We were less than half way up. We’d been trekking for over 2 hours, in the hot sun, our legs giving way, our hearts beating faster than I’ve ever known. None of this was remotely assuaged by the spectacular views of the valleys of the western ghats. It was a spring we were hiking up to look at. A spring that had substantial year long suppy of water, and if developed could provide the relief the desperate villagers of Kirunde needed. The sheer vertical heights we scaled finally ended with luscious green wheat fields. Nestled in the middle of these fields were two modest huts.
We still had a while to trek but the temptation of food made us stop. Collapsing on the mats that were indulgently laid out for us we slowly emerged back to life eating their delicious fresh yogurt. As I took my last greedy mouthful of yogurt a little boy peeped out of the corner. I asked him the annoying yet inevitable question. Do you go to school? He nodded. Where I asked looking around with a little bewilderment. He pointed all the way down to where we began our trek.
Our once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-repeated trek was his daily commute to school. His only problem was that after school ended he had to trek back particularly fast to ensure he had enough sunlight to do his home work.
Sunlight? I asked quizzically. The residents (3 families) smiled benignly and kindly at us, explaining that they had not had electricity there for over 150 years. And whilst they hadn’t felt the need for it, today, now, they do.
My colleague and I were so moved by this that we decided that we would donate 2 solar lanterns to these generous, humble, undemanding residents.
This was over a month back. I hadn’t done anything about it apart from tell this story with much enthusiasm to all my friends. I even blogged about it. Feeling a misplaced smugness. I hadn’t got the lanterns to them, I only said I would.
One of my criteria for giving these lanterns was that I wanted someone from those 3 families to be trained in the maintenance and repair of the lantern. A course that we offer at Grampari. The village being so high up and so extremely inaccessible, it was hardly surprising that they didn’t make the trip down to Grampari. Who could reassure them that I would make good on my promise. These lanterns were expensive and the trip to Grampari complicated.
This story was also related to the 17 boys at the boy’s residential programme we had here at Grampari. Unbeknownst to me, it resonated very deeply with one of the boys. Vinayak
Vinayak sadly couldn’t go but the course director, Himanshu, Deepak, our wash programme coordinator and 4 other boys from the programme resolved that if they couldn’t come down for the training, they would take the training to them. And so they hiked. All the way up. But unlike me, they had the added burden of carrying two lanterns and the solar panels.
Today, thanks to the conviction, commitment and compassion of one boy and his vision to motivate others, 3 families were overjoyed to have been given the gift of light. Vinayak, also a trained electrician, has taken a further decision to be on hand for any issues this lantern might have.
It’s not just free solar lanterns that bring about change in people’s lives it is the compassion of thought that does.
One of the reasons I firmly believe the work of Grampari is so effective is that at its core, the most important objective of the organisation is compassion. Through inner listening, personal change and following the four standards as part of the core of rural development we see some extraordinary acts of love. This is just one such example amongst hundreds.