Highs and Lows

High: 95 F
Low: 75 F

Humitity: 1000000000% (this is a high that actually equals a low)

High: Buying the trash bins, painting them with our slogan and other information, and making them more theft-proof achieved in one night.

Low: Having the local MCD (trash removal) manager all of a sudden be "on leave" after promising us days ago that we would have workers on launch day.

Low: Not being able to install the bins on Monday after trying all of our contacts.
High: making new partners for the sustainability network of the project - they are very sharp and experienced community mobilizers for the local NGO YWCA, who have lived and worked for the area we serve for 15 years. They are on board to take ownership of the project when we leave.

Low: Entire group working on many nights of less than 6 hours of sleep and no days off for the past 2 weeks

High: Organizing a meeting for all the stakeholders in the project to ensure the sustainability of the project the day before the meeting and having nearly everyone (10 out of 12 people show up). Here was the attendance list - the community, the NGO, the trash company, and the government got together and talked about how they could make this work...amazing.

Low: One of our community committee members is a ~60 year old female shop owner who came late to the meeting with a huge wad of chewing tobacco in her mouth and then blamed the MCD manager for how dirty the community is...uh, yeah...not helping the team there....

High and then low: eating all the left over samosas, gulab jamuns, and drinking mountain dew after the meeting was over and we were able to talk again...

We are two days late for implementation and we can tell the community really wants the trash bins to come...so that is good at least. Today, if the MCD local manager doesn't find a worker (despite assuring us for the past week that he would)...we'll have to do something...but I don't know what...

Good luck today team!

PS: bought ailine ticket to Goa from the 7th to the 16th of Aug. - I am going to the Southern beaches!


Last day of community education...Launch of Implementation Phase tomorrow!

Enjoying delivered pizza since the group worked together all day until late at night. Tasty, although a bit hurried....remember the breathing!
Meenu with community children before the last community education street play.
Children crowding to see the street play in the Bengali Market.
After the play, there were children surrounding us on every side. Apparently I am smooshing a small boy with my hand here. If we do another event like this, crowd control is going to be a primary concern.
Team wearing the team shirts on the stairs leading up to the field where I run. It has been unseasonably dry recently - leaving the weather persistently hot and humid.

Way past tired now...good night.


Newspapers and television...lets inspire some slum communities!

Street play in the Bengali Camp if the Bhoomiheen slum community, Delhi tomorrow at 11am to excite the already enthusiastic pilot project community members about the launch of the new garbage bin system on Monday morning. Everyone is invited!!!! ...Especially if you have a press-badge....or even just an oversized video camera.

“Saaf-Safai Sehat Lai.” Children could be heard enthusiastically chanting this slogan in the narrow alleyways of the Bhoomihin Camp in the Kalkaji district of Delhi.


MIT-Rai students empower Delhi slum towards cleanliness

Can slum inhabitants clean up their own communities? A team from USA’s premier engineering school and India’s Rai Foundation believes just that. Through coordination with community leaders, government, and a local NGO, this team of college students is trying to reverse 20 years of filth and neglect in three weeks.
This Sunday at 11am in the Bengali Market in Bhoomiheen camp this team will perform a street play for the final day of community education. The aim is to further excite the already enthusiastic community members for the launch of the new garbage bin system on Monday morning. Other news channels have committed to covering this hope-filled and inspirational event and we would very much appreciate your help make this project a success.
For this effort, 4 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, U.S.A.) have joined 6 students from the Rai Foundation (RF, India) to plan and implement a community project that will install local trash bins to remove waste from the waterways and other public areas. In the past, garbage has clogged the open sewage channels that run in front of each house and caused flooding of the alleyways and homes - especially during monsoon season. If this pilot project is successful, it will provide an inspirational blueprint for improved sanitation in all of Delhi’s slum communities.
A project to place local trash bins to improve cleanliness for 175 families seems simple, but as this team has discovered, it requires every effort from all the stakeholders. The community must believe that only they can change their living environment and a system must be put in place to support their efforts. The worker will be monitored by the MCD and a community committee of non-partisan community leaders. In addition, the local NGO Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) has agreed to take on a supportive supervision role to ensure the project’s sustainability.

MIT (USA) and Rai Foundation students answer questions about the new garbage bin system with the local manager of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

Rai Foundation student introduces proud, community committee for slum sanitation project developed and implemented by MIT (USA) and Indian students.


