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Myakka Blog

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IMAGE programme - a visit to the village of Khari

Monday, 10 November 2014

This blog is straight from one of our Founders and Directors, Georgie who has just returned from a trip to India to visit our suppliers and to see the good work that Myakka’s involvement with the Indiability Foundation has done. Georgie is a Trustee of the Indiability Foundation and has been working with SKSN School since 2008, which is a cause close to her heart. A word of warning though…some of the posters may be a little shocking for those of us who are feeling a little faint hearted and best avoided if you’re eating!

As a trustee of Indiability Foundation, I have an overview of the many and varied projects which we as an organisation are involved with.  However it was our visit to the village of Khari one October evening during a recent visit to Jodhpur which really cemented my understanding of the strength and incredible value of these truly grassroots projects.

One such project, the IMAGE programme was originally developed in 2005 and now sits under the Indiability umbrella.  The aim is to use sport to breakdown the social barriers between non-disabled and less able-bodied children with a desire to change deeply entrenched division within communities.  The community side of this project is currently in the pilot stage, supported by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, with the village of Khari as one of the five villages identified for inclusion within this test project.

The village lies around 30km north of Jodhpur and is home to around 250 families (population of 1533 people). On arrival, even with only a couple of hours’ notice, you could feel the enthusiasm of the local children with eager, smiling faces and lots proudly wearing their IMAGE shirts.  The scheme covers five educational segments aimed at children aged between 8 and 12 years, using sport to break down barriers and educate.  Health & hygiene is the first topic, moving on to education, disability, gender and substance abuse. 

The IMAGE team engages the children through simple team games and activities, opening the channels of communication through which to spread some fundamentally simple educational messages.  And these messages don’t just spread to the children, natural inquisition draws parents and older relatives to the sidelines who also learn and benefit.  Community adoption extends the reach beyond the target audience.  Under health & hygiene, the conversation is not for the faint-hearted, firmly based around poo, diarrhoea, the issues around open defecation and very simplistic correlations to demonstrate the volume of bacteria and viruses in excrement.  Educational posters, the provision of tippy-taps and discussion around the importance of hand washing make direct and tangible improvements to life… all delivered in a fun way using the medium of sport to draw together varying ages, sexes and castes.

This in itself is a hugely worthwhile project with mid-term results showing tangible success, however the cleverest angle has not even been highlighted. 

This programme is delivered by young mentors from SKSN Institute – a boarding school for students with physical disabilities.  In India, particularly rural areas, disabled individuals sit below the lowest of low castes and are often outcast from society since they are seen as worthless members of society.  Through specialist mentoring by Indiability, these very young people are enabled to deliver this effective grassroots programme, not just developing their own personal skills but also facilitating a tangible shift in outlook.  This kind of project turns the tables on such deeply engrained social attitudes and develops a growing acceptance of individuals who may previously have been held in low esteem. 

For Simon, myself and our children, it was a memorable evening with a tour of the village, a display of traditional dancing, endless photos of smiling faces, the obligatory camel ride and most importantly a chance to see the IMAGE team in action, doing what they do best… breaking down barriers and engaging people.

Driving home in the golden Jodhpur dusk, what struck me most was the incredible layers that exist within this apparently simple project.  Its genius and it’s truly making a difference on so many levels!

Simon has just returned from his latest visit to India - to find out about his latest visit, take a look here

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