We have been in the state of Gujarat for the last ten days. The program is very well structured, providing each of us a valuable opportunity to learn on ground/field research. Yes, it sure will take more time and we will not establish the sufficient skills merely in two weeks, but this trip has sure been a very good start, setting up a fundamental guideline for our further academic studies. Another important part of this research course is to have the opportunity to apply the theories that I learned in my Introduction to conflict resolution class. And, the most challenging aspect of the trip (I have been saving the best for last) has been to vividly live and observe the complexities on the ground. No matter to which group, or organization we have been talking, we have seen various agendas, opinions, analysis and politics. These are fundamental key players and as Dr. Iyer used to point out during the introduction to conflict resolution class, these key players are the game changers and it takes a conflict resolver a very long time and practice to establish these necessary skills. And even tough when we do, we still can’t escape the complexities on the ground.
So far, after our first day in Ahmedabad, our first destination was the town of Kutch which was affect by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2001. It was interesting to observe the high amount of development that has taken place since then and we were able to confirm it, after talking to the people on the ground. According to the information we got, there were about 200 NGOs working at the time, offering development. This makes me, once again, be skeptical of NGOs and their work on development. In my opinion, no matter how big of a disaster it is, does a place really need 200 organizations to rebuild it? Or is this an opportunity for development companies to establish their agenda and make profit from the disaster? Well, this is a question for another blog entry. Now, I will go back to providing a brief summary of outer trip and then talk about the Kutch Vikas Trust charitable organization. After Kutch, we went to Bhiloda, Radhanpur, and then travelled to Modhera, Patan and Siddhpur and continued our journey in Ahmedabad.
Kutch Vista Trust works with the disadvantaged youth and children, particularly with disabled children. Disabled children are either brought here by their parents or found by a member of the organization. According to the info that we received from the sisters running the school, these kids are disabled, mostly due to inter-family marriages. Some of these kids have severe physical disabilities, or they are either deaf or blind, some have Down syndrome and/or both. After the kids are brought here, they are thoroughly checked by the doctors and to determine a “healing strategy”, customizeeach child’s child.
It was heart breaking to observe the conditions in which they live. For instance, the physical therapy facility was the size off my bedroom in Monterey and they barely had any equipment for children (Picture enclosed). As we were departing, the physical therapy teacher (who was also blind himself and was raised there, at the center), told us the following: “you are students and you have golden opportunity to help us”. I do agree with him and this blog entry is merely a beginning for me in creating awareness in addition to sharing my findings with the MIIS community, I will make presentations in various non-profit organizations in which I have been volunteering for the past eight years. I will, besides writing a research paper, will write articles to publish on various online news sites, starting with Aslan Media Initiatives. I plan on also communicating with the human rights lawyers with whom I worked with at my previous job and present them these realities.
My research focuses on the rights of children and youth, primarily concentrating on minority communities. I choose to focus on children and youth because i see them as the most vulnerable victims of injustice and they never do anything to deserve their life conditions. They are born into it, without having the option to make a choice. I, similar to my peers at MIIS, have had choices but these children and youth have not had any. With that being said, during this course, I have been focusing on the youth and children who were affected by the Hindu-Muslim violence, the trathat’s itch which they have been dealing since 2002 and I also have been observing their right to education. Clearly, as minorities, the Muslim youth and children have been deprived from basic rights, almost having no access to education. Furthermore, they have been severely traumatized by the 2002 violence and their lives have been extremely impacted by the fear and terror in which they have been growing up. I am passionate to observe and share their pain, trauma and bring awareness to the injustice. Everyone of us, particularly the youth and children, need someone to recognize our pain and genuinely care about it. And, it is my duty, as a human being to share their pain and create awareness. This is merely a beginning. Creating awareness will be my first step, sharing their pain, through various resources and channels will be a long term process.
I would like to end this blog entry with an interesting observation. We recently, among our group, we had a conversation about the difficulty between helping the elderly and children. Most of my peers find it easier to help the children and find it more depressing to help the elderly. I feel the opposite. It gives me more joy and peace to help the elderly but helping the children has been a biggest challenge for me as it does create more sorrow for me. The main reason is what I explained above: they start life with very limited options and it does bring tears to eyes to observe this indifference in destinies.
This second blog entry has focused on the disabled children at Kutch Vikas. The following entries will focus on various subjects, varying from tribal villages to slums as well as the children and youth in Muslim communities.