Where does trash go? - In the trash bin!

Here is an article we wrote for the newspapers:

“Saf Safai Sehath Lai.” Children could be heard enthusiastically chanting this slogan in the narrow alleyways of the Buhmin Camp in the Kalkaji district of Delhi. Their eager faces crowded around the Indian and American university students during an animated skit about the benefits of sanitation.
A project to install local trash bins for 175 families to improve cleanliness seems simple, but it will take every effort from the students, the community, as well as local non-governmental organizations and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to change the cleanliness habits of a community in just 3 weeks. For this effort, 5 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, U.S.A.) have joined 6 students from the Rai Foundation (RF, India) to plan and implement a community project, that will install trash bins to increase local sanitation and health. The multidisciplinary team members have backgrounds ranging from biological and mechanical engineering to physiotherapy, but each student had joined the team with the same goal: to implement a sustainable project that solves a significant need in the community.
During the first phase of the project the team spoke directly with slum inhabitants to hear what they believed were the most substantial problems for their community in the areas of health, education, and disability. Overwhelmingly, members said that garbage and drainage problems were their greatest concerns. Garbage regularly clogs the open sewage channels that run in front of every house and causes flooding of the alleyways and homes, especially during monsoon season. Everyone agreed that increasing the cleanliness would have a dramatically positive impact within the community, but how could this be done quickly, cheaply, and sustainably? The RF-MIT team decided that a community-supervised project in which local trash bins are placed throughout the community (with the consent of each family) was the most promising option for removing garbage from the ground and open sewage channels. These bins would be emptied on a daily basis and the trash transported to the large MCD trash bin by a community-paid sanitation worker.
The second phase of the project, ongoing this week, focuses on creating a community dialogue about the local garbage bin project. Every day the team uses various communication tools including humorous skits, colorful posters, and informational pamphlets to impart information about the benefits and proper use of the local garbage bins. More importantly, however, the team searches for feedback from the community on how they think the project will best succeed. Through the ambition of the students and desire for change of the inhabitants, this project hopes to produce a cleaner and healthier community. If there is less garbage in the sewage channels, the waterways will not clog and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes: it is the team’s hope that this project will drastically reduce illnesses in the community.
During the final phase of the project next week, the team will install the local trash bins and refine the system of accountability between the community, a local non-governmental organization, and the MCD. If the pilot project is successful, it would provide an inspirational blueprint for improved sanitation in all of Delhi’s slum communities.

Children get a piece of candy if they can answer this question correctly - "Where does the wrapper to this piece of candy go?"
Somehow we convinced Dharani to be the personified trash bin/narrator - he did a great job.
Crowd in Bengali market.There were probably around 100-150 community members gathered.

There was also some mis-coordination within the municipal garbage company which caused them to clear the drains but put all the nastyness in piles on the walkways and then say we asked them to do it....this of course was horrible press for us...but we recovered and scored a bunch of points by getting bags and shovels from the community members and clearning the piles from the square ourselves...I will try to put in a picture of my moving drain-waste as soon as I get it from my team members.


Workin' the alleyways

Today, Dr. Miraj joined us in the community to talk to the community committee that our team has assembled from the community (one member shown in picture below, Dr. Miraj on the left, and other interested community member on right) and talk to the community itself. He was a big asset today because he speaks Bengali - the primary language in this slum, even though most people in Delhi speak Hindi.

Here is our supervisor working the crows in our project area with a sample garbage can to dicuss the plan and its benefits more concretely with the community members.
Daily picture of garbage - this is sewage garbage fished out by the municipal garbage worker and then left on the sidewalk for evntual pick-up...yeah, that is nice for the toddelers, especially because many of the kids use these waterways as latrines.
After a full morning in the community we head over to the Department of Social Work at Jamia Mia Islamia to talk to students and professors about our project and get their feedback on the problems we are facing what recommendations they have for potential solutions. I had a plate of rice and beans and a pepsi for lunch at the school canteen and then we recovered from the morning in a quadrangle before our meeting with the social workers.
From left to right: Yamilee, Mansi, Sammy, Priya, Jessica, Meenu and Julie.
From left to right: Dharani, Musheer and Catherine (that's ME!)Big day...feels good...feels tired...time for bed.


Workload increases increasingly quickly...

