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The end of our food distribution project in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan

Sambhali Trust has come a long way since the first 3-weeks-lockdown was announced by the Indian government on the 24th March. We have reached many tribal families around Setrawa that didn’t have access to groceries anymore by distributing food packages (lentils, flour, spices, chai powder, salt, sugar and oil) that lasted up to 15 days. We have been able to deliver to 544 families in the villages of Setrawa, Viramdeogarh, Dera, Happansar, Chordiya, Jetaniya, Gumanpura, Sagra, Khanodi, Ramdevnagar, Mandla Khurdi, Lawaran and the city of Jodhpur between 22nd March and 31st May. In addition to the families, migrant workers at the Bawkan Government School and people at the Abhaygarh Isolation Camp nearby benefited from this project. In total, around 2,100 ration kits were provided.

Furthermore, the field workers were able to reach more than 1,140 houses to raise awareness on COVID-19, how to protect themselves from it and to deliver soaps. More than 400 reusable masks made by Sambhali students at the Setrawa Women Empowerment Center were supplied additionally.

End of May, Sambhali put an end to the food distribution project in the Thar Desert. However, we decided to still keep the project going for the most vulnerable families of the villages that have no possibilities at all to sustain themselves. Our team of more than 15 volunteers, both national and international, worked very hard to make this all possible, despite many obstacles such as village politics, the blazing heat and sandstorms. All of this was possible thanks to the help of the villages’ Sarpanches, our field workers and generous donations through our fundraising campaign on Milaap. 

We are grateful to everyone who has been part of this life changing journey. It has made a tremendous difference in the lives of those people. 

Every donation made the difference. 

A big thank you to all of you! 

Leaving Setrawa: our quarantine home 

After 3 months of lockdown in Setrawa, the last Sambhali volunteers went back to Jodhpur and left their "quarantine home". Despite all unexpected events during this worldwide crisis and the closure of Sambhali’s main projects in Jodhpur, the volunteers were able to invest their time and energy in new activities in Setrawa, such as the food distribution project, living with an Indian family and participating in household chores. They could learn more about life in the desert and its people.                     

Statements of the three last volunteers who went back to Jodhpur in beginning of June:    

Maigane, French Service Civic Volunteer from Haiti: “Being in quarantine in Setrawa was definitely a roller coaster experience. Between the 46°C heat, the frequent power cuts and the everyday heavy sandstorm, my wheel of emotions was all over the place. However, we wanted to maximize our time there at its best. We tried to stay positive by focusing on our work for Sambhali around the villages & enjoyed and learned as much as we could living there with an Indian family. We are really thankful for their hospitality. And we certainly have a lot to talk about and a lot to remember”.

Leana, French Service Civic Volunteer from France: “The quarantine in Setrawa was very emotional and powerful with the many power cuts, the heat and especially the limitation of resources. Being there in the international crisis put all things in a different perspective because we were deep in the Indian culture thanks to the hospitality of Govind’s family. Thankfully, we could continue a little bit our mission with Sambhali’s beautiful new project: the food distribution and also our Admin work. It was is a big adventure and a challenge.

Roxanne, volunteer coordinator & administrative assistant from Germany: “We spent more than two months of the lockdown in the Thar Desert and it was a crazy adventure. On most days, the heat, long power cuts and heavy sandstorms controlled our days and nerves. Thankfully, we had Sambhali’s food donation project that got us out of our comfort zone and straight into the field. We have met many people in the last weeks, from orphans, widows to poor families in bungalows made out of sticks.  Some stories and living situations shocked us and reminded us again how life can be and what we can do to help those who weren’t that lucky. Additionally, I learned much more about Indian families and their culture by living together under one roof in a time like this. I am thankful for this experience and very grateful to my Indian family that takes care of me like one of their own.

Back to the office in Jodhpur: The next step 

End of May/beginning of June, the Sambhali office reopened with limited staff and the new regulations. On 8th June, the 3 last volunteers joined as well. Very different from the desert, the volunteers had to adapt to the city's much stricter way of life regarding COVID-19. Everybody is aware of the higher risks and is taking all necessary measures. The office is open from Monday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm. Everyone who enters the office must wear a mask; antibacterial sanitizer is available and we all maintain social distancing. 

Despite the closure of Sambhali’s empowerment centers on 14th March, reopening the office has allowed us to launch new programs to improve the skills and knowledge of our staff. This project includes Computer training, English classes and Volunteer Coordination Workshop for our Empowerment Centers’ teachers. They are given training to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the hall of Sambhali House. Such skills are essential for their work in the future, especially because we don’t know when everything will go back to ‘normal’ and volunteers can join us again. From now on, the teachers will be able to write their monthly reports, attendance sheets, prepare workshops, etc. independently.

Roxanne on the new timetable at Sambhali: “I am glad to be back in Jodhpur and to work again. Next to my usual Admin work in the office, I am teaching the staff in computer skills, volunteer coordination and English. They are very motivated and their improvements in the last 4 weeks are amazing. Like that, we can use this time in a useful way. I am happy I stayed and that I am still able to help as much as possible.” Manju S., Hindi & Math teacher at Shakti Women Empowerment Center and Laadli Primary Education Center, agrees: “It is very difficult for us right now without the centers. I miss my students and teaching. But it is very nice to learn how to use a laptop properly, especially because we have to be able to write our reports, etc. on our own and not depend on the volunteers so much. I am learning a lot."

 

Thanks to all the people that have supported us in all those years and especially in the past few months. We are happy that we were able to help so many people in the desert and that we can continue to help 22 very vulnerable families. We hope to come back even stronger. Stay tuned for our next newsletter and events – we are all in this together! 

Sambhali Trust




Pictures credit: Emma Deutscher, Roxanne Naeschen, Veronika Goepfert

To learn more about volunteering with Sambhali please follow the link below: Volunteer with us
 
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