On Wednesday Dan and I had the privilege of joining a small school group on a visit to thevillage of Dunda. In June 2013 a tremendous rainstorm caused flooding in the Uttarakhand hills. See here. You may have heard the stories of the Hindu pilgrims traveling to Gangotri and other pilgrimage sites and the thousands who died. The Indian military provided helicopter evacuation, but they could only rescue some of the people, many of whom were washed away in the flood.
In Dunda village, located on the Aglar River in a valley, the floods washed away their fields, irrigation system and buildings. Woodstock wanted to respond and offer help and Dunda was chosen as a village that needed a lot of help. For three months, the school provided food bundles to the families of the village, as their cash crop of potatoes, nearly ready for harvest, was totally lost. A close relationship has been built up and is one of the main projects overseen at Woodstock by Sanjaya Mark, the Director of Community Engagement. The projects include training women on sewing machines so they can earn some income; at the end of the training they receive a free machine. The project “Not Just a Strip of Cloth,” teaches young women about hygiene and manufactures sanitary napkins from rags. A new primary school has been built with Woodstock’s assistance, as the previous one was ruined in the flood.
At 1:00 we met our group at the school gate: Sanjaya’s mother and uncle, her gap year assistant Maria, former staff member Kay and her daughter Ella, and three exchange students joined us. The students are from Africa, two from Botswana and one from South Africa. Our drive to the east took about two hours, as we stopped several times.
At Second Jabarkhet we met our third vehicle with the mother and uncle. Dan had a few minutes to say hello to the chai wallah he used to visit regularly. (His foot injury has made that much walking difficult and he hasn’t been out there this trip yet.) Along the way we stopped at a wide spot in the road above a local secondary school to take a look across the valley. Sanjaya talked about the changes in the region as new people have moved in to build summer homes and start businesses. There were quite frequent restaurants and shops all along the road.
|Dan at Second Jabarkhet|
|Dahlias on the Khud|
|Stop along the road - students in center|
Not long after we stopped at an encampment of forest gujjars. These are nomadic tribes who spend the summer high in the mountains with their goats and cows, then migrate to the valley for the winter. It is a long walk. They start about 3:00 AM and walk until 9:00 or so. They spend the rest of the day grazing the animals, resting, and preparing their food. They seemed happy to chat with us about their lives.
|Gujjar man and child resting|
|Part of the encampment|
|Women and girls|
|View down into the Aglar Valley - river barely visible below|
|Close to the river|
The next post will be about the actual visit to Dunda.