, with buses trying to run us down every five minutes. Once in Bangalore again, we caught the last bus to Majestic Bus Terminal, plus one bum-grope by a tiny man who was no more than five foot tall. Then we had an altercation with the auto driver, who turned a 6km journey into 14km in an attempt to rob us of our money. Eventually he took what we offered him, after Julika’s male host stepped in. Finally, at 2:30am, it was time to sleep.

Despite all the grievances, or maybe because of them, it was a fantastic weekend. Just getting out of Bangalore and feeling like a tourist renewed some of that love for India which has been hiding away in me for the past couple of weeks. Obviously working in India was going to feel very different to being a tourist, but it was good to feel the smile spreading across my face, every time I saw a mandir, or thought of the Hindu priest who put the tikka on my forehead. There is so much more to see of this country, and I want to see it all.

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Hanuman statue, Mysore

Mehndi

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I’m sat here looking at today’s date not believing that it hasn’t even been two weeks since I landed in Delhi airport. SICHREM have been working me so hard that I’ve not had much time to think.

To begin where I left off, the homesickness (thankfully) abated quite quickly, largely after I was taken on a sight-seeing tour of Bangalore’s answer to Kew by my Ardash. The place was called Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, and I managed to sneak in at the local price of just 10 Rs, thanks to his cunning. Though the gardens themselves were a little dry and tired, it was a hilarious outing because of Ardash’s friend, Ardash (helpfully-named, I know). Visiting for a few days from his home in Kerala, Ardash 2nd made me laugh so much, despite not speaking English, that my stomach was hurting by the end of the day. We ate Thali in a little canteen for about 80 Rs, and he must have finished his plate in about three minutes flat.

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He went back home on Tuesday however, and the rest of my week has consisted of time spent in the SICHREM office, and days at a time attempting to register my visa. Indian bureaucracy could safely win the title for most inefficient service in the world, and I knew it would take more than one day to get everything sorted. The amount of time I spent in the FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) however was unbelievable. On the first day I spent 7 hours attempting to register, and the second day came to six hours just waiting in the office. I got the strong feeling that had I had some cash in my hand, the staff might not have invented so many extra documents that were apparently vital to registering.

Day three’s attempt was the final, and successful one. It was almost effortless by comparison, and I walked out with my little piece of paper with a stamp on it so elated, purely because I had put so much effort into earning it. I hope I never have to go back there again.

At SICHREM, I began work on the tasks specified for me before arrival. Several staff including myself were however called into a meeting with Mr Mathews, the coordinator, to prepare a joint document to be published as a chapter in a human rights defender’s upcoming book. Having spent what days that I wasn’t at the FRRO frantically trying to dredge statistics and case studies from the various resources available, I have finished my short contribution within the 10 days we were given! Now back to the other stuff!

I’ve also been hanging out with another international volunteer from Germany, called Julika. We spent Sunday evening with her hosts – a young couple living in a small flat in Indiranagar – going round Bangalore’s National Art Gallery, and tasting all the different foods on ‘food street’. The highlight of my day was definitely learning the word for testicles in ‘Hindi’ though.

After being invited back to their apartment for dinner, I spent the night on Julika’s mattress, and was doted on by Ahmad and Suvrata the whole time. They have the two cutest cats, and are refreshingly modern in their outlook. I ended up having a very deep discussion with Ahmad about art, Radiohead and religion within hours of having met them. What wonderful people! Next weekend will probably see me travelling to Mysore with them during the Saturday holiday – can’t wait!

Airports, Homesickness and Buses

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 Well it’s come to writing my first post in India, and I’ve no idea where to begin as there’s so much to say.

To briefly skip over the less than thrilling trials of travelling by Air India, both of my flights were delayed, which meant I got to practice my skills at sleeping on metal airport benches…twice. Why do they always make them so uncomfortable? In Delhi airport at least they had considerately provided some reclining sleeper chairs, but being in such short supply, they were all occupied.

I arrived hassle-free into Bangalore’s airport however, collecting my bag and walking straight out in literally five minutes. I guess Karma has to kick in at some point, right? Driven straight to the door of my homestay, I met the family I’d be living with over the coming months.

Initially I was confused by the large number of people present in the main room, who all turned out to be friends, or various relations of complicated connection, leaving only four family members in the core household:

The mother, Vanita, is a fantastic cook, and she has been gleefully teaching me random words in Kannada. It turns out my efforts (though pitiful) to learn Hindi were indeed in vain, as my family and most of Bangalore speaks either Kannada, or English.

