Today we had the opportunity to really get down to business and see how human security works on the ground. Personally, so far I have felt really removed from the actual problems that many Indians are currently facing after only having talked about and discussed the situation and I was really excited to get to the field-work portion of the course. One of my learning objectives for this trip was to see how NGO's and non-profits work in the real world since I often feel as if we, as students, have a deep theoretical understanding of problems but we are missing the real-world aspect of the issues and how they are dealt with.
After lunch, we started our afternoon with a visit to the Centre for Health and Human Security in Cuttack where we were given a briefing on the centre's approach and their work and successes in the community. The centre focuses on health issues from a human security perspective, recognizing that without basic health, development cannot take place. Their goal is to reduce and eventually eradicate the major diseases in the area, including malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. They also do research on other human security indicators such as access to food and clean drinking water. One of their most impressive achievements is that they were able to reduce the incidence of malaria in one of their villages by over 20% in one year!
Next we headed to one of the villages that the centre works with to observe the conditions and meet the people of the villages. We had a very interesting welcome by the women of the village (the video at the end shows the greeting). Overall, it was obvious that the centre was extremely well-appreciated and it seemed that the community truly worked together to uplift themselves from their situation of poverty. The group had a lot of fun interacting with the people there and playing with the children.
When we returned to the hotel we came together for a quick meeting to consolidate our observations from the day. We all agreed that what we saw today demonstrated the efficacy of small NGO's and non-profits in dealing with problems such as disease as compared to the government. The townspeople informed us that their representative in Parliament has never visited their village, demonstrating that the problems for this village are not a huge concern to the government even though they are mostly active voters. The founders of the centre (including our own Dr. Acharya) recognized a problem in their own community and set up an organization to take care of it. The women in the village even developed their own association to help the community as well. These two facts demonstrate the importance of community in human security and how communities can organize to provide security to individuals. The group also found it interesting that women seemed to be the most active in the community in terms of efforts to develop and improve their situation. We are interested to know why this seems to be the case, it could be that the men were just not as visible to us today because they were still working or they simply were not interested in our visit.
All in all it was a good experience for everyone on the trip and an especially invaluable experience for those of us interested in doing this kind of field work in foreign countries in the future!