Friends had a wonderful trip to Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, met a very diverse set of people in the course of our travels, from a Tribal woman to well established businessmen and people working on wild life and forest conservation, due to the immense goodwill and respect Sunil and Jenny enjoy i had a very fascinating trip which allowed me to go deeper into the lives of the people, know about the local politics, their likes, dislikes, struggles, challenges, needs and aspirations..We began with MAHILA SHAKTI KENDRA, ( MASK, Balipara , Assam ) a ngo working for women and run entirely by rural women not more than matriculates who have done wonderful work and is being led by a very strong and competent women team, they have been able to free their land from the money lenders and also have now become trainers for women from other states. They have high aspirations and an extensive network.
Later visited Wildlife Trust of India's Kaziranga Rehab Center. Did a Home Stay at a Karbi Tribal House, which is a part of Rural Tourism concept of NEST, founded by Ariful Hussein, a Hydro geologist and ex colleague of Jenny and Sunil. We visited Kaziranga and a Mishing Village where Bamboo houses are made on Stilts to avoid the flooding of the Brahmaputra.
Next was of course a visit to ANT (near Bongaigon, Chirang District, Bodoland ) we all know about their work, it was a pleasure to see the new buildings coming up, had a meeting with some of their associates who are working in different fields and are trained by ANT, their weaving unit Aagor run by the Weavers themselves, has touched sales of 98.5 Lakhs which includes local wages of 27 lakhs, have posted a small loss this year, but has good potential, ANT now is looking at working with the youth and women on various issues, they are getting over the riots and still some wounds are to heal. They will play a role of mentoring the other ngos we support.
Had a meeting of the ANT supporters in their CA, Raj Kumar Agarwal's office to promote the support base for ANT. Also met a group of ngos whom ANT is already supporting as part of the lower Assam NGO's Forum which they helped set up.
We proceed to " Synjuk " meaning a federation ( Shillong, Meghalaya )led by Mr Tambor they are doing wonderful work in restoring the forest through their Sacred Groove Concept with the villagers and have plans to reach out to the neighbouring villages too, this year they plan to plant 12000 trees.
Next was to I-CARD (Institution of Culture and Rural Development) run by Father K.A Thomas in Sadiya , Assam. One of his main programme is training for young drop-out boys and girls. The programme arms them with skills which shall make them self-employed even as they prepare to work for their society. The training is deeply rooted in their culture and tradition. We also visited the Don Bosco MSW college and found 3 young graduates who are passionate and wanting to change the world and have started their own initiatives for social development. They are struggling to survive and we hope to help them along with some fellowships for 2 years.
Later met some of the ANT Fellows in Chabua ( Assam ) who are a dedicated group of people working on various issues in and around their villages. Met with Somyadeep Datta who is a conservationist since he was 14 years old and has authored 20 books on the forests in Assam., after his intervention the government has marked 18 places as Sanctuaries, one of them being for the Golden Langur.
Nagaland was the next halt to Eleutheros Christian Society (Tuensang, Nagaland ) bordering Burma, a fairly large ngo working on various issues like Health, Education, Agriculture, Conservation and Water, we have assisted them in making a Bridge ( 40 feet ) along with a road of 6 kms, which would reduce the travel time to Assam by 2 hours resulting in savings on time and money and also fuel, we insisted on charging a toll which shall act as a revolving fund for other projects, a total of 3,00,000 people may benefit
Also visited Entrepreneurs Associates ( KOHIMA, Nagaland ) founded by An Ashoka Fellow, Neichute Duolo when he was just out of college and heavily in Debt. Jenny played a crucial role in motivating him. They are doing interesting work and help locals set up their own business as employment opportunity are low in a town of 90,000 people, they are pretty successful and have so far reached 2000 people directly and about 14000 indirectly - The percentage of Nagas in Business has gone up considerably since their intervention and has changed the profile of the Kohima market where 10 years ago 90 % of the businesses were run by non-nagas, today almost 30 % are run by the Nagas, the successful entrepreneurs support the newer ones.
We were hosted by a wonderful couple Niketu and Christine, Niketu is a well known peace activist, who led the negotiations with Govt Of India and the Naga Militants he also helped ANT in guiding the Bodo Students Union into accepting the path of Peace and non viloence.
Further support would be based on Jenny and Sunil's advise and bandwidth, we are still discussing some projects and have decided to support a few. In the North East travelling is time consuming and also expensive, not easy to monitor far off places and hence the limitations, for just 150 Kms in Nagaland it took 6 hours, due to the hills and really bad roads. All in all it was a great trip which gave me a good fell about the NE.
We are thankful to Sunil and Jenny to have planned this trip so well, they are the reason for CF to spread in the NE, and also to our Hosts Niketu and Christine Iralu, Neichute Doulo, Chingmak Kejong (in Nagaland); Fr. K.A Thomas & Fr. Jerry in Assam, MASK in Balipara, Fr. George in Meghalaya and many other friends of the ANT.
Soul Trips >