Posts Tagged India
The Adventure Project set an ambitious goal. Blog writers and their readers worldwide responded with enthusiasm, compassion and generosity.
The idea came to Becky Straw and Jody Landers, Co-Founders of the Adventure Project, from members of their organization, known affectionately as “The Tribe.” One week before World Water Day (March 22nd) blog writers proposed a challenge to raise $10,000 in one day by promoting The Adventure Project’s latest initiative: repairing broken water pump handles in northern India. The anticipated results of the initiative are twofold. By bringing wells that have fallen into disrepair back into use, 300 more people per month (3,600 per year) will have access to clean water. In addition, the initiative will provide training and jobs to enable unemployed people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Becky thought the tribe members might be able to recruit 50 bloggers to promote the fundraising effort. Jody, an eternal optimist, suggested 100 bloggers. One week later, 137 bloggers had signed up to participate. As the final seconds of World Water Day elapsed, the amount raised reached $11,390. Donations are still rolling in, by the way. All funds collected go to WaterAid, a charity that takes a unique approach to providing the poorest communities with potable water.
“It all came together like magic,” Becky reports. She asked her friend and colleague, Nicole Skibola, to find a company that might be willing to provide matching funds to the promotion. In her role as a “Social Innovation Strategist” with Apricot Consulting in New York City, Nicole works with corporations to create and execute effective programs for social change. A former attorney, Nicole also serves as a “Social Enterprise Advisor,” for the Adventure Project.
Nicole e-mailed a list of her friends and business contacts in an effort to locate a matching funds sponsor. Kathya Bustamante’s name happened to be on the list from a position she previously held with UBS. Kathya, among other interests, now volunteers for TPRF as Manager of the Fundraising Team. Kathya recognized a common thread between both organizations: “Clean Water” and “Dignity.” She forwarded Nicole’s request to decision makers at TPRF. Within twenty-four hours, TPRF committed to providing up to $10,000 in matching funds. “Awesome,” Nicole commented in an e-mail to Becky and Kathya, “the fastest foundation response in history.”
One final footnote—Although TPRF agreed to provide up to $10,000 in matching funds, we surprised the girls by cutting a check for the full amount of the funds raised on World Water Day: $11,390.
“Your response was so amazing and so responsible,” Becky said about TPRF’s participation.
*Photos courtesy of Esther Havens for The Adventure Project
Modern India is much like a newly minted land mass; cooling on the surface while bubbling with volcanic activity underneath. Red-hot economic growth masks the nation’s underlying socio-political problems.
The utter economic desperation of Indian pastoralists has provided verdant soil for Marxist Leninist ideas to flourish in rural hamlets. Maoist guerillas recruit these tribal villagers in their crusade to replace the Indian Democratic Republic with a socialist state by means of armed insurrection. The urban-centered Indian press has chosen to downplay this story, preferring instead to focus on the country’s recent industrial boom. Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, stands apart from the Indian Establishment in his assessment of the matter. He calls the Maoist guerilla activity “the biggest internal security threat” the country faces.
The Maoist activists, known as “Naxolites,” have found a receptive audience in the Indian pastorals, known as “Tribals,” for two major reasons. The Tribal population of eighty million is the most disadvantaged segment of Indian society. Twenty-three percent of them are illiterate. Another fifty percent lives below the poverty line. In addition, the Indian Government, acting solely in its own interests, has expropriated Tribal land rich in minerals and other natural resources. The politically powerless Tribal people have nowhere to turn, except to the Naxolites, who press them into bands of roving militias, hunted and killed by government forces.
The Tribal people are not alone in their economic and political plight. A relatively thin veneer of privileged middle and upper class citizens covers a population of more than eight hundred and fifty million people who exist on two dollars a day or less. India’s corrupt and overly bureaucratic government cannot begin to cope with the nation’s staggering poverty. The outdated Indian caste system makes it more difficult for the poor to improve their lives. The predicament of India’s massive underclass is a persistent disease that constantly threatens the future well-being of the country’s entire society.
Another flashpoint of tension within India’s borders is the struggle with Pakistan for control of the Kasmir territory. After India won its independence from British rule, the country’s princely states enjoyed the freedom of choice to join either India or Pakistan. The Maharaja of Kashmir chose to join India because he was a Hindu. This decision was a bitter pill to swallow for the majority of the Kashmiri people who are Muslims. The agreement to annex Kashmir included a provision for a plebiscite to confirm the Maharaja’s decision. India never allowed the plebiscite to occur.
These seeds of conflict have erupted into three wars between India and Pakistan over control of this beautiful, northeastern territory. Tension has escalated even higher with the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both countries. In addition, militant Islamists in the territory are waging a bloody struggle for an independent state of Kashmir. With the separatist militants folded into the mix, the situation is as unstable as homemade nitroglycerin.
The conflict in Kashmir is indicative of a deeper, more serious problem; an innate hatred and distrust between Indian Hindus and their Muslim counterparts. This centuries old antagonism is rooted in religious intolerance. The rift began when Islamic fundamentalists invaded India in the sixth century. A noted scholar deemed this war as “probably the bloodiest in history.”
There is a basic incompatibility between the aggressive, xenophobic tenants of Islam, which proclaims Allah as the only God, and the polytheistic nature of Hinduism. Throughout the history of India’s independence movement, a series of political clashes between Muslims and Hindus echoed the animosity between the two groups. Even a great leader like Mahatma Gandhi failed to generate lasting cooperation between these factions. Splitting off Pakistan from India as a separate Muslim state has similarly failed to provide a solution. The hatred and distrust doggedly endures.
Undoubtedly, India faces major challenges in its quest for a peaceful and prosperous future. Surely, a more streamlined and efficient government would provide part of the answer. However, it is the people of India themselves who must learn to cooperate and share with one another to move forward into a brighter future.