Friday, 17 October 2014

Nurturing leadership

Searching for leaders among the women of Gulabgarh. We need women (and girls) with leadership skills, who can help bring more women on board, offering them inspiration through their own acquired skills and progress. Leadership potential is there; it's just a matter of harvesting it and then sharing the fruits.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Not a Country for Women

A recent Spanish documentary entitled "Not a Country for Women," portrays women's role in Indian society and offers horrifying testimonies of what too many women in India are forced to suffer every day. 

We agree that this country is full of lights and shadows and, as in the words of one of the commentators, we believe that "India has started to follow a course of undoubtable modernization and of gender equality and which will be unstoppable. It is a country that has begun to move forward and it has begun to move forward with women of resilience." (min 37:00)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Red tape

I always remember the phrase a friend of mine used to say about India: “In India you'll need to wait patiently at many places for things to follow their due course.  So when you travel there, be sure to take a thick book with you so that you can just sit quietly and read while you wait." I'm sure that, among other things, he was referring to bureaucracy; in that case, I know he could say the same about many other countries, including Spain.

All this talk is here because after several years, our project is still awaiting a reply regarding our registration process. We're keeping our fingers and toes crossed because we so look forward to the positive changes and opportunities that having that official recognition by the Indian government would surely bring.

Finally, we'd like to thank our readers for their patience. We realize how long it's been since we've updated our blog. Some might even have thought that our education initiative had disappeared. Well, it hasn't and we're as enthused as ever and working as hard as ever to make it a success.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

My Interaction with the Women's Literacy Project by Alessandro Bordoli

Although I did not have the opportunity to teach the women involved in the Women’s Literacy Project, I did have the great pleasure of meeting them at the school picnic on Friday before I left. I sat with them for quite some time, and though a communicational barrier exists, we were able to express ourselves in some ways to each other.

One of the women, through a teacher standing nearby, told me that she wanted more than anything to express herself to me, to pour her heart out and tell about her village and her life and her desire to learn how to read and write, but that unfortunately she wasn’t capable of doing this. It was really a touching moment for me, and one that I will carry with me.

All of the women showed their great appreciation for my visit to their village, and they also showed great hospitality in trying to make me feel at home. They were so proud of their culture, but showed a strong desire to continue with their studies in the future, with the goal of gaining basic literacy. Their stories were touching, and their dedication and perseverance gave me pride in the great strides the Women’s Literacy Project has made so far and continues to make. It is an organization dedicated to fundamentally changing these women’s lives for the better, and I am so proud that Mari, Andrea, and Tashi have allowed me to participate, even in a small way, in such a crucial project. I sincerely believe that education opens windows and doors to new opportunities in ways that other things cannot, and I think this is especially evident in the education of women, who have a reverberating effect on the entire village around them. Being able to see this education and the progression of this project, even if only for a week, was the highlight of my entire trip to India. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Working at the Himalayan Cultural School in Gulabgarh by Alessandro Bordoli

I worked at the Himalayan Cultural School, located in Gulabgarh, for only three days unfortunately: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The experience really had an overwhelming impact on me, however. I was able to work with several different classes, which meant I interacted with kids over a wide span of ages, from very young children with little experience learning English to older kids who had studied the language for years. The kids all showed the utmost gratitude towards me for having come to teach them. I tried to show them activities that maybe they weren’t so accustomed to, to move them out of their comfort zones and begin to interact with the English language in new ways: through group work, speaking in front of their peers, creating presentations for the class, expressing themselves through short compositions, etc.

I found the experience to be extremely rewarding, and even after three days I could see that I was having some impact on the students. They responded quite well to my challenges, albeit with a little initial hesitation as was expected, and I believe they really enjoyed the classes. I had the younger students come to the front of the class and do something as simple as introducing themselves to me or showing me where their "hands" or "feet" were, but they absolutely loved it. One of the memories that sticks out the most from my trip to India is of my younger students coming up to me the next day to shake my hand and introduce themselves as I arrived at school. They all wanted to show me that they had learned it properly. Their laughs and smiles as we did these activities was enough to convince me that my efforts were making some impact. With the older students, we did some role play to learn restaurant vocabulary, and I also had them present Gulabgarh and their favorite things about where they live to the class. One day we played a game where they had to ask their classmates what they like to do in their free time. There was definite hesitation initially, but they soon really took to these tasks, and I could sense their confidence growing after only a few days. 

It was in between the classes, when I could sit and talk with the kids as a friend and not only a teacher, that I really had the best interactions, though. All of the students showed a real interest in my personal
life: where I came from, what my family was like, what I did for fun. They also strived to show me their own culture and introduce me to the life where they live. They had great pride in their village and the beautiful location around it, and I learned quite a bit about the place from just speaking to the kids. Their ambitions and their vivacity for life give me an extra motivation in wanting to return to the area in the near future to help teach again. One of the last activities I did with the students was have them write letters to imaginary American students explaining where they are from, what they like to do, etc. My hope is to bring these letters to a school where I live and start a pen pal program, a chance for students on both sides to learn about a place and culture different from their own. I hope I can return next summer to deliver some of the return letters myself!

