Kya baat hai! Aarti’s trip of a lifetime!

As soon as we disclosed our intended project, immediately our sanity was questioned as we all know that driving in India is no easy task! You need to be alert at all times as you are constantly playing ‘chicken,’ so driving 2000km seems, to say the least, a bit crazy! However, as we continued to talk about the project, I became more and more confident about the whole idea, and making a difference in those children’s lives, and actually witnessing it first hand, was more than enough to win me over! Convincing our parents was an equally arduous task!

After countless board meetings and amazingly successful fundraisers, we finally boarded the planes and landed in Bhuj, our starting point. We got thrown into rickshaw training straight away, which was extremely regimented to say the least! In between training, we spent time with the amazingly talented children from the school, Shree Navchetan Andhjan Mandal, where we stayed; this is a very special school for children with various degrees of disability.

Continue reading »

The Culture & Talent by Raveena

After all the hard work in planning this adventure, despite the extreme heat, minor injuries and a few punctured tyres, we’ve made it! Dare I say, the words ‘trip of a lifetime’ is an understatement.

Over the course of the trip, I could see that there was unity not only in our team, but also in the CARE centres that we visited. There was also determination and a drive to succeed amongst the children and young adults we met, all of whom were undoubtedly appreciative of the support they were receiving through CARE.

On our first full day at Navchetan, we began the day with a dose of exercise and stretching. We formed a large circle in the playground and I begun leading the routine with 9 Rickshawalas but by the end, about 20 children had come to join us. To them, it didn’t matter whether they had a disability or not, they adapted and got involved in whatever way they could. Again their liveliness and concern for their peers was noticeable on our final night in Bhuj during the Sangeet night. It started off with a talented team of musicians from the school singing a few prayers and Garba songs but before long I got up with a couple of the other Rickshawalas to begin doing Garba around the school hall. Again,disability, be it visually impairment or physical handicap, was not a limiting factor for any of the children and they participated by either watching and following their friends, or just dancing around holding our hands. There was such a positive energy and vibe that was created and at that moment I felt so proud of the children and proud to be a part of the CARE community.This shows that having a disability does not and should not be a barrier to living in an integrated society, wherever you are in the world. Continue reading »

Satyamev Jayate aligned with CARE

Satyamev Jayate: “Disability is not Inability”

 

CAREducation’s cause for over a decade.

The show that has taken the world by storm, that has made an impression on the international population, Satyamev Jayate. Every week this show addresses issues of public concern with the aims to educate, inform and reform the public and evoke change in attitude and policy. This week’s issue was one close to the hearts of the Rickshawalas: Looking at the perception and acceptance of disability and what should be done to bring equality.

Rickshawalas support CAREducation Trust UK, a UK based charity that supports children around the world irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion or background through the use of education. Continue reading »

Join the Rickshawalas in a 10K walk!

Come and join the Rickshawalas in a 10K walk! This event is organised by The Oshwal Pharmacists and will start at Oshwal Centre in Potters Bar.

If you can’t walk, you can still come – come and help us volunteer!

Contact Dilisha for more information – dilisha@rickshawalas.com

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Bhavik & Janvi Return to Bhuj

Two years later we found ourselves returning back to the school in Bhuj to see our buddios. This time we took the Rickshawalas to share this amazing experience again with us.

Janvi with the Bhuj Kids!

After spending only two weeks with these children I didn’t expect to become so attached to them. They had definitely touched a place in my heart which made me want to come back to see them soon! As soon as we touched foot on the school ground again that warm welcoming feeling rushed through me as I saw the smiles and the waving children that I had created such a strong bond with two years ago. Many of them still remembered us and wouldn’t let us go. Although they had all grown up, that sense of innocence and appreciation for the help we all provide for them has not changed. Especially the younger children who now understand the incredible work CARE is doing to make a difference to their lives and how they have the doors of opportunities open for them to excel in life. Simply seeing those smiles on their faces reminded us that all the hard work and endless hours of meetings, discussions and planning have all been worth it! These children have left imprinted memories in our hearts forever.” Janvi

One of the fundamental things, which we have realised since going back is that one will always leave an incremental footprint in someone’s life. Be it us making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children or these special children making a difference in our lives. Every moment, story and experience shared with the children opened up a new door of life not just to us but to them as well. It shows that the cycle of learning is on-going and we should never feel as though just because we are educated and live in the developed world that we are any better or more superior to those without an education. If you open your eyes and mind you will actually see that we are nowhere near as talented as these young minds.

