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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nest's Work with NEWS and the Narikuravar Gypsies

The Narikuravar Gypsies are a traditionally nomadic people, and as a result they are rarely able to make a sustainable income, are largely illiterate, and lack traditional development resources. The Narikuravar family that I am staying with, Seetha and Makhendra, have responded to their community’s plight by starting their own NGO called NEWS (Narikuravar Education and Welfare Society). NEWS has been striving to make it possible for the children to receive quality education and self-employment. The source of income for the Narikuravar gypsies has been through their traditional jewelery making. Although the artisnas are highly skilled in beaded jewelry making, they lack the collateral for the necessary raw materials and also the competiveness in the local market to make a decent income. This is where Nest has come in to help the Narikuravar gypsy community improve their livelihoods by providing them with interest free loans and marketing assistance for their products. 

The colony in which the Narikuravar Gypsies live is 30 minutes outside of the major city of Trichy, off of the highway. The village is pretty large, catering to about 100-150 families living in make-shift houses. Through NEWS, my host family built a hostel for the Narikuravar children and there are around 30 of them. NEWS provides school and housing for the children. Setha and Makhendra’s work is really remarkable and I feel blessed to have met such amazing people. They dedicate their lives to these children and uplifting their community, and I feel honored to work with them in this process.
I have been slowly formulating relationships with the Narikuvar people, but especially with my host family. I have become friends with Swetha, the daughter of Seetha. Swetha speaks English pretty fluently and she even showed us around Trichy for a little bit yesterday. She took us to a famous temple, called the Rock Fort Temple. It is a Hindu Temple for a God I forget the name of, but supposedly if you climb at least 200 steps of the temple you will be blessed with fertility and an easy childbirth. Sounds good to me! Once we got to the top of the temple, we sat and enjoyed the very nice view of the city. After that, we did a bit of shopping in the market place. I got a beautiful maroon Indian scarf in a wonderfully air conditioned shop. Spending time in the city was nice, but very loud and chaotic. It also felt uncomfortable being stared at. From what I saw, I was the only foreign looking person in the places that we visited. I’m sure I stuck out like an eyesore. I had fun nonetheless, especially in the taxi car ride. Supposedly India is the number one country for automobile accident deaths. I definitely saw that be true. There are no real traffic rules from what I saw.  There is a lot of honking and cars maneuvering around each other and PEOPLE! I almost got run over by a motorbike because I didn’t look carefully enough. 

I wish I can post pictures of what I’ve been doing and seeing on the blog, but the internet is so slow that it seems near impossible. Using the internet here is definitely testing my patience. It’ll turn on and off and sometimes load a little faster than other times. Sometimes it won’t work at all. It gives me the feeling of being isolated but also encourages me to go out into the village and spend time with the Narikuravar people instead of staying cooped up in my room. 

I want to learn more about the history of this community and their lives, but I understand that this is all very sensitive considering their social status as the lowest caste. I am trying to build relationships with the villagers so that they can feel comfortable enough to eventually open up to me. Wish me luck!

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