The father, Paul – or Sunil as he’s known by friends – has his own business making door frames and the like, which he commutes to at very late hours on his moped. He’s been incredibly welcoming so far, though he’s a very eager Christian convert, and gets the family to sing and pray twice a day. I’ve already been dragged to church this Sunday. I just hope it’s not catching.

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Daniel, or Ardesh, is the eldest son at 19. He speaks great English and is my main translator for conversations with his parents. Not only is he a good laugh, but he kindly took me out around Bangalore and helped me to register for my visa. This may sound like a small effort, but trying to register took seven hours and five buses to do so. A great lad.

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Finally the younger brother David, or Sandesh, at 17, is studying commerce (or something like business or management studies) at college. I haven’t seen him as much because of this, but when I do he always seems to either be rolling out roti flour or watching TV.

To reference the second part of this post title, one of the main problems I’ve been facing in these first few tender days has been, surprisingly, homesickness.

I didn’t expect to ever get it that bad, as I’m already so familiar with India, and thus things like the food and the traffic and the people aren’t nearly so daunting. It was more the thought of being away for a year which started to press down on me – so much so that I barely slept at all on my first night. Being away from home, and my boyfriend, for so long seemed utterly unbearable, and I was ready to go straight back to the airport the next day.

After several texts and phone calls though I managed to calm down enough to finally get to sleep, and my first spontaneous lesson in Kannada from my host mother (“Vanita Auntie”) made me feel human enough to actually take my mind wholly off escaping India altogether.

As the days have progressed, and I’ve come to appreciate how lucky I’ve been in my homestay allocation – my own room and en suite bathroom with a flushing toilet (!) – the feeling has begun to diminish. That’s not to say it hasn’t disappeared, just that I have started to function enough to get up and occupy my mind with other things.

My first day at the SICHREM office was one of those other things. Luckily for me, Daniel announced on the evening beforehand that he’d been offered a part-time position at the charity through family contacts (apparently he is somehow related to everyone in this city), and so I gladly let him guide our journey to the office the next day.

Again, I was very happily surprised with the set-up and facilities at my placement. The office has three good-sized rooms and each of the fifteen or so paid staff has their own desk and projects. There are several other volunteers – though the label interns might be more appropriate – from local Indian universities on placement as part of their course, and another international volunteer from Germany who I have yet to meet.

My introductory meeting with my supervisor Anitha (again, related to my host family) outlined the tasks I would be given and the specifics of SICHREM’s human rights work. I’m sorry to say that a combination of her softly spoken manner and some residual jetlag (maybe) started to lull me to sleep, and I had to fight every blink back open again whilst she explained everything to me. It’s probably why I can’t really remember much about what she said.

Before you start thinking that I’m lazy though, I’ve been busy reading SICHREM’s previous reports on different issues, impressively published in small paper-back format. My head has been so full of ideas in response to the different challenges proposed to me, that I’ve been itching to go into the office all weekend. This is despite the fact that tomorrow is a public holiday, in recognition of a Tamil festival, meaning that I’ll likely be amongst a minority of staff.

All in all my first few days in India have been totally different to the expectations I had – no running into the first shop on the street and filling my bag with mehndi cones, or buying sarees in ten different colours and fabrics just to throw around my room – but it’s starting to become normal very quickly. After my first week in the office, I’ll hopefully be able to judge the pattern of events in the longer term, and get an idea of how things will pan out. Even better, I’m going shopping next weekend!

Four Weeks And Counting

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Wow, what a fantastic week! It began last Thursday with my fundraising evening at Design Orchard in Brigg. The lovely ladies there had very kindly agreed to open the shop late on my behalf, allowing my guests access to not only their shop, but free coffee and cake. I would then get 10% of whatever profits they made from the sale of shop goods on the night.

After heavily flyering for the event, and posting numerous ads in the local papers (as well as forcing flyers onto anyone who bought a raffle ticket) I was expecting a decent turn-out. However, the weather turned foul during the afternoon, and when I arrived Brigg was dead. I wasn’t too discouraged, eagerly setting up my beautiful display of hand-made decorations (if I do say so myself) and all the raffle prizes I’d managed to acquire free of charge.

In the end though, only one family from the village, and my mum and her friend, turned up. For this reason I decided to postpone drawing my raffle until I’d gathered a few more people to buy tickets, and where there would be a good crowd to attend.
I therefore went to several of the local pubs asking about quiz nights, and found success with The White Hart in Brigg. Arriving with my trusty collection bucket (pictured in an earlier post) and all my raffle tickets – pre-folded by my nan – I sat in wait for all the people who’d agreed to come.