The Rickshawalas with the Bhuj Kids!

People say knowledge is power and you gain this knowledge by reading books. However, what we learnt from these children and our experience is something that you cannot learn from a book! It’s something which you will only understand after you go out into the wider world and live a day in the life of someone else. When you take a step back from your own life and reflect upon how privileged you really are.You begin to change the way you perceive life and realise how different your life would be if you didn’t have everything to hand. We take a lot of things for granted and don’t even think twice.

Working on the documentary...

When we returned from our first visit to Bhuj, we told our friends and family about our experience and eventually, the CARE Youth team was set up and the Rickshawalas idea was born. After telling CARE’s trustee Bharatbhai, his initial reaction was ‘I don’t know what Bhavik and Janvi have said to you guys about their journey to Bhuj, you suddenly came jumping with enthusiasm energy all wishing to do something for charity’. It wasn’t about what we said to the Rickshawalas it was about how these children changed our perception of life and the differences the Rickshawalas saw in us after returning, which made them want to share the same experience for themselves.

“The talents some of these children hold are spectacular and they often take you by surprise as to how amazing they really are. Last time I visited the school, whilst filming interviews with the children, I discovered how musically talented some of these children are. Being a musician myself, listening to these young girls and boys perform, touched my heart and I felt a connection with them. It was something out of this world to see the way they worked, understood and coordinated with each other so flawlessly whilst being visually impaired or physically handicapped. We wanted to showcase their talents and I wanted to have an opportunity to perform with them, so we organised a Sangeet Night at the school. The atmosphere in the hall was phenomenal as I sang, accompanied by the tabla and dholak players whilst the children joined in and danced the night away! What an amazing memory which will be cherished forever!” Bhavik

Bhavik with the Musical Bhuj Kids!

We look forward to visiting our buddies again soon!

Bhavik & Janvi

How it all began…

Two years ago we visited one of CARE’s first projects in Gujarat. Here is a report we put together to share our life-changing journey with everyone back home, together with a short documentary.

We spent two weeks at the Navchetan Andhjan Mandal Centre in Madhapar, Bhuj. During the two weeks, we visited all four of their centres and were very impressed with the way they accommodate for individuals with various types of disabilities and abilities, together with the fact that the centres have a barrier free environment which enables the students to move around independently and freely without assistance.

We’ve heard about charities doing similar projects but to see it in action was a whole new eye opener. We thought the unique concept of students of all disabilities learning together was incredible and it helps the children understand that having disabilities does not make them any less gifted than those without.

Janvi with the Bhuj Buddios!

Before we visited the centre we had done some research into the charity and about the school but it was still something very different and new to us. We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived there or what it would be like. However it didn’t take us long to settle in and adapt to the new environment. The staff and teachers were always very friendly and happy to help. The children made us feel very welcome and would never fail to smile, call us and wave every time they saw us around the school.

Our main aim for visiting the centre was to share some of our skills and knowledge with the students of the school and teach them something new. We chose to teach them English to enable them to have basic conversations and improve their reading and writing skills. We used colourful creative presentations to make learning more fun and enjoyable for them. During the time whilst we were not teaching, we volunteered to take professional photographs and videos of the students at the centres and the activities the organisation runs. We wanted to document everything we did to show everyone back home as well as globally and share part of our experience with them. Therefore we have created a 10 minute documentary film which highlights the four centres and the different activities they run and captures the special talents these students hold.

Their smiles say it all!

Overall it was an amazing experience and has taught us a lot, not just about how talented and special these children are but also about the way they appreciate even the smallest things that we take for granted every day. Every time we saw them they never failed to have a big smile on their face and it made us realise that no matter what difficulties you may have to face there is always a brighter side to life. Interacting, talking and playing with the children opened up a whole different world and listening to their experiences really showed us a different side of life.

We enjoyed every moment of our trip and would definitely visit again and encourage others to do the same too because it was a wonderful opportunity and experience with lots to learn from.

If you are interested in doing something similar, contact careyouth@careducation.org and join the CARE Youth Team.

Now you’ve read part 1 of our Bhuj journey, look out for part 2 releasing in a few days!

Janvi & Bhavik

CARE’s Rickshawalas:A way of life-Pt2

So the trip has begun, which basically to me was the beginning of the end, how wrong I was! There were so many ups and downs of the trip, people left us, people joined us, but our team was united. Throughout the trip, every morning began with our prayers and every night ended with the 9 of us all together relaxing and reliving the adventures of the day, or basically what Janvi called, ‘recharging our batteries’. This oneness kept the team strong and able to face each day and each challenge together.

