I finally arrived in Mumbai on Friday night and was welcomed by Urja, the president of Setco Foundation. I slept a full 12 hours and the next day I took a train to Baroda with another intern named Nikita. We talked the whole way and when we arrived at night, we were picked up and were taken to the guest house. About 1 minute after we got into the car a blind man walked in front of the street. I was wondering how even I was going to be able to cross the street walking let alone someone with no sight. I wondered how I hadn’t seen more car accidents in a place where it seems like there are no traffic rules. Finally we got to the guest house and to my surprise it is very nice. It even has air conditioning which is the best feeling in 110 degree weather!
Today is my day off since there is no electricity in the city on Tuesdays. Sunday and Monday we went to the office and the village where Setco works. I got to meet all of the staff and visit five of the anganwandis. It is difficult because I don’t know any Gujarati and even Nikita only speaks Hindi. But Riya, another intern interprets for me when she can.
The first anganwandi we went to the kids started crying. But the second one we played hand games and they all introduced themselves one by one. The anganwadis are government sanctioned preschools that Setco has taken over because they were not being used. The kids get free meals every day and they give food to the mothers to take home. We played games with them and the women offered us some sort of food which was delicious (I never know what I am eating or what it is called but as long as it is vegetarian I eat it)
Nikita is a judo champion and she has come here to teach the girls judo as part of Setcos empowerment program. We met one of the girls who had been training and she said that when she put on her uniform she felt strong and powerful which was amazing to see. Yesterday, I sat in on two life skills classes with adolescent girls where they danced and did ice breakers to losten up a bit. Then Nikita taught them a basic judo through and after all of them said they were interested.
On the floor near the doorway in one of the lessons I was able to interview gayatri, the woman in charge of the women’s empowerment programs. And through two way interpretation and a little confusion, I was able to ask one of the women who had created a beautician shop using loans and training from Setco a couple of questions. She has had a business for 7 months now and she glowed when she told me about it.
So far I have made a week by week plan to propose to the staff on Thursday. I am still nervous about being of use but I think if I follow my plan and get to interview lots of staff, community workers, participants and families I will be able to learn a lot. I still can’t believe I left 6 days ago. It feels like I have been here for weeks.