No one turned up.

After about half an hour of panicked calling to my various friends, I just decided to get on with it. Once I actually got up and started selling raffle tickets, with Andy the landlord’s helpful announcement on my behalf, I did a roaring trade and had some very interesting (if that’s the word) conversations with some men in knitted reindeer jumpers, and a man who practically lived in the pub who bought £20 worth of tickets! After the raffle was drawn, and the winners spent anxious moments deciding between which wine bottle to grab, I spent an entertaining half hour chatting to two older gentlemen about travelling and the state of the world in general, and received some invaluable advice on testing wine quality. A life-long skill I’m sure.

I managed to make a further £75 throughout the evening, bringing my total for the raffle to £173! It was such a fantastic evening, and I want to thank both Design Orchard and The White Hart again for all their support and generosity. Here’s to next week’s fundraising event, at another pub quiz!

Fear of Falling

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Today was the day of my dreaded ordeal – the bungee jump!

After several problems in trying to reach Bray Lake via public transport, and having to be rescued by my friend with a car, we arrived to see a huge crane where people were already jumping off. There were queues of people who had jumped/were waiting to jump/watching people jump, so there was quite a good atmosphere building.

In the run-up this week I’d been getting so nervous, and my rising trepidation didn’t ease as I walked toward the crane. However, after seeing several others jump, and gradually losing the feeling in more and more of my cold toes (we had to take our shoes off), I just wanted to get it over with. I was almost slightly excited as I was helped into my waist and ankle harnesses, and stepped into the crane basket.

When we rose up to the top though I looked down and started to become afraid. The guy up there with me opened the gate of the basket and told me to step toward the edge. I tried to step back and began to realise I might not be able to go through with it. He was having none of it though, and made me cross my arms over my chest before tipping me out into the open air below before I even knew it was happening.

I think I probably screamed the whole way down, with my eyes screwed tight shut. I don’t think you realise quite how fast the ground comes toward you when there’s nothing but air in front of you. It’s one thing to enjoy free-fall at Thorpe Park when you’re strapped into a chair, but incomparable to the absolute fear of dropping with no rope beneath you, and no cushion of hydraulics. Once the rope caught me, it was actually quite enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll ever be doing it again. One experience is enough!

Here are some photos from before and after my jump, and a very short video taken just before the camera batteries ran out.

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See the video here.

Please, please, please, don’t let me have become mentally scarred for no reason – if you have yet to sponsor me, go to donatetoabigail.blogspot.co.uk. Everything that is fund-raised goes toward helping cover accommodation and visa costs for the duration of my stay. This volunteer placement is entirely self-funded, and I need your help in order to carry out vital research for the fantastic charity SICHREM.

Thank you for all your help, and I hope you enjoyed witnessing my pain!

A Long Drop

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As I sit and write this I am now in Egham, Surrey (or thereabouts) and counting down the hours until the dreaded bungee jump. I think I am far more nervous about the jump than for leaving England or any of the other challenges I’ll face on India. I don’t mind the thought of falling – I’d love to do a skydive, just as soon as they make it cheaper – but the recoil from the rope, and having no control over your motion, already makes me feel queasy.

Fortunately I’ve had lots of positive responses from friends, work colleagues, and family. My sponsorship form has been pinned up at work for a few weeks gradually gaining signatures, and more people have been asking me about it. I haven’t really been concentrating on getting sponsorship in recent weeks however due to the proximity of other fundraising events, and hence I have yet to reach my target amount. Sponsorship currently adds up to just under £200, and ideally I would love to triple this!

I know that I have only 23 hours and 35 minutes in which to do this (oh god), but I know I can get more people to sponsor me. This is so important for me to be able to cover the accommodation costs whilst I’m volunteering in India. Though comparitively cheaper to live in than the UK, Bangalore is still reasonably expensive for India, and over a year’s stay will likely cost in excess of £2000. As my budget currently stands, I do not have enough to pay for the whole year and really need to up my ante in this regard.

For the first two months I’ll be living with a family about 5km from the SICHREM office. I don’t know if they have any children, or what sort of home/area they live in, but I am so excited for the chance to live as part of the local community. It will far exceed any tourist guide or book, and should let me settle in very easily. Once I’ve got acquainted and can navigate my way round the city like a pro, and maybe even having picked up some culinary prowess, I might then go on to stay in an apartment with another family, or share a place with a professional city worker. I may even get super-confident and stay by myself in a newly-built set of apartments in the city. All of these options, my supervisor at the charity tells me, come in under 15000 INR a month (£200ish), and the homestay option where I also receive 2 full meals a day, is only £130/month!

