Why has Keith stopped posting???

Sorry all. Have not been able to post since I’m heads down in crunch time on the project. 

Given that I’m cheating here and instead linking you to this rather funny,  informative and accurate post done yesterday by Nina about health and safety in India.  Click here

My best to all. Keith. 

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The project itself – CCT

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I’ve been blogging away about the sights sounds and a bit about my feelings as I encounter India, and only now does it strike me that perhaps not too many of you know about the actual project I’m working on. So this post is intended to give you a bit of background on that and update you on the status.

I’m working for an organization call Chaitanya Charitable trust. The organization was founded in 1996 after the founders (a husband and wife team, Hitesh and Kajal Pandya) expereinced the death of Hitesh’s brother. This caused them to reassess their proirities, close down their social work practices, liquidate all their assets and start CCT. They founded CCT and on a plot of land in one of Jamnagers 67 slums built the equivalent of a community center from which they could base all their outreach efforts in the slums.

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Their vision: “To empower and lift up the lives of the poor and disadvantaged living in difficult circumstances, while emphasizes the dignity of each person and the right to equal opportunity through self-development.” and mission:

“Advance the lives of the poor and disadvantaged with programs that promote health and human services, education, slum development, and women’s empowerment to empower individuals to rise above their current situation.”

In the years since 1996 they haven been very active in about three of the slums helping to organize women’s (particularly marginalized) self-help groups, providing medical check-up/clinics, dispensing common medicine and antibiotics, assisting the World health organization monitor for Polio outbreaks. IN addition the provide facilites for disaster relief training (GSDMA )and the limited government outreach in the Slums

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Importantly they provide daycare services in the mornings when Government school is in session so that school age children can attend school instead of looking after their siblings while their parents work. CCT also provides sewing and livelihood skills development classes.

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About 5 years ago they also began implementing a program called Happy Children Center (HCC). One of the observations was that children in the slums were not obtaining the basic learning required to advance even when they were enrolled in the government school system. This was largely because the methods used in that system are not exciting and were seen as irreverent in the eyes of the children and their parents. This was resulting on high levels of dropout from the government system. 

Happy Childrens Center was created to overcome these challenges. HCC provides two hours of education in math, Gujarati, Hindi and English, six days a week (5-7pm) after government school ends. The progress of the students is tightly monitored and special attention is provided when a student is not learning material needed. The HCC uses creative technique in teaching and the tag line for the organization is “Learning with Fun”.  Currently they have three “classrooms” of 50 students each. One is in the actual facility and two are held in open air classrooms. The open air ones will be moved into some sort of rental facility as soon as funding can allow:

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As a result they program is overflowing with children and the waiting list of new students is long. Importantly attendance in government schools has improved and children are not just attending school but are actually learning the basic skills to help them.

Given the great success of the program Hitesh and Kajall want to aggressively expand the HCC to serve up to 10% of the 30,000 Slum children (so 3000) 60 of the 67 Slums.

SO….. my team – Keith, Peter and Emily have been assigned to create a strategic plan for the expansion of HCC that provides a plan that will help them meet this objective.

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Work has been proceeding well and we have learned how to get to work each day and make our way around Jamnager as needed. Hitesh and Kajal have been very engaged with us and have answered all our questions and helped us in countless ways in our investigations.

The first week of the assignment was to do initial interviews, visits to the classrooms and assess if our assignment was do-able in the time available.  Weeks two focused on followup form that developing some initial ideas, doing research  as to what similar organizations are doing, and understanding what partnerships might be key to develop and support such an expansion model.

Now we are into week three and we are into the formalization of the plan and related recommendations, the write up of the report, and the creation of the final presentation we will provide on Sept 4, since we depart Jamnager on Sept 6.

It’s clear that in CCT and HCC has some great strengths. They have very committed an involved founders who are innovate and passionate about their cause. Their teachers are skilled and have a high level of commitment. The and the quality of the program there is ample supply of students. On the downside there are more than a few challenges to the groups. Primarily is the lack ofr financial resources and funding.

