Youth For Seva (YFS)an Organization to encourage Volunteering activities among Youthsplanned for a 2 days trip to Tribal Hamlets around Gokavaram (Andhra Pradesh) tounderstand the Life Style, challenges faced and Education system of Tribes. We were there on 27th and 28th Dec, 2013. Three volunteers (Myself, Dinesh Babu and Padma Priya) from Chennai Chapter started our journey on 26th December from Chennai Egmore.
We were totally 25 volunteers (3 from Chennai, 10 from Bangalore and 12 from Hyderabad). We divided ourselves into 2 groups to mix among ourselves and we got into 2 different cabs. Then started our journey towards Gokavaram. It was a 2 hours journey to Gokavaram (Approximately 90kms from Kurnool) and we reached there by 1pm. We kept our luggage in the guest rooms and spent some time with the tribal kids conducting games for them. Then we had our lunch and started for trekking.
We left our cabs at the downhill and started our trekking by 2.30pm. Half the way we realized that we have taken a different route and we have come to the dead end of a wrong route, beyond which we didn’t have route to travel. Then we decided to walk back and then we got the right route. The scenery and the landscape were awesome during our trekking. Sun set, greenary, plants ready for harvest, etc were amazing. The path of our trekking was filled with huge rocks, still we were energetic to walk on such rough roads. Our trekking distance was almost 10 kms and it took 3.5 hours.
Our actual plan was to reach the tribal village at 4pm and then return from there by 5.30pm by boat. But unfortunately we reached there by 6.10pm and by then the last boat had left. So we decided to stay at the tribal’s house for that night. Without any second thought they agreed to host us for that night. Our volunteers Pushpa, Suryakala and Padma Priya helped them in preparing the dinner and I should say the dinner was delicious.
After our dinner we assembled for a discussion on the seva related activities. Mr Suresh who has been helping the tribal people (Chenchus) for more than 12 years out of his own interest was with us throughout this trekking. He explained us the Tribal life and their day to day activities. Our Hyderabad National Coordinator Shobhit translated it in English for us. One thing what he said shocked us; It was the average life expectancy of those tribes. Yes, the average life expectancy of those tribes is just 30 to 35 years. The main reason for the mortality being the deadly disease Tuberclosis (TB). The main reason for TB isundernutrition/malnutrition and no proper healthcare facilities. The food habit of these people is that they take starch in the morning, have rice, gravy and one vegetable in the afternoon and alcohol in the night. They don’t eat food in the night. Because of such a bad food habit they don’t get adequate nutrition and nourishment and thus fall as a prey for the deadly TB. Mr Sharma, retired Principal has been helping these Chenchus by organizing healthcare camps but he’s unable to do it now due to his age and lack of monetary support. It takes approximately Rs1,00,000/month for the healthcare expenses (which includes the doctor and other health care professionals’ salary, transportation, medicine, etc). Earlier when proper treatment was given for TB, they could find remarkable improvement when medicine along with good diet was given. TB patients need egg, protein, they need to stop alcohol, stop smoking, etc. Neither they have money to get additional food nor they are able to stop alcohol/smoking. Hence they stopped taking medicine as well; because if the medicine is taken without proper diet, it may have negative effect.
Mr Suresh after working on a few assignments along with RSS (Raashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parikshat), decided to serve these tribal people. He’s a Journalist and a black belt holder in Taekwonda. Also he’s an expert in Archery and Rifle Shooting. So he decided to teach the students whatever the skills he has. Then he started teaching Archery and Rifle Shooting to these kids, so that they can participate in Sports. With this the students get exposure to other parts of the country and this will motivate them to study more on academics. Also they could get sports reservation for their higher studies. Without the above support, normally these kids don’t prefer to go to school, they get married earlier and they just live the life what their ancestors have been living. The life of these tribes (Chenchus) is very simple but hard. They do hunting for their livelihood and they never learnt cultivation. Whatever the land that is given to them by the Government, they sell it or lease it and live with the money they get or they get food/vegetables in return for the land. Their health conditions are worse as they don’t get proper diet. So Mr Suresh’s aim is to create a lot of National Champions in Archery and Rifle shooting from these tribal groups so that they get good recognition and opportunity to continue their higher studies, which will in turn increase the standard of living of these tribes.