My most memorable driving memories would have to be between, the flying cow incident and the Manali incline in the rain. Yes that’s right a flying cow! It could only happen to me, driving along as Rickshaw 2 through a town and all of a sudden a cow flies from the left and lands directly in front of my rickshaw! Never has my emergency braking been more on point! I think I must have stopped 4 inches in front of the cow. I was in disbelief, my heart was racing and I couldn’t stop laughing! This cow was totally unfazed and just jammed in the middle of the road!

Rickshawali Dilisha driving up the rainy inclines to Manali...

The incline up to Kullu Manali got chilly; at this point all Rickshawala’s were riffling through bags looking for hoodies! The rain suddenly poured down on us in true Indian fashion! Our little windscreen wipers were having trouble and my all important vital horn went squeaky! I think it got water logged… again only me hey! I have to say, I apologise again to the team, I hogged this drive, I was having the time of my life, those hill climbs, those corners, the views, I was taking it all in, constantly being asked if I wanted to change drivers, but always refusing! But soon Team Leader Nirav stepped in and replaced me, it was only after I stopped that I realised it was a great idea. The excitement kept me going but once I stopped it all caught up!

Finally driving into Manali, all four girls took the drivers seat, Janvi drove whilst I sat next to her. The reception when we arrived was indescribable! The other team members will tell you more about this, but for me, my personal feelings are hard to write,I was overwhelmed. I felt like we didn’t deserve such credit and gratitude that the people of Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association School were showing us. I felt like we hadn’t done anything yet! To share this moment with my team members, to have that group hug in the middle of the town, to share all those emotions between us, it was more than we could ever have imagined it to be.

Then it came to handing the keys over into Lama-ji’s hands, and him realising we were donating the rickshaws to the school… he couldn’t believe it, that happiness in his eyes made my heart melt. Looking around me, all I could see on the faces of the children and teachers were smiles, smiles and more smiles! They now have transport to get around, something so simple that we take for granted, but it meant so much to them. To be able to donate the two Rickshaws, Laila and Surya we do still need your support, to help us to fund this donation please contact us at sponsorship@rickshawalas.com

The Rickshawalas with the kids of Manali and Lamaji

There was one moment that stuck in my mind and stood out, we spent a day at the school with the children, observing their talents, being in awe of their dedication, their drive to learn and their happiness and appreciation of what life had given them. We listened in on classes and even got stuck in playing, singing, and dancing with them in their playground (not our type of playground with soft finishing and rounded edges, it was a rock filled, uneven courtyard with mounds of dirt and construction sand, and yes I twisted my ankle on this playing with the kids! Again only me!). The girls taught us a Nepalese dance as well as all the moves to Chikni Chameli! That was such an experience! As hard as I tried I couldn’t do it like these amazing talented young girls!

Dilisha with the kids of Manali

I took a moment for reflection whilst here, where I took team leader Nirav up to the rooftop of the school where we observed, and took in what we saw and shared how we felt about the trip. We just watched the team below interacting with the children; Bhavik and Janvi were filming and interviewing the children, Kavi and Nishil were talking to a group of boys, Raveena was dancing with some girls and Kushan and Aarti were playing antakshari, singing.  Such joys, such happiness, such contentment could be seen, and felt in our hearts. I turned to Nirav and said:

“Just look down there; look at what we have worked for. We can really change these children’s lives and ensure they have the right footing. Your idea has brought us here, you have done this, and for that I’m truly grateful.”

What has really changed my life, is thinking of what I can personally do to improve the lives of all the children we met along the way. Each child has the thirst to learn, to progress, and to succeed. I want to help and assist these amazing talented people. They are much much more talented than I am! In Bassi Pathana, in a stitching workshop, the young girls tried to teach me how to stitch, I failed! They make it look so easy, but there is skill and talent in all that they do. The contrast from being labelled as an NRI to feeling at one with everyone, feeling like this is my home, these are my people, my culture and my community. I have such a connection to this population, one that I can empathise with. Their struggles are my struggles.