We have been working hard to develop a set of recommendations allow for the sustainment and growth of the HCC program. So far there are four key areas to be addresses:

  • Marketing and outreach, including updates to their online presence to attacrt internalization donors
  • Partnership development with both local and internalization organizations
  • Developing a phased and sustainable growth plan that has managed risk
  • Recommending a organizational structure and operational procedures that will work well as the HCC scales to many more centers and slums

We have some very good ideas in each of these areas. Emily’s financial expertise and forecasting skills have been invaluable to create good financial models. Peter has been very active not just creating recommendations but in actually starting the work to modernize the website (including introduction of easy online based donations), improve Facebook fan page, and rationalize other abandoned accounts (twitter and linked in) that CCT historically had. We have also created a short promotional video for CCT.  We have also created some standard funding proposal templates, created newsletters, and will provide recommendations about how to maintain on active online presence. 

Partnership  wise we have researched and investigated a host of potential partners and are now reaching out and in some cases engaging in the application process. This area is one that is most challenging since it is doubtful any will come to completion during our remaining two weeks here.

While we certainly won’t solve any issues directly I think our work will be very valuable and our recommendations and plan will be sound. In addition we will have actually completed or started portions of implementing the more critical recommendations which hopefully Hitesh and Kajal can continue once we leave and go back to our day jobs.

Anyway… sorry for the length and detail in this post but wanted to give all a sense of why I’m really here. Auto Risckshaw’s and the like are fun, but hopefully the efforts of Peter, Emily and I will make a meaningful difference.

Finishing off with a picture that shows just how cool our client is. Here is a fun picture of Hitesh on his commute home after work. Of course I snapped it while clinging to the backseat of the auto Rickshaw. India is nothing if not exciting!

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Best wishes to all back home.

Keith

#IBMCSC India

Adventure within an Adventure

Hello all,

I’m back from my weekend adventure in India, and as always India did not disappoint in terms of interesting sights, sounds and tastes. Too much to fully comment on here so including a bunch of images with short titles. Will explain more back stories and each to those interested later.

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A quick summary of the trip is:

  •  Left Jamnager and went to Ghandi’s birthtplace, Porbander. It was very cool.
  •  Left Porbander and went to the resort town/island of Dui. It’s interesting cause it’s climatically different. More palm trees. Also it has Portuguese history so the architecture and feel of the place is different.
  • Attended some cool things in Dui (the fort, an annual (and strange) Coconut festival, and of course the beach). For the coconut festival we attended was particularly strange. We took many videos of it but found a much better one on You tube via Google. Gotta love the internet. Watch it here. Quite exciting but was safe for us since we stayed well back form the main activity!
  • Departed Dui for Junagadh
  • Drove thought the Gir forest area and saw monkeys and water buffalo wallowing by the road. Sadly no Lion spotted 😦
  • In Junagadh went to the base of the mountain where there is a temple at the top. There are about 9900 steps leading up to the temple at the top. We did not climb more than a few, but were treated to more very cool monkey sightings. This time a tribe of about 50 that let us get very close.
  • Headed home, dodging cow, traffic on the wrong side of the road (very common) and huge pot-holes. Driving is an adventure of it’ own. Fortunately the driver we had was excellent and kept us all safe.

Back home now and getting ready for work tomorrow. Big push next week as we continue to get the recommendations and report ready.

Here’s a set of pictures and very short descriptions to match the above.

Keith

#IBMCSC India

On the road to Dwarka. People travel hunders of miles but all means, including bikes to converge ont he site on Aug 28th. For more info on Dwarka see Nina’s great post. Here. That where she visited this weekend.

On the road to Dwarka

Exact birthplace of Ghandi

Exact birthplace of Ghandi

Fort Dui

Fort Dui

Keith at top of lighthouse in Fort Dui. Amazing views!

Keith at top of lighthouse in Fort Dui. Amazing views!

Coconut festival in Dui

Coconut festival in Dui

A walk on the beach by where we stayed.

A walk on the beach by where we stayed.

Dui has a festive feel. This picture is for Raya. I was thinking of you!

Dui has a festive feel. This picture is for Raya. I was thinking of you!

Keith virtually visits the temple without walking all the stairs :-)

Keith virtually visits the temple without walking all the stairs 🙂

Monkey troupe at the ad of the temple mountain

Monkey troupe at the ad of the temple mountain

Out the window as we whizzed along int he van.

Out the window as we whizzed along int he van.

Stoped for Chai tea and saw this barber shop. Too bad no time, I need a haircut!

Stoped for Chai tea and saw this barber shop. Too bad no time, I need a haircut!

Sunset returning to Jamnager

Sunset returning to Jamnager

Sunset returning to Jamnager

Sunset returning to Jamnager

Sunset returning to Jamnager

Sunset returning to Jamnager

End of week 2 – midpoint on project.