However Suresh’s dream wouldn’t be able to come true just with his efforts. It needs some support from others as well. Because an Archery Kit costs around Rs 7000 and a Rifle shooting kit costs Rs 18,000 which can be used only for 1 kid. His plan is to make atleast 4 kids from these groups participate in Archery and Rifle Shooting competition every year. The cost for this would be roughly Rs 1,50,000 per year including all the expenses. So, if the funds of Rs 1,50,000 is generated every year, Suresh would be able to fulfill his dream of increasing the standard of living of these tribes. Also he mentioned that a few students are already excelling in Yoga and they have got State Championship as well. After listening to this we from YFS decided to talk with our other teams and corporate to generate these funds.
After this serious discussion we had some fun like singing, dancing, games to entertain the tribes and later realized that it’s high time we need to stop these activities as the tribal families usually sleep earlier. But they were very much enjoying these activities and they wanted us to continue these activities as much as possible. Then we requested them to join us for the activities, but they were never willing to join the activities because of their shyness. Eventually somehow we convinced their family head Mr Pitchaiah to join us for dance and once he started dancing, his family members one by one showed willingness to participate. They sang beautiful songs for us for almost one hour and then they joined us for dance. To our surprise these activities went on and on for 3 hours and they enjoyed these activities. At last we wound up the activities at 12 midnight and decided to sleep as we need to get up early to catch the morning boat at 7am. The host provided us with enough blankets and bed spreads to keep ourselves comfortable in the night. But inspite of the thick blankets and the camp fire, some of us were unable to manage the chillness and we were awake throughout the night discussing seva related activities, Indian democracy, horror stories, etc.
Then in the morning, when we got ready and we were about to leave, the host said that we need to have the breakfast and go. They made a quick breakfast for us and we enjoyed it too. We had a group photo session and then departed from that place with heaviness in heart. Because I’m not sure if someone in city would treat such a huge crowd in the same way this family treated us. They were able to manage the accommodation and food for 25 of us. We collected some amount among ourselves and gave it to Mr Suresh to help these tribal families with that amount. Then we distributed the health awareness postures to all the families in that locality. Then we came to the river to get the boat for us. Before the boat started, we enjoyed swimming in the river for 15 minutes. That was an unexpected bonus for us.
Then we had an hour travel in the boat towards Gokavaram, took our cab and reached Gokavaram. Then we spent sometime with Mr Sharma (the retired Principal who has been taking care of health care related activities for the tribes) and started to SriSailam. After our lunch at SriSailam, we went for a ride in rope car which was wonderful experience. It was a beautiful place with lake surrounded by mountain and greenary. Then we had darshan in the temple in the evening and the Hyderabad team left to their place by their cab.
We, the Chennai Team and Bangalore Team stayed at Shivaji Spoorthi Kendra and started early in the morning to Kurnool to get our respective buses at Kurnool. We had nice time on the way. We had an opportunity to get into a sun flower garden, clicked beautiful pictures and then we had our lunch together at a hotel in Kurnool. We celebrated the New Year by cutting cake in the hotel. After giving send off to Bangalore team at 12 noon, we Chennai team had 3 more hours for our bus. So we went back to the SSVVK boys hostel and interacted with the kids. We conducted some games for them and then started from there in the evening. We took our 4pm bus at Kurnool and reached Chennai early in the morning at 5am.
On the whole, this trip has been amazing. It was filled with fun, adventure and some heart touching stories of tribes. Gave opportunity to meet new people, meet our own volunteers from other parts of India, discuss with them on few other seva projects, etc. Though the pictures above may reflect mostly the fun part, the real action plan starts now which would not be possible to be shown in the pictures.
Action plan needed:
Funds to be raised for training the kids on archery and rifle shooting as per Mr Suresh’s plan.
Funds to be raised to improve the health conditions of the tribes.
A model Tribal Hamlet has to be created, so that on seeing this other tribal hamlet would be willing to accept change.
Volunteers needed to stay with these tribes and help them improve their standards (One thing I should mention here, this village doesn’t have electricity and proper signal for mobile. They have a solar power electric post installed, out of which there is only one street light glowing and signal for mobile comes in a very few places where you need to wait for minutes to capture the signal).