Despite this, I still desperately require funds to be able to afford everything. I therefore ask, if you would like to help me in working unpaid for this fantastic charity, and support a volunteer placement which will be making a genuine and important difference to people’s awareness of, and experiences of, human rights issues in South India, please support me online, or in person by signing my sponsorship form. I am in Egham until Tuesday or Wednesday next week, so if you don’t see me before my ordeal, you still have time to make my day. 🙂

I cannot emphasise enough how much I am loathe to do this bungee jump, and am genuinely scared at the thought of stepping off that platform. If nothing else, please sponsor me just to see me suffer. Evidence of my pain will be posted tomorrow, in full hd!

A Fantastic Evening

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When I turned up to the fundraising evening which Scunthorpe’s Amnesty International group had organised on my behalf, I didn’t know what to expect. Billed as an Indian food evening, taking donations for entry, I had no idea how the evening would pan out, or how many people might turn up. David, the organiser, advised me to bring some extra stuff to boost my third of the takings for the night.

I therefore arrived with my oversized handbag stuffed full of my remaining silk scarves, dressed in too few layers for the cold November evening, and being a little flustered after getting lost several times (as usual). When droves of people began turning up I couldn’t believe it. The excellent cook, Liz, whose house the gathering was held in, had made so many different Indian dishes that all looked amazing. I wish I’d remembered to take photos! For dessert there was some mango cream – the lightest thing you’ll ever taste – traditional homemade rice pudding with fruit in, and my favourite, mithai (Indian sweets). I think I ate about 3 huge gulab jamuns, and can’t recall how many barfi.

One of the women kindly offered to make an announcement on my behalf about the work I was fundraising for, and the scarves I’d laid out on sale on a table in the corner. After that, all the women started thronging round it, and I ended up making £70 just from scarves!

At the end of the evening, Dave came up to give me my share of the profits, and it came to £110 – again, I couldn’t believe how much I’d just added to my fundraising total. I only ever expected to get about £40 from the evening, and thought that might even be a little optimistic.

The following day I gatecrashed another local event with my raffle tickets in hand – this time an art exhibition. I think I probably made more money than the organisers did from painting sales! The profits from this weekend alone has now raised my total to £704.34, not counting the money I expect to get from sponsorship for my upcoming bungee jump!

Speaking of which, you can still sponsor me for this, or get more minute-by-minute detail on the day (1st December) here.

A Busy Week

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As the title suggests, this week has been a bit jam-packed. Thus, despite my good intentions, I have again not come around to putting up this blog post as soon as I would have liked.

Anyhow, I received a call late on Thursday night last week from a lady I have been liaising with from Brigg Town Council, asking if I wanted to gatecrash another event (not quite her words) the following evening. I went along with bucket and fresh raffle ticket book in hand, and perched at the top of the stairs waiting for any unsuspecting attendees to walk in. My placement was clearly spot-on, as it enabled me to capture £46 from all the people who didn’t manage to sprint past me fast enough. What a fantastic and rapid way to boost my fundraising! I also succeeded in inundating all of these lovely people with flyers for my upcoming fundraising evening with local business Design Orchard. Looks like my efforts might be more successful yet!

The Saturday following this was devoted then to a pre-planned stall at Wrawby Autumn Fair, in the village hall. I was indecisively umm-ing and aah-ing about going beforehand, as I was meant to be at work that day, but committed in the end to the fundraising task ahead – and I am so glad I did!

I walked into the hall during the initial set-up expecting it be dead, and was shocked at the number of stalls that were already in place. I think I was the last one to be ready. I had a huge table (which I spent about 20 minutes re-arranging, much to my Nan’s annoyance – thanks Nan for the help by the way!).

My Nan, the ever-faithful helper

There was a real village atmosphere (or was that just me?) as I saw old faces from my primary school years coming in  and pretty much every one of them bought something from me. Even though the completion of some of the Christmas tree decorations was still ongoing during the 2 hours that the fair was open to the public, I managed to make £42.50! That’s over £80 in two days – enough for…about a month’s food in India? Or perhaps a quarter of the cost of my visa if you want to put it that way.

I was so pleased with myself, and the stall looked fantastic, as did all the decorations.