It’s the Friday night, the end of week two and midpoint on my IBM CSC India experience. It was a good week . We made lots of progress on the project an have an initial structure for the final report worked out. Next week we need to get into full reportwriting mode.

Importantly we have allso made good headway on some practical things we cna complete before leaving to help CCT in addition to “just” providing them recommendations.

On the partnership development side of things we have been able to connect them to a few local like-minded organizations that should be able to start to provide them ideas and references that may in the end attract some more funds. Emily has complete much of the financial modeling for organization sustainment and growth and also has put in place a series of operational processes and templates to hep provide some tracking rigor to the organization. In addition she and I have grinding away searching for good candidates to partner up with, as well as preparing proposal templates to ask for money, writing newsletters and producing various content to help promote the visibility of CCT others. I’m very thankful I got the good fortune of having Emily and Peter, two outstandingly capable IBM’ers on my team. Peter has been remarkable has revamped all of their social media communication approaches, and is well into providing recommendations and modernization for their website. Most importantly we will very soon have Paypal hooked up to their webstie making it much more possible for interested donors to send them money with limited hassle. Clearly this is a must in today’s world where a host of other worthy charities are also competing for a relatively fixed amount of charity money available in the western world.

Today we also had the Sava team (another of the IBM teams working on assignment here) visit our project. It was great since it gave us another chance to get out of our hot room where we work and get back into the Slums to see the children. First we visited with the children in the center classrooms, like we do most days. Including a rare picture of me and the kids just to prove I was actual here:

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After that however we got to go out and visit both open field classroom in the Ragpickers and Beggars Slum. I’m including a number of pictures of that area here since to date I have not posted any of these. They clearly show the classroom conditions in these slum are worse than at the center. This is something our recommendations are making a priority to correct; funding and donations willing.

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Children at play

 

 

 

 

Fetching wood

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the tarp

 

 

 

 

Open air class 1

 

 

 

 

 

Local Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An elderly onlooker

 

 

 

 

 

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Kids rightly spotting all the countries of the strangers: Canada, USA, Mexico, Germany, Australia.

 

 

 

Kajal reminds the class of hte need to study had and learn English so they can one day come and visit our home countries.

 

 

 

Tomorrow I get up early since 6 of us are going on a road trip south. I’m slightly guilty I wont be staying here to work but I really want to experience as much of India as possible before my time here runs out. We will be going to Diu, a town in the south of Gujarat that has Portuguese history. As well we likely will be able to visit Gandhi’s birthplace, which I think is pretty cool.

While away I’ll be taking lots of pictures of course but will be offline in terms of posting, so likely wont have any new info up until your Sunday. Otherwise, hopefully these blogs and images are giving you something of a sense of the amazing experience I’m on.

Best wishes to all back home.

Keith

#IBMCSC India

Technical challenges and some pictures

Just a short post today since not too much new to report as we are now into the heads down mode doing analysis on what we have found out and beginning to structure and write up our recommendations/report. The only major challenge we have had on the project is the afternoon loss of physical energy (sometimes electrical power too) we all experience as we stare at our computers trying to be productive in the heat of the day. If anyone is coming to India on CSC please strongly consider bringing an extra laptop battery. Mine has come in very handy!

It seems others on the India20 team have also had a few technical challenges.  Malcolm has documented some of  them in his blog here

Will finish this short post with a few quick photos I took yesterday of sights at the centre. Will post again later. 

Keith. 

#IBMCSC India

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The Birds, Reksha Bandha day, and a home cooked meal :-)

 

 

 

 

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So, just one day since I posted and yet another ocean of thoughts to share with you. I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. First, if you want to see a few images from the Bird sanctuary as well as read about the cow situation here check out Nina’s Blog

Also in including one of the better bird pictures I have not had time to edit. Even with a telephoto lens they were a long way away: 

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Otherwise if I recall when I left of on the last post I was about to go out to a movie at the Jamnager.  It was very interesting and we saw something called Chennai Express.

To hear a quick review of the movie click here. My review is that it was oddly wonderful! It was great to see what the locals are watching and to hear their roars of laughter even if I did not quite get most of the jokes. Regardless of the language barrier and the long duration (3 hours) it was lots of fun, and yet another once in a lifetime experience for me. 

Then after the movie we went to a local hotel that’s more like a resort where they had camels you could ride. I passed on the camels but we ate in the open air (first time yet since tehe weather is now dryer) and the temperature was beautiful. It was a wonderful feast of yet more food. The variety of what they eat here (all vegitaian only) is remarkabe.

