Project RISHI UCI members traveled to Elandaikudam this summer to determine the needs of the village and build connections with its people.
After spending the school year fundraising, analyzing data from previous trips, and organizing surveys and projects, Project RISHI members traveled to Elandaikudam in July 2015. Elandaikudam is a village located in the district of Ariyalur in the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu and was adopted by the UCI chapter in 2014. Upon arriving to the village, members began administering surveys to the various families. These surveys were designed to help members engage in an informative conversation with the villagers in order to pinpoint significant issues Project RISHI can work to address. The surveys lasted anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour and they all revealed two common issues: water sanitation and a lack of toilets.
While Elandaikudam has its own water supply, that water is contaminated with chemicals and undrinkable, as was confirmed by water quality testing conducted during the trip. As a result, Elandaikudam receives less harmful, although still contaminated, water from a secondary village. Unfortunately, however, not all homes have access to this water. Through conversations with the villagers, it became clear that the families that did receive water from the secondary village did not boil it in order to mitigate its harmful effects. Furthermore, none of the villagers collected rain water because this practice was looked down upon. UCI’s Project RISHI is now looking into the effectiveness of rainwater harvesting tanks and water boiling along with the possibility of educating the villagers about these methods in order to provide Elandaikudam with additional sources of safe drinking water.
Only a quarter of the homes in Elandaikudam have a toilet
The families in Elandaikudam that have a toilet are in the minority. Therefore, it came as no surprise that one of the most common requests villagers made was for toilets or public restrooms. Currently, those that do not have toilets go around their homes or near the school health office. Not only does this arrangement create unsanitary conditions and a lack of privacy, it also affects the students. Despite the heat, nearby classrooms are forced to keep their windows closed because of the strong smell. A lack of toilets was determined to be another prevalent issue in the village and the UCI chapter will spend the school-year fundraising and working with the villagers and other organizations in order to begin the process of providing toilets to those families that would like them.
Project RISHI UCI member Saranya presenting a story about trash pickup to students
We ended the trip by visiting the children of the village to read them a story about the importance of trash pick-up in order to keep the village clean. While this visit to Elandaikudam was a time for our chapter to explore the village to orient ourselves for the coming school-year, it was also an opportunity for us to begin to make a contribution to the village, forge meaningful relationships with the villagers, and gain their trust.
Author: Mayuri Patel
Originally published at www.projectrishi.org.