If you browse through a photo book about India you will likely to see colorful people in beautiful robes, Hindus who bathe in the Ganges or huge crowds in the streets of Mumbai and New Dehli. That there was a big contradiction between rich and poor, I had also factored it in. But that it would be so distressing, I did not expect that either. In March and April, I spent four weeks crossing India, looking for the other side of India. That means visiting the slums and traveling across the extensive countryside. I have mixed feelings about my journey through the slums. On the one hand it was distressing to see how people live together, sometimes with ten people in a space of 3×3 meters. Devoid of electricity, running water and sanitary. Many people are infected with HIV/AIDS and almost everyone unemployed. In some places it was more like a rubbish tip. During my first visit to the slums, a man committed suicide by setting himself on fire. On the other hand … Children play hide and seek, the parents try to make something out of nothing, the elderly drink tea and make a game of cards. There was more fun than I have ever seen in the Netherlands.
The Dutch foundation “Solidarity with India” works with dozens of projects to improve the living conditions of poor children, young people and the sick in India. With good education they try to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor. I was able to visit the slums of Bombay a few times through the contacts of Solidair with India. Without escorts you can not show yourself as a Westerner, too dangerous and also embarrassing to walk around with photo cameras without explanation as a wealthy Westerner. For example, the money from the organization “Solidarity with India” is used for education. “Good education is crucial for these children. Without training they can never find a job later. If we manage to have at least one child study in each family, he or she can later maintain the whole family and no longer depend on third-party help “, says a street worker in Bombay.
Good education. The idea is simple, but in an overpopulated country like India with age-old traditions such as the caste system and belief in reincarnation, nothing happens automatically. Bernard Kersten (61) coordinates the projects and is committed to the fate of the poor Indians. “I saw the terrible poverty and that made me sad and rebellious. Something must be done about this, I thought to myself “. The organization is now active with more than 100 projects. Kersten: “Our approach is focused on bundling different projects in one place. When we build a school somewhere, we also make sure that there is a doctor’s post or a small hospital and we try to start small businesses with microcredits, for example. Through this combination of projects we can work very effectively and we give thousands of families a good future perspective. So never say that our work is just a drop in the ocean. ”
In de centraal Indiase stad Indore ontmoet ik Sunita Goshwami. De 24-jarige vrouw is infected with HIV and lives with her three small children in a slum dwelling on the outskirts of the city. Her husband died of AIDS three years ago. To save their honor, the in-laws accused her of an extra-marital affair and put her on the streets with the children. Thanks to the Vishwash (trust) program, which is supported by Solidair with India, she has taken the thread of life again. “I now get medication that makes me feel good again. Sometimes I even forget that I am infected with HIV. Thanks to the Vishwash project, my children are going to school again. Their future will be good “.
- With 1.1 billion people, India is the country with the highest number of inhabitants after China. More than 350 million people live below the poverty line. In addition, there are over 5.6 million AIDS and HIV patients in India.
- The “Solidarity with India” helps underprivileged children, young people, the sick and disadvantaged groups, irrespective of caste or religion;
- The organization cooperates with various other organizations and donors. They have a joint budget of more than 1.4 million euros. This means that more than 100 projects are carried out. The money is used for concrete, small-scale projects in the field of education, health, labor and housing;
- The projects are visited twice a year to check the results and the accounts and to set out new projects;
- More info: www.solidairmetindia.nl
Journalist and photographer Bart Coolen traveled through India for four weeks to make a report about the work of the Dutch foundation ‘Solidarity with India’. He is member of the International Federation of Journalists. Photo’s can be seen on www.bartcoolen.nl.