The students of Bassi Pathana (Mehar Baba Charitable Trust)

There was not one child or person that I met that needed a handout or just wanted our money; they just need support so they can improve their lives themselves. I was fortunate to see the difference CARE has made in the lives of others, but to think this is a tiny percentage of the people that would love our support. After seeing what I saw, after understanding their needs, feeling their emotions, I need to be apart of the change that improves the lives of those less privileged. I feel I have to do something, and I will

To share this experience with the people that I have over the last 2 years and the actual trip, has changed everything about me and my life, and I hope to use this strength together to really make a difference, as I always said, “Change the world, one child at a time.” We can change the future and ensure it will be a better one.

The Rickshawala Trip wasn’t just 12 days, 1800 km from Bhuj to Manali, it was 2 years, from friends to family, to my personal growth from being a lost little girl with no direction to a young lady who knows exactly what she wants to do in life. My ambition is to dedicate my life to help others get the right footing in life. I owe this dream to CARE and hope with their support I can fulfil it.

Click here to read Part One

CARE’s Rickshawalas:A way of life-Pt1

Fresh out of graduating from an MSc course in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research, as many other graduates I was lost. I had no idea what I was going to do, what my next step was going to be. Right on cue, enter Nirav, who brought the charity CAREducation Trust into my life. He had a vision to make a difference. I was sold, here began my story…

These last two years have changed my life, working with CAREducation Trust has opened my eyes to the real world, and by this I mean, I have seen the way in which others live, the lives of those less fortunate than us. It is very simple to say you know that there are those less privileged than yourselves, but to actually see it with your own eyes, to feel their emotions with your own heart, it is life changing.

My chosen field of interest is public health, which is why CARE as an organisation, is close to my heart. One different from others, with the crucial detail, it is 100% a grassroot charity. This is something we can never underestimate, we see the difference £10 can make, or even £1 to a child’s life in these developing countries. Think of all the pounds that are saved by ensuring each and every penny of your donations go to the roots and not one penny is paid to any well wisher of the charity. Each penny counts, each pound can bring a smile to a life. If that’s not worth it, I’m not sure what is…

As soon as the Rickshawala idea was bought to my attention, I was on board, I didn’t even have all the details, but I had faith. With close friends you have a level of trust, and when it was brought to me I immediately signed up! Back then I did not realise how much of an adventurist I was! I knew if this is something we wanted to do together, we could, and just look, 18 months later and we have done it! Let me take you back to the beginning…

The 2 years preparation began with a group of friends and acquaintances, and ended with a new family. Being the eldest girl of the group, I naturally fell into a mothering role towards the team; their welfare became my utmost concern. But rest assured I kept them all in line with my stern words! From the get go, I was filling them with endless to do lists and nagging at them for deadlines! I hope they will forgive me for any offence caused through all this…! Through the trip, each team member found a way into my heart.

My days, my evenings even my dreams became dedicated to the project, it was never a chore, it was natural that all my time was put into this project. At this point I would like to apologise to all my non-CARE friends & family that were neglected over the last two years! Through CARE’s support I travelled to India last year for 3 months, carrying out a voluntary research project focusing on the educational needs of the children of sex workers in Surat. Details of this trip can be found on my personal blog: india4ten

Whilst here I took the opportunity to find someone in my home village that had a rickshaw and managed to convince him to give me rickshaw driving lessons! At 50 rupees (i.e. less than £1) a session I couldn’t go wrong! So with my 4 lessons of half an hour each I had progressed from 2nd gear circuit track training to the main dirt track. Even from this point heads were turning and mouths opened wide at the sight of me, an NRI girl driving a rickshaw. For more info see Driving a Rickshaw

Getting to India, we jumped straight into the deep end and had our first lesson in the new rickshaws that we would be soon driving over 1800km across the country. It was nerve-racking to think there was no time for mistakes. It didn’t take me long to take the Rickshaw onto the main streets and was basically slapped in the face with the reality of India roads, other vehicles and terrain! It was meant to be a quick 10 min drive, which turned into peak rush hour, 2 lanes turned into 5 at some points! I had to manoeuvre the vehicle, keeping safety at the top of my mind. It was tough, but without a doubt, I came out of it a much stronger and a more confident driver! From previous blogs, I’m sure you remember the reaction of the public of seeing girls behind the wheel of a rickshaw. It was these reactions that spurred us on, that made me realise that I have the power to make a difference. The men were in shock and disbelief and the girls, they had surprise and awe in their eyes.