Only issue was it was getting a bit late, but that said I’m even getting used to the very late dinners. It’s not uncommon for dinner to starting at 9:30 and ending at 11:00.  

Today we headed off to work and made good progress on the project. At the end of the day we had a lovely encounter with three girls who brought Happy Reksha Bandhan day to us. Picture of the girls and one of the cards they made is here: 

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Finally we topped off the day by heading to Hitesh and Kajal’s (our clients) home for a wonderful home cooked meal. We had Roti and a Chick pea type dish and for desert some raw sugar cane in a candy form. It was very nice and especially interesting to see Kajal cook in her own kichen, rolling out the Roti, frying it in a pan and serving it on our plates, similar to how we cook pancakes back home.  Also it was terrific to see what a “real” Jamnager home looks like.

After dinner we had an interesting discussions which surprisingly ended up being about world religions and I learned a number interesting facts. Hitesh and Kajal were also very interested in hearing a bit about our faiths and traditions so it was a very interesting exchange. 

Kajal and Hitesh’s hospitality was marvelous and they continue to demonstrate what wonderful hearts they have for everyone around them. 

Just including a few more images here of some more wonderful children and people at the center. 

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And a couple more I have had a chance to post in other blogs of interesting faces and scenes:

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Will post again when I have something interesting to share. 

Best wishes to all. Keith.

#IBMCSC India

The markets, the Bird sanctuary and the Arabian Sea

It’s been a busy weekend so my apologies to all for not posting yesterday. The internet is a bit challenged here so each time I sat down to do it the technical issues prevented me. I have tried to upload a Video I took in the morning market that captures the sounds and sights pretty well, but the Internet has not been co-operative so anyone interested please remind me when I return home. Here is a couple still images: 

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Yesterday afternoon I went out again to another market with Hitesh, Kajal, Emily, Peter and also the Sava team Anton, Claudia and Malcolm. The purpose of the trip was so Kajal could help the ladies pick out some traditional clothing at the market. Also when I was there I saw LOTS of fabric shops with wonderful designs and colors. Sorry Mom it’s too hard for me to pack it home.

 At the dress store we were confronted with an array of options. I originally intended to get one for Leah but once I heard the process I decided to wait and do it when she comes to India. The outfits (top, pants, and matching scarf) are basically sold as a one size fits all. You pick which one you want from a huge variety of beautiful styles, fabrics and designs and then you are whisked upstairs where a tailor that can’t speak any English measures every part of you so they can make it perfectly fit you.

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Based on the number and complexity of the measurements needed it became clear to me that the guessing everything right so the end product would fit Leah was VERY small.  

 After the dress event Hitesh and Kajal took use to See Ram Dairy (picture here) to have some of the best Ice Cream Jamnager has to offer. Claudia who seems to be an Ice Cream fanatic loved it, and I must admit that I found the Strawberry/Chocolate desert I had very enjoyable.

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This morning we went on an outing to the Khijadiya Bird sanctuary. I was very interested to see it so Garish kindly arranged a van for us as well as the special permits to allow us in. It was an interesting trip and very beautiful. The temperature was cool and there was a nice breeze so for the first time I did not feel the humidity in India. Unfortunately there were not a huge number of birds since all the migratory exotic birds were away in their home country. Apparently the time to see them is in December but I won’t be back then, so it was nice to see the storks we did happen upon. Thank gosh I brought a telephoto lens for the camera!

 The other cool think we saw was a giant bug. I was quite enthralled with it and took many pictures. I’ve joked we should make it the official mascot of the India20 team but I’m not sure if the others are in agreement with me.  

After the bird sanctuary we headed north to the ocean and spent a few moments at the Arabian sea. I had to wade in so I could say I did.  A few of us also got a ride on a boat too. It was great fun. 

Now back in the hotel for a bit of a workout in the Gym and then off to an Indian Cinema tonight. It should be interesting. I’m told the movies are all three hours long and include an intermission. Hopefully there will be English sub-titles. Time will tell.

 We are being looked after very well by Girish and as you can tell I’m taking advantage of all the new experiences. Next weekend we might go to the Birthplace of Ghandi, which would be very cool!

 Tomorrow it’s off to CCT again to resume the project. Lots to do and time is starting to shrink.

 Signing off for now. best wished to all, 

 Keith

#IBMCSC India