Some girl stood behind a stall

The professional touch…

After clearing up and taking the remaining stock home, I spent the rest of my week putting the finishing touches to the final few decorations still needing buttons/ribbons/wire. It may not sound like a lot of work, but such small things can take a very long time to get through, especially when you keep stabbing yourself with the needle. If I wasn’t self-employed, I’d be able to sue my boss for damages.

Just when it seemed that all was nearly completed, with only the final 20 or so pieces to finish, my poor, overworked sewing machine had a massive tantrum and started eating anything I put under its foot. Feeling confident, I pulled out my special lubricating oil and subjected every moving part I could see to rivers of the stuff. After this didn’t work however, and my machine continued to make a horrible clacking noise, I enlisted the help of my Dad. Together, we nearly dismantled the thing in an attempt to get at the inner machinery. Eventually I found the problem, smothered all the cogs in petroleum jelly, and it began sewing again like a dream. Pity it only took me a whole afternoon to figure that out.

Thursday evening then saw the completion of the final favour, which brings us to today.

This Saturday was the date I’ve been counting down to for over a month and a half, the one which began the entire crazed sewing project. The Humberside WI Christmas Fair. I therefore expected to sell as much of my stock as possible, and in the best scenario sell out, making a couple of hundred pounds in the process. I also had some silk scarves imported from India which sold like hot-cakes at the Wrawby fair.

Scarves imported from India, modelled by my mannequin

But I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of customer interest. Despite a great deal of footfall throughout the day, and the fair being open for six hours, I only sold 5 items from my stall, and made up the rest of my pitiful £34.50 profit from raffle ticket sales. In all honesty it wasn’t really worth me going, and I’ll now have to put the rest of my (mountain) of stock onto ebay or etsy (more to come on that). It’s ironic that I did much better on an event which only arose because I was already planning to attend this one. It wasn’t for lack of customer interest. I think the people who came to the fair were in general more interested in having an afternoon out than seriously purchasing goods, as several of the other stall holders also did poorly on sales.

Well, the experience has still served me a valuable lesson. I’ll now be focussing more of my attention onto selling raffle tickets – they’re easy to carry on me at all times and have a low mark-up price which encourages more people to buy. Furthermore, they don’t need to run out, as I can always purchase another book. 🙂

On a brighter note, my next upcoming event should be great fun. Scunthorpe’s Amnesty International group have kindly agreed to hold a joint fundraiser evening for me, where some of the profits will be mine, and the rest Amnesty’s. It’s basically a curry evening where people pay to attend and get their meal. I still need to think of something to contribute, edible or otherwise…until next time!

The Adventure Begins

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Today marks the start of my trip.

My flights have just been booked, my travel insurance is paid for. I’m actually going to INDIA!!!!!

I managed to find a really great deal with Southall Travel, who gave me the same flight that all the other companies and price comparison sites were selling, for only £480. Take that BA, trying to charge me £600! So I’m travelling Air India – they have fantastic films in their TV collections, so that’ll help me while away some (3) hours. I’m going to have to take a list of Bollywood  films with me, so that I can maximise my opportunity to buy out every single one.

The insurance company asked plenty of confusing health questions, some along the lines of, “We assume you’ve never been to hospital with this condition, answer yes or no”. Well the answer is I have been, so is that a no for ‘I haven’t been’, or ‘No I disagree with your assumption’? I also had to quickly pretend I wasn’t quite so decrepit as I really am when I saw they wanted to charge me £70 extra for the privilege of being ill.

Following on from which, I got my typhoid jab out the way yesterday, so I’m all vaccinated up!

My flight leaves on January 9th, and I’ll be returning December-ish (depending on how long the Indian Government will tolerate me staying/throw me out of their country). I can’t even begin to express how excited I am now. It’s a good job I booked the flights when I was alone, because I went running round the whole house squealing for about 10 minutes.

I’ve started looking at places I want to visit in between work days as well, and there’s just too much to do in one trip. India is so big that to get from one city to the next takes days by train, and I want to visit them all! My boss (who is Indian) was also asking me yesterday whether I wanted him to set me up with an Indian boy whilst I’m out there. Erm…I’m OK thanks? It’s great though that people keep talking to me about my trip. It’s getting others interested (which spreads knowledge) and helps with generating wider and wider circles of support. So I’ll leave you with a reminder of why I’m going, and why it’s important, to keep spreading that message:

http://www.indiatogether.org/women/violence/violence.htm