I was one of the three drivers that started the journey along with Nirav and Kushan, we drove out of the school gates with journalists following us on their motorbikes, which gave us such a hype and an amazing start to the epic adventure. Very quickly all the girls were on par, they gained the confidence and the ability to manoeuvre and control the rickshaw. I have to say we surprised the guys as I think they expected us to be the weak ones and the ones to let them take the lead. Sorry to disappoint but these Rickshawali’s were stepping up! From on the roads to off, it was the girls that quickly showed their talents with typical Indian bargaining, like our Jodhpur Market Challenge! Another aspect we surpassed the boys was on our anthakshari skills! Although Nishil you impressed me with your desi fresh jukebox levels, knowing all the kuch kuch lyrics, sorry for the exposure!

Coming soon in a few days, my most memorable moments and why this trip changed my life…!

Click here to read Part two 

Dilisha

Nishil Reminisces his time in India!

After about 12 months of planning, a couple of hours of training and two weeks on the road we have finally done it. Words cannot describe what an experience it was. Driving in India was not easy, at times we were playing a game of chicken with the infamous Indian truck drivers and bus drivers coming at you from the opposite direction, whilst avoiding potholes and ditches on the side of the road and watching out for cars cutting you up from behind. Sitting behind the driver, acting as a spotter was just as important, and at times if not more, than being a safe driver. One thing that we had to pick up on very quickly was that you had to be aggressive, the more cautious you are the less chance you have of getting anywhere! I think my favourite drive of the whole trip has to be stretch up to Manali, driving up and down the mountains with some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen.

The fact it was in a Rickshaw, the most popular form of transport in India, just made it all the more amazing. We were very lucky too, we had virtually no problems on the road, other than a punctured tyre and Nirav breaking the clutch cable in Basanti! Actually to be honest, any little problems we had involved Nirav. On the second day we were driving through a toll booth and Rickshaw one had gone through. Rickshaw two stopped and waited for the barriers to go up before going through. Then Nirav being the Nandu he his decided to power through in Rickshaw 3, with the barrier coming crashing down on top of, yet again, Basanti and snapping in half. But instead of stopping to see what happened, he just decided to drive off and avoid any confrontation. Best decision I think to be honest! (Sorry man, but I think you know that I’m NEVER going to let you forget this!)

One thing that really amazed me, was the kindness of the locals. Whilst there are a lot of people in India, who want to cheat you, when the locals heard what we were doing and why we were doing it, they all wanted to help in their own way. The morning we left, Shree Navchetan Andhjan Mandal, the school we started at, organised a press conference for us and as we drove off we had the Indian papparazzi following us on bikes wanting to get pictures of us! Everyone was so appreciative of what we were doing. The reception we got once we reached Manali, I have to say was something else. As soon as we entered the city, we had all the locals awaiting our arrival in the town centre, wanting to get snaps of us and congratulate us on finishing the journey.

Rickshawala Nishil taking over the FINAL stretch!

Since we’ve all been back, the one question everyone keeps asking is what was your favourite part of the whole trip? Whilst I am tempted at times to say the IPL Match in Mumbai, and I think all the Rickshawalas will agree with me when I say this, my favourite part was the party with the children of the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural School in Manali the day we reached. It was as simple as a guy on his laptop with two speakers playing music out in the open in the school playground. The children were so excited, that they hung onto your hands not wanting to let go, whilst having the time of their lives and letting their hair down.

India is one of the most amazing countries I have ever been too. The vast range of cultures between each town, each city and each state shows the rich tradition entrenched into history of this country. Mumbai is known for its notorious traffic, millions of slums and as the bollywood hotspot. But when you travel a few hundred kilometres north to Chandigarh you are in a totally different environment. It doesn’t feel like you are in India. There are no slums, no rubbish on the streets, no street kids coming up to you begging for a few rupees. This is my favourite thing about India, the fact that no matter where you go, you will always find something different to see, something different to experience. However, as Amir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate programme on Star Plus highlighted there are a lot of drawbacks too. Child labour,  forced marriages, lack of education and gender inequality to name a few. However, steps are being made to change this. A lot of people are working to try and improve the current situation, and with such a huge population of 1.2 billion it is not going to be an easy job. It near impossible. And no matter now much you may think otherwise, every little helps. Every child deserves a fighting chance for a better future and opportunities to better themselves and their lives.

Our aim was to help change the lives of hundreds of underprivileged children, whilst having an adventure of a lifetime and see India for its true colours. However, I think it is safe to say this was much more than that.

Nishil

Photos by Bhavik Haria, Cincera Productions. Like them on Facebook.

VIDEO: BBC Asian Network

Video by Cincera Productions. Like them on Facebook.

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