Tag Archives: Reality Tours and Travel

[Interview] How a Recent YEP Graduate’s Trip to a Rural Village Changed The Way They Think About Dharavi and Inspired Change

Recently, Kaveri and Hasnain, two graduates from our Youth Empowerment Program  joined youth from the French NGO Global Potential for a four day leadership course in our partner village, Chinchoti.

Global Potential is an 18 month leadership and entrepreneurship program for youth from underserved communities. A key aspect of their program is a 45 day service-learning project in a rural village. During the month and a half immersion, program participants learn from local youth and cultures, carry out internships, and support community projects in health, environment, education, and media.

This year, they came to India for the first time to explore potential partnerships and partner villages with our co-founder Krishna. They also took the opportunity to host the leadership course with their students, and invited Kaveri and Hasnain along too!

Upon their return we sat with Kaveri to reflect on her time away from Dharavi.

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“It is the people of Dharavi that have touched me the most”

A few weeks ago Jayne Gorman, a UK based travel blogger contacted us to inform us she wanted to blog about Reality. Having visited us during the last four and a half years, which she has spent travelling the globe from Goa to the Vatican, San Francisco to Mumbai, Jayne explained that in that time her tour of Dharavi and exposure to the work Reality Gives had remained a very vivid, unique and important experience and she wanted to spread the word about us. So, without further ado, over to the professionals. Here’s her article, ‘A Charity Close to my Heart – Reality Gives in the Slums of Mumbai’

When I visited Dharavi, India’s largest slum, in Mumbai back in November 2010 I was struck most not by the disarray of the surroundings but the generosity of the people. Amongst swampy streets and littered wasteland children played with smiles on their faces. Workers toiled proudly in unsafe conditions; women kept the floor of their simple homes spotlessly clean. It was Duvali and celebration cake was being dished out to excitable children. They clutched it in their grubby hands and ran barefoot through piles of human and industrial waste to find a quiet place to enjoy it. Not before they had offered their guests the first taste though, they were exceedingly well mannered about it.

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Meet Sangeeta

Every year a group of Swedish architecture students comes to Dharavi, Mumbai, to study urban infrastructure. Every year they also spend some time with our projects and volunteer with us. Maja, a student of the group was very impressed by Sangeeta, our soft skill teacher and community health worker. Find out why:

We, a group of architecture students from Sweden, went to Dharavi to study informal settlements in global mega-cities such as Mumbai. We arrived in late October and our main assignment was to try to understand the Networks of NGOs working within Dharavi; How they work, what they do and why they are needed.

At the very beginning of our stay we went on a Reality Tours slum tour to help us familiarise ourselves with the area. It was through this tour that we met Sangeeta who teaches soft skills (part of the Youth Empowerment Program) to local youth and young adults at the Reality Gives community centre.

Sangeeta also works on a program that helps children with poor levels of nutrition run by the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH), in collaboration with Reality Gives. According to UNICEF, 43% of Indian children below the age of five years are underweight because of chronic mal-nutrition. The nutrition program is a weekly program that takes place every Saturday afternoon at the community centre. Nutritionists from FMCH come to the community centre to hold nutrition clinics and cooking workshops, and to do one-to-one counselling with the mothers.

Sangeeta explained to us that if she informs the mothers on a Monday about a Saturday workshop, no one will come. Instead she tells them about the cooking class the evening before, or even the same day, only a few hours before the class starts. For us, coming from a totally different part of the world where we sometimes plan meetings months in advance, this approach was tough to grasp!

Two of us had the opportunity to walk around the community with Sangeeta to inform the mothers about an upcoming workshop. Sangeeta, always with a smile and confidence, spoke every language needed and found her way through complex networks of narrow alleys, as if she has never done anything else. We visited more than 12 different homes, Sangeeta having a dialogue with all of the mothers and the children, and it always felt like she was very welcome.

Some of the mothers were not able to attend this week’s workshop because of the upcoming Diwali; with all of the cooking, cleaning, etc that had to be done, they simply had too much to do! However, they assured Sangeeta they would attend the next one and in the end, even with Diwali, there was a great turnout.

The nutritionists from FMCH held the class while Sangeeta and another Reality Gives employee, Nazia, helped out with preparing the food and looked after the children so the mothers could concentrate on their learning.

During our stay we spoke to Sangeeta a lot; she is a remarkable woman and she is very giving. We learnt a lot about living in Dharavi, and India, and Sangeeta got to know about our situation in Sweden. We laughed a lot together. While in Mumbai, we also attended the graduation ceremony for the students who had finished their three month ‘Youth Empowerment program’. One of the students, a teenage boy, gave a short speech to thank his teachers. He started by saying, “On the first day here I was so nervous. Then I met Sangeeta, she gave me hope and confidence”. I feel that this sums up Sangeeta perfectly.

Intern Nieck

In today’s blog I would like to introduce myself to you. My name is Nieck Slikker, I’m a 26 year old student at Stenden University (city of Leeuwarden) in the Netherlands. As of the 8th of June, I am the new addition to the Reality team here in Mumbai, although it will be for a short period of 4 months. I am what they would call ‘the intern’. Other titles I carry are ‘Chief Coffee Distributor’, ‘Senior Executive of Interior Cleaning’ and ‘Head Greeter’. I’m joking of course! The main task I have throughout these 4 months, is to conduct my research for my dissertation. After this I will be finishing up my thesis. In other words, this internship is my final placement which concludes my BBA and Tourism Management.

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Meet Steph

One week back Steph, the new CEO of Reality Tours and Travel arrived in Mumbai to start her work. She will explain on our blog what she did before, what she did in her first week and how excited she is for the future to come:

“Hi, my name is Stephanie and I started as the new CEO for Reality Tours and Travel last Monday. Originally, I am from Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA but before moving to Mumbai, I was living in London where I earned my MA in International Tourism Development and Management and then worked for the small-group adventure travel company, G Adventures. I’ve also lived in New York, Amsterdam, and Shanghai. However, I have always wanted to live in India so I couldn’t be more excited to be here!

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