July 2013 India: Changing my perspective
At first I felt guilty. Here I was in one of the poorest countries in the world, sitting in a beautiful hotel stuffing myself with the best food I have ever tasted. When I heard I was coming to India with Journeys for Change I thought that I would be living in rough conditions and helping to deliver polio drops or distributing food parcels while learning about social enterprises here. I could not have been more wrong. This is a journey for social entrepreneurs. We have been visiting projects created to change systems and influence behaviours so that there will be a day when individuals don’t have to deliver food parcels or search for children who need to be immunised.
I discovered that, in many of the projects, I would have been in the way out in the villages, just a tourist trying to pacify their own conscious. The organisations we visited are doing vital work on a large scale. One idea, one connection or one shift in a model can have far reaching consequences. To give you just one example: tens of millions of pregnant women and their babies are at risk in India due to iron deficiency. One solution is to go around the slums and villages handing out iron tablets. One of the organisations we spent time with here came up with a different solution. They realised that the women were not starving because of poverty, but because their culture dictates that they eat when the men have finished, so that there is often too little left to sustain them and their baby. A new solution is to link their husband’s small bank loan to a blood test of his wife. If her iron levels are too low he will not get the next tranche of his loan. Now the family have to prioritise the health of the woman and insure that she gets to eat. This example sums up my experience in India: project after project is seeking to transform individual lives by creating innovative and practical solutions. I’m not sure that this journey changed my life but it certainly changed my perspective