BY, Brett Tollman
Chief Executive, TTC
“To me, India’s always represented ‘everything’; it represents ‘all.’ Everything is here. You can stay here forever, and you’ll never feel like you’ve missed out on life.”
– Chris Martin
Namaste. I am writing this month’s story during our 22 hour trip home to LA with my family, after our first trip to India – a truly remarkable and unique country. Reflecting on our two weeks there, like every other country I have visited for the first time, I am deeply touched and moved by the locals we met, what we saw, experienced and learnt about this fascinating and very different destination.
India is home to the largest number of poor people in the world – one third of the world’s poor. 30% of Indians live on 65 cents a day, and its home to 25% of the world’s hungry – 200 million Indians are undernourished. We learnt that 200 children under the age of five die every hour there!
Learning About the Local Communities and Contributing to Meaningful Change with ME to WE
Once again, we traveled with ME to WE. This incredible organization, WE Charity chose to focus its efforts in India in Rajasthan as it is one of the poorest states in India, landlocked, with poor governance, water scarcity and the lowest ground water level of any state in India. With 30% of its population being tribal, this causes other issues around education and nourishment. Whereas most NGO’s camp themselves close to the cities for convenience, WE realized that the greatest areas of need are those furthest in the remote parts of this mountainous region.
Fifty percent of the girls who live in this state do not go to school, and 60% of those who do go, drop out before completing Grade 5. 50% of women and children living here are malnourished, 42% of children under the age of five are stunted and underweight, due to food availability and access being very limited and due to women and children having a lower social status in these tribal areas. One in six women die in childbirth.
Besides learning about some of these basic facts about life in this region and these staggering statistics, traveling there also reminded us that our preconceived perceptions and expectations rarely are appropriate nor correct. The various anticipated worries before leaving for India about visiting India, especially during its “off-season” (monsoon rains, high temperatures and intense humidity, being inundated by mosquitos) were largely not experienced by us. We often heard comments from others before leaving about the overcrowded streets and children begging, and while there is certainly that in India and elsewhere, these were not the overwhelming experiences that defined this country for us.