22 Jun ROSE (Rural Organization for Social Elevation)
Written by Logan Thackray and Alice Ye, 2015 India: Gender & Religion.
Situated in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in the Kanda region of Uttarkhand, India, the Rural Organization for Social Elevation (R.O.S.E.) is surrounded on all sides by a stunning landscape of lush green terraced farmland, tended to with care by local farmers. On arrival at the site we were personally greeted by Jeevan, the grandfatherly head of R.O.S.E., and treated to a home-cooked feast – an amazing treat for us after a long day of travel!
R.O.S.E. is a grassroots group that benefits the local community by seeking to improve the basic living conditions of the impoverished by providing housing, education, and shelter. Jeevan gave us a tour of the facilities, including a local school for underprivileged children as well as some of the homes that he has provided for those in need, such as widows with few other sources of income. We were also fortunate enough to have discussions with the local schoolteachers, the schoolchildren, and Jeevan’s very own daughter.
Throughout the five days we spent at R.O.S.E., we were able to gain a greater understanding of the culture that surrounds the Uttarkhand province. A typical day would start with steaming cups of sweet, milky chai and would not be complete without the taste of delectable home-cooked meals provided by Gunja, such as dal (lentils) and mixed vegetable curry with chapatti (a type of flatbread). We would spend some time learning with Jeevan or helping with our volunteer project in the morning, and then spend the afternoon reflecting, playing with the adorable dogs the family kept as pets, or visiting the nearby Kanda market to shop and explore.
One of the highlights for the group was that we were invited to attend the pre-ceremony for a traditional Hindu wedding. The troupe pilled into the jeeps and drove 2 hours into the foothills to attend Jeevans neice’s wedding preparations. We were greeted with chai and smiling faces. No one quite knew what to do with 12 strangers but we were quickly enveloped in food and encouraged to dance, which I believe gave many people a good laugh. The men then sat on the sidelines (except Byron) and women filled the room and began to sing and play drums for the soon-to-be bride. Colors and jewelry were everywhere. Then each individual woman got their time to shine and performed a dance for all. Unfortunately, this invitation was also extended to us and we once again attempted to dance.
All in all R.O.S.E. was a world different than Delhi and a welcoming one at that. It was a little piece of heaven where we got to experience fist hand the lives of people living in rural India. We got to see the building of a toilet for Ganga, and helped out where we could in the process. The team then hopped into jeeps for the long… long… long… drive to the next magical destination.