Padli is a village that for once this week does not have significant water supply problem as it is close to the local river. However it until recently has a pronounced problem with sanitation.
The village was using 100% open defecation and surprisingly and alarmingly the main site that was used was the area around the local village school. The stench was so bad that the children were not able to eat their lunches some days and they certainly could not play openly outside - this shocked me greatly as the villagers that were doing this were the same villagers who were the parents of these beautiful children. Those that did not defecate near the school walked for about 2km to use a road side which is both dangerous and a matter of dignity for these women who traditionally should keep themselves and their faces covered from men at all times.
What struck me about this village that hadn't come through strongly to me before was the power of the children as a force for good and a conduit for change. WaterAid began working with the village in July 2012 and using the children as leverage pulled the community together to build a better future for themselves.
These brave beautiful children stood up to the adults in their community by literally whistle blowing on people who were spotted openly defecating near their school. They blew their whistles loudly and proudly until the people stopped. They formed themselves into teams and would also be at school in the very early morning (4 or 5am) to ensure the villagers were not using the area under of cover of darkness either. To take responsibility at such a young age - we are not talking about teenagers here, we are talking children as young as 6 or 7 - and not only that but to challenge and educate adults has to be seen to be believed. It took them 3 months to stop the practice completely in the village and to construct latrines in every household.
These children are bright, happy and healthy because of the work that WaterAid has facilitated in their village. But WaterAid didn't make the change, the village children did - WaterAid simply gave them a voice and a mechanism to make the change.
As the children proudly told us about the school Government (including Prime Minister, Water & Sanitation Minister, Education Minister and Games & Culture Minister) they share their hopes and aspirations for the future with us. And their dreams are tangible and achievable - they all want to stay in education and they all dream of jobs such as teachers or doctors, and talking to them you truly believe that it is within their grasp.
And the best was yet to come! After a tour of their school, the floor was opened up for games! And while the boys started an India Vs England cricket match - hardly the next Test Series, but no one cared - the smaller children introduced us to a game that seemed to be a firm favourite! Now I'm now exactly sure what it was, and indeed before we started I didn't know the rules! But it seemed to go a little like this....everyone starts in a large circle and gradually we start running round, we chant a song as we go and then the teacher calls a number. You have to get into groups of that number and any odd people out are out of the game....this continues until you only have one group left! This was all fine until the point that we realised that every single village child wanted to play and so the game went on for a very long time....aand also every single one of them wanted a WaterAid person in their group - imagine being rugby tackled by about 15 small children at once and you'll be getting somewhere near! Add to this the running in the 30 degree heat and we were well and truly tired out! Erica's team was victorious, but the children were all so happy no one really minded if they won or lost!
So the day was really one of contrasts but one that we all thoroughly enjoyed and will treasure for a long time to come....
Also a quick apology for lack of photos a) I was too busy playing games and b) my camera was playing up! I am assured though we have lots to share with you but technology is slightly against us at this point, so watch this space!