Making Steps Towards a Sustainable and Personalized Solution

Project RISHI UCI maneuvers through the research and finance stages of a potential toilet installation project

It has been almost two years since the UCI chapter adopted Elandaikudam. Since then, our chapter has expanded its membership, maintained a growing presence on campus, and worked to establish a stable presence in our village. During our India trips and throughout the school year, we have explored and immersed ourselves in the dynamics of Elandaikudam. With this immersion, we were able to pinpoint critical issues in the community that we seek to address. This immersion, however, has also helped us understand and appreciate the complexity of Elandaikudum. Elandaikudam is a real, living, breathing village — the product of centuries of growth and development. Therefore, any action we take has real implications on the community, their trust in us, and the relationship we have built over the years.

During the last India trip, we identified the lack of toilets as an issue our community was facing and that our chapter could help address. This brought our chapter to the research and finance stages of the toilet implementation plan — two of the most critical stages of the Project RISHI methodology. The UCI chapter initiatives committee discussed the possibility of a partnership with an NGO located near Elandaikudam. Not only was the NGO a local organization with years of experience in working with communities such as ours to install toilets, we had also worked with closely with the NGO during our most recent India trip to survey the villagers. After discussing our plan to establish toilets in the homes of the villagers who sought one with the NGO, we learned that our goal was not a financially sustainable one. Sustainability is one of the hallmarks of Project RISHI’s mission; it ensures that any of the solutions we propose or implement in our target villages are not merely temporary fixes that fail to understand the greater issue at hand.

Elandaikudam’s pristine simplicity — something we are mindful of when designing our solutions

In order to address the issue of sustainability and ensure that our solutions are efficient, effective, and specialized for our village, our chapter is re-evaluating our plan for toilet installation in Elandaikudam. We will spend the upcoming trip surveying villagers to get an exact number of the homes seeking toilets. We will also focus on fine-tuning our plan and discussing our goals for this project with the NGO we had previously been working with. In addition to further exploring the toilet issue in Elandaikudam, we will be conducting water quality testing in order to further research another pressing issue in our village — water sanitation. This will help us determine the root cause of the water contamination in Elandaikudam, how this might be affecting the villagers, and what could be done to alleviate it.