Exploring Bhuj: Insights from Our First Field Visit and Conversations with the Community

At the beginning of March, we got to know about a planned field visit with the Dasra team where we’ll be meeting two out of the many NGOs Dasra funds under their Catalytic Philanthropy program. Abhishek Nair and I opted to join them on our first field visit to Bhuj, and it left a lasting impression on us as it gave us a glimpse into the lives of the people living in the small villages of Gujarat

We all arrived in Bhuj early in the morning and after checking in at the resort, we left to embark on a field visit, enthusiastic to explore and learn about the community. We split up into two smaller groups: one visiting an NGO named Unnati in Bacchau and the other in Nakrantha visiting Janvikas. I was in the latter group, with Sneha and Priyadarshika from Dasra.

After driving for about an hour, we arrived at our destination – a library established by the villagers which also serves as a communal space for locals. As we arrived, the villagers, including school teachers, field worker, aanganwadi caretakers, and principals, welcomed us warmly. We started our conversation with them, during which they shared how the COVID-19 pandemic had forced schools to close down. In response, some of the villagers utilized this space to teach school-aged children so that their education would not be interrupted. Recognizing the potential of this area, they converted it into a library, providing a study-friendly atmosphere for students. This really is an admirable initiative that enables children to concentrate on their studies without being distracted by household work.

Funding and books are obtained through donations from programs and annual events held here. This library has been a valuable resource for students over the past two years during the pandemic, allowing them to continue their education.

In the area, there are separate schools for boys and girls, as well as a college that offers science and arts courses, all of which are located within a 12 km radius. However, student dropouts have been a concern for the community as parents often have to relocate for work during the monsoons and take their families with them. To address this issue, villagers are planning to establish hostels that would enable children to continue their education while their parents are away. Also, the schools undergo regular checks by the Command Control Center to ensure that teachers and students are present.

After talking with individuals at the library, we proceeded to visit nearby schools. Our first stop was a two-story girls’ school, established in the mid-2000s, where more than 200 girls are currently enrolled. The school has plans to expand its facilities to accommodate more girls in the future. Following our visit to the girls’ school, we visited a boys’ school that has similar infrastructure and houses around 200 boys. 

Both schools also offer midday meals six days a week and half-day classes on Saturdays. The schools were well-maintained and had Hindi and English alphabet charts made of tiles on the walls. This was a more sustainable alternative to typical paper charts that are commonly used in schools.

We then visited the hospital where we talked to doctors and the Community Health Officer(CHO) about what are the common diseases and cases that come into the hospital. They also shared that on a regular basis, they run camps where people are routinely checked using a device which tells by scanning blood sugar levels, heartbeat rate, blood oxygen level, and a few other metrics using which they can analyze the person.

They are also using an app that helps them keep track of each person’s medical records and results after each test. This data is also accessible by the monitoring team and helps in tracking the treatment given and creating a medical history of each person. The CHO also works with five asha workers with each asha worker taking care of 100 families. They also shared that people coordinate well and follow the medicine prescription and come for checkups. And during the Covid around 90% of people were vaccinated

After talking with doctors and staff members we had lunch together where we continued our discussion and got a chance to spend more time with the people.

Talking with the locals was the highlight of this visit, as I learned about their culture, how their lives are, and the challenges they faced and overcame together. The warmth and hospitality of the people made me feel welcomed and I left with a deeper appreciation for the great work everyone is doing

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