Friday, 12 July 2013

One Volunteer's Trip to Gulabgarh by Alessandro Bordoli

I spent one week in Gulabgarh, and although my time was limited, the place had an immense impact on me. The trip there from the nearest airports, Srinagar and Jammu, is long and follows treacherous roads along awesome heights through the mountains. As you travel there, you really get the sense that you are traveling somewhere remote, which for me was a new experience. When I finally arrived in Gulabgarh, exhausted, I was amazed by the innate beauty of the location. The village is situated on the banks of a river and surrounded by the towering and snow-covered peaks. It is firmly nestled between the river and the mountains, almost as if delicately dropped in the spot, and the feeling I got as I walked through for the first time was of the overwhelming sense of being far far away from the world I have always known. The silence and the beauty of the spot fill all the senses and produce a feeling of having arrived to one of the most beautiful places on Earth, an area still largely untouched by the forces of man.

In the week that I spent in Gulabgarh, I stayed with a family from the village, and I soon started to get a sense of how life in the village is. Electricity is not always reliable, nor is running water. Phone service is hard to get and the internet remains out of reach. Despite these obstacles, however, the people have an incredible culture and sense of family and friendship with their neighbors. If the electricity is not working, they build solar panels or use candles and lamps.  All people are bound together by their experience and by a great pride in the beauty of their home.

The people were all so kind to me as well. They welcomed me into their homes and bars and treated me as they would family. They went out of their way to make me feel at home, and constantly probed to see if I was enjoying my experience. It was a truly beautiful thing, to live in a place so far from my family, friends, and
the world that I grew up in, and yet to feel at peace there. I have many fond memories from my time in Gulabgarh that I will take with me forever: playing soccer on the cricket field in the pouring rain with other kids from the village, writing in my journal by the candlelight about my experiences there, the warm smiles of the people I met in my short time there.

The vibrancy of the culture there will always stick out in my mind, as well as the happiness of the people and the stunning beauty of the location. These are the things I think of when I think about Gulabgarh (which I often do). When you go, the place just sticks in your mind and heart. I was there only a week, and yet I miss it in a way. It felt strange to leave a place after such a short time and feel such an attachment, but such was my experience there that it has created a longing to return someday, a longing that I hope I can answer by going back next summer.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Our W.L.P. volunteer Alessandro

Today we want to introduce you Alessandro - he will travel in June to Gulabgarh to visit our women from the Women's Literacy Project, get to know them and to work in the school (Himalyan Cultural School of Paddar).
This is very exciting: for us, for Alessandro and of course for our women.
Here's a short interview we had with him:
Name: Alessandro Bordoli
Age: 23
Coming from: Vero Beach, Florida, United States of America
But living at the moment in Spain; the reason:
Teaching English for a year at a School of Languages in Santiago de Compostela.
I finished my Bachelor’s Degree last year in Political Science and Economics at the University of Florida. My eventual plan is to go to law school (perhaps in the area of international law) and then politics, but I decided to take a few years off to see new places and experience new cultures before I settle into school and a career. My family is Italian and we visit our relatives every summer in Italy, so I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, and I have always valued international experience.
Occupation: Language and Culture Assistant – I teach about the culture of the United States as a supplement to the English courses offered at the school
Travel Dates:
Departure Date: June 5th, 2013
Visit in Gulabgarh: June 8th to June 15th (about one week working at the school and helping Tashi)
Tashi picks me up in Srinagar and then takes me to Gulabgarh for one week.
What brought you to the W.L.P.?
I met Mari de la Fuente this year, a fellow teacher here in Spain, and we had talked a lot about volunteer opportunities. I have always dedicated several hours a year to volunteering and always seek out new opportunities. I had a specific interest in volunteering in a long-term program in Africa or Asia for this coming summer, since I have almost a month (June) free. Unfortunately, most volunteer programs ask for sizable program fees, and this is something that is difficult for me to afford as a student with a large amount of debt owed for my university education.
Mari mentioned her past experiences with Tashi and the W.L.P. in India, and I thought it was perfect. I quickly emailed Tashi, and from our first email exchange I could tell this was the opportunity I was looking for. I am thrilled to be able to travel away from the normal tourist destinations and experience the true culture of this region, so far away from my own home.
Why are you interested in this project?
I love to volunteer. My parents came from very poor backgrounds, and have found success through hard work, but they have instilled in us (my 5 brothers and I) an awareness that not all people have been as fortunate as us. They have taught us to always give back, and to help people. This experience in Gulabgarh is especially exciting as it is an international one, and in a place that I have never been.
What are your feelings when you think about your visit?
Excited, as this is an opportunity that I have always sought. However, of course I have the normal feelings of nervousness going to a new place, traveling by myself, and going to a region of the world that most people know mostly as an area of conflict.
Are you interested in volunteering, too?
Just send an email to Tashi –