Our timeline converges a week of work into every day. Our ten group members scatter to eight different tasks that all need to be coordinated, requiring detailed strategy planning every night before bed. A bad day could mean the death of our community project, and so we are getting the Indian girls to move from their homes into our rooms for the last two weeks. This means that the Indian girls will live away from home in the first time in their lives and also that we will be sharing beds :)

I couldn't be more proud of how our group is evolving and rolling with the punches...in my opinion we are pretty much community project rockstars.

...Anyway, yesterday morning there was a lot of traffic, so our auto (as well as many other vehicles) opted for a dirt path on the side of the road.

Here I am meeting with the local men of power. In the back row is the regional President, Secretary and Vice Pres. of the Congress Party (the party in power) and I am sitting next to the regional Municipal Councilor, who manages the waste management company as part of his resposibilities.

I wanted to mention that this office is in the back of a fancy furniture store and this meeting is much what I would imagine it would be like if I were meeting with the godfather. I was impressed with how much seemed to get done all at once.
Here is one of our community committee members - we are showing her one of the posters we made to count down the days until the trash bins come (also displaying our 'logo' and slogan (in Hindi))

Here is my local garbage drain picture for the day.

Here is Musheer having a conversation with a very aggressive community woman after one of our community education skit performances.
This was an extremely rough day for most of the group, it was long and many details were not planned well enough or did not go as we expected. We needed to reinspire the group...Yamilee and I came up with the idea of a short morning dance party where we would learn dance moves to go along with our slogan and just take a little time in the morning to relax as a group and eat cookies and drink juice....what a great team!


I am energized and inspired by what I spend my day doing

It feels great to be able to say that whole heartedly...I am sad there are only 2 weeks left of the project.
Today was unbelievable - there were some critical meetings both within the community and with an NGO and the municipal garbage comany and all the pieces are falling into place. Our team is a power house: we break up into groups and

* mobilize community members to take ownership of the project

* hire people to move trash and create a community run system to pay the worker and create transparency and accountability in the payment system
* develop a tight network of oversight and support between community leaders, a local NGO, local political leaders, and the municipal garbage corporation

Tomorrow morning we are meeting with the President and Vice Pres. of the regional political party in power (Congress party) to get them to back this project.

...But, I have been thinking of work most of my waking hours - this is my time to relax and talk to my friends and family :)

On Sunday we met with this social work Professor to go over our pilot project plan and I saw a college cricket team playing a match...looked pretty serene...they certainly didn't have to worry about noise from a crowd.

The Rai Foundation University is making a film documentary of our project meaning that for many of the days they will be following us around with a camera during our planning meetings and our community work. Here are the "director", camera man, and van driver. The big perk for us is that we get to ride in a van to the community and don't have to catch autorickshaws at the border :)
Tonight, Jessica and I went out to dinner with our friends Zarin and Deepak to celebrate Deepak's completion of exams for his MBA program. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Faridabad and I got some chocolate chip, chocolate ice cream afterward that was excellent! Both Jessica and I wore suits (salwar kamis)- it was fun - my scarf has little silver bells at the end so they jingle when I walk.


Yes, I can chuck wood.

We were outside a mall in Lagput Nagar and this guy with a microphone came up to me and asked me what my name was and where I was from....I told him. (Note the protective purse-grabbing as I was still establishing who this guy was who had suddenly popped up in front of me).

Then he asked me if I could do the toungue twister "How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" ...quickly, ten times in a row. I gave one pleading look over to the girls who by now had heard my voice on the microphone and had turned around to watch, and then commenced.
I think there was a lot of blushing going on, but upon completion scattered applause very satisfying.

I got a free coca cola polo shirt...cool beans!


Our community champion

Much of the garbage in this community gets dumped into the little waterways that run in front of the doorstep of every home. Today:

* we mapped out the area that we will work in,

* estimated the number of families that live in our project area (173, or ~850 people)

* took the dimensions of the waterways for possible filters to keep the garbage from "upstream" communities from flowing down into the project area

* looked for enthusiastic and influential community members to help support our project within the community...

...in Katish Malik we found our woman. She is a force of nature! Sort of like a community mother, she looks like she could shape up about 100 people in about 5 minutes flat. She moved with us through the area telling everybody that we are doing something good for their community so that everyone should be helping us.
She has a big smile, a big voice, and a demanding presence.
Dozens of people crowded around to look at my map. We did some good prepatory work today and most people were very enthusiastic, but there are still a number of big challenges that need solutions before the project will work. I don't know how they will get solved, but I think we can do it.

Meanwhile, Julie and Jessica went with Dr. Miraj to check out trash bins and get supplies for the community education on how to use the new gagrbage systems. PLUS - we all got T-shirts (they were about $1.25 each and are bright orange - Julie and Jessica had to tear the pockets off the front of each since the pockets had random gods on them and we are planning to print "RF-MIT India Project" on them). Good pictures to come, I'm sure!


Picking the pilot project community

* one dirty slum community (300 families or ~1500 people)
* dirtyness needs to be due to garbage in thrown by community members in the public areas (including ground, and waterways)
* the community members need to be incredibly frustrated with all the garbage
* but the community should not have already tried to deal with the problem themselves
* there need to be community members that will actively support our project

One frustrated, dirty, (relatively educated), slum community (including a residential area and a residential area converted to little shops)

Here is one of the government water takers. When it shows up the children start yelling and running after it and everyone comes rushing with their hoses and buckets and the daily water-rush begins.
Alleyway, as we were wondering through the slum communities looking for one with the right problems, geometry and character.
Ooooh! this one has got lots of garbage problems!
This community has drainage problems because it has garbage clogging the drains. Interestingly this community claimed that the government will not help them because they voted for the opposition party and that the political party in power will only help those communities that voted for them. My American brain says that there is something wrong with that political policy.
We went to the Faridabad mall for dinner last night ( coming home scandelously late time of 10:50pm after our curfew of 8:30pm). The Indian/Chinese restaurant let Yamilee and Julie order Pizza Hut to this restaurant, which worked out well for our group since Jessica, Sony and I wanted Chinese.

Hugs to everyone! I can't believe there are only two weeks of work left!!!


Gearing up (big time)

Well, the time has come that will weed out the boys and girls from the men and women...the time where the cow poop hits the fan...and the runners turn the bend toward the home stretch...where all the preparation will be put to the test....yada yada yada....we'll be back in the US.

So what is going to happen during the yada yada yada phase?....that my friends is an excellent question and after about 8 hours of structured team brain storming and debate ...WE HAVE A PLAN!

Here we are in the thick of things...Yamilee and Musheer present project ideas related to the disabled within the community.

Given that there are 10 strong-willed people in our group, and that we were given the opportunity to choose a project that reflected a strong need in the community in the areas of health, education, or disability (kind of a big range of topics, all of which have multiple serious problems within them), it is really amazing we were able to settle on one and outline a pilot project that will improve the community within 2 weeks! One thing that is clear after today, is that an unbelievable ammount will get done in the next two weeks, that there will be innumerable setbacks and surprises, and that it is going to be one of the most exciting things I have ever worked on in my life.
In short we are going to reform the community garbage system for part of a slum (about 200 families, or 1000 people) so that they are no longer surrounded my garbage and overflowing sewage water. The project will be a collaboration between our team, an NGO, and MCD (the municipal garbage company)...although they don't know this yet!
Our goal is to get the media to track what we (4 engineering girls from America all of different skin tones partnered with 6 indian college students) can change for a slum community in 2 weeks and use the media as leverage to get the garbage company to start picking up trash from this area (which before only happened "at their convenience").

In celebration of a long day of leadership :) ...I made one of the most complete "home-cooked" meals of my trip so far...check it out! Nothing fried or soaked in syrup - it must be Christmas for Catherine in India! For dessert I combined two components of dinner and had a banana sandwich - it was very tasty!


The cows are coming, and they want your garbage!

We continued our community survey in part of Govenpuri, Kalkaji in cluding Buhmin camp today interviewing both community members and local NGO staff. Here is the inside gate of one of the NGO run schools/vocational schools/disabled child classes. This school looked amazing - certainly better looking (on the inside) than my elementary school.
The whole school is covered in beautiful murals and paintings and the architectural design has the feel of an open village where all the class rooms have big glass windows and the hallways feel open and spacious.
In the nearby community...these two guys aren't old enough to school but they give their mother and grandmother good company at home during the day.
NOTE: it seems to be an Indian tradition that when children learn to walk they get squeeky shoes so you can always tell when little kids running around because they go: "squeek, squeek,squeek,squeek,..."
This young man followed us around for a while and seemed to be of a curious but melencholy disposition.
I don't think I should include a cow eating trash in every day's blog...but I could.