by Caitlin McQuilling and Phil Ebiner
Back in January, Phil Ebiner and Vince Patin, juniors at Loyola Marymount College, contacted RMF CEO Dr. Martina Fuchs to explore collaborating with RMF on a volunteer project for the summer. Phil, Vince, and new team members Diego Gonzalez, and Sahar Mansoor, faced challenges to their work for RMF India even before they got on the plane. Phil and Vince had been working very hard on securing a grant for their work and while all indicators pointed to them having a very good chance of receiving the grant in the end, they did not receive the expected cash. Disappointed, the team did not give up. Instead they reached out to family, friends, classmates, and the community to raise money for their project for RMF, which they named Project Revitalizing and Empowering Villages, Project R.E.V. They ended up getting all of their travel sponsored through donated airline miles and raising over $3000 for the project.
The team joined us in Jhabua, MP for the month of July to support the BHIL Academy for tribal students.
Here’s Phil’s account of their trip:
What I keep telling everyone is that those three weeks might have been the most challenging but, in the end, rewarding weeks of our lives. Coming in, we didn’t know exactly how we would be able to help. The first week was full of challenges learning how to get around and interact with the people of Jhabua. The biggest challenge came with the change of pace. Here in America, we are so used to being able to call a plumber and get him to come by in the afternoon (even if they are an hour late) and get the job done. In Jhabua, sometimes it took 5 phone calls, 3 face to face conversations, and a site visit to just begin estimating the cost of a project.
Aside from the language barrier which we got around with the help of our friend Sahar and the trusty Prakash, the other major adjustment was for our stomachs. Not being used to the Indian spices and way of cooking, we quickly found ourselves sick and unmotivated to try to get work done. A couple days of rest got us back on our feet to try to get work done.
I think the best part of actually being able to go to India for 21 days instead of just sending money, was to be able to see firsthand what the real problems and issues are. We were able to talk to the students and teachers at the Bhil Academy. We met with other NGOs who had advice. Going on site-visits with RMF opened our eyes to the real problems at hand. From there we came up with a plan of action. Although we prepared for months, trying to figure out the best way to make a dent of good in Jhabua, it took a week of actually living there to actually figure it out.
We had to rework our plan (exchanging the biomass gasifier project which ended up being unrealistic for the Bhil Academy, and switching to the Solar Oven Project). The kitchen garden at the school sprung from the lack of veggies we saw in the kids’ diets. We went through with our Compost Tumbler project in hopes that the school and the NRC can use their kitchen waste to supply nutrients for their kitchen gardens.
Lastly, the health center at the Bhil Academy seemed like the perfect place to put a lot of our effort. Although we weren’t able to see the completion of the project, we were able to start it by creating some of the infrastructure needed to complete the Health Center.
A common theme we ran with throughout our trip was ‘planting seeds.’ We were unable to see the completion of any of our projects while there in Jhabua, but we realized the best thing we could do with our time there was to plant the seeds of change and hope that the projects continue and that we can come back at raise more money to do more good in Jhabua.
The turning point in the trip for me came when we visited the Meghnagar NRC and met Asha. Seeing this small girl on the verge of death, then 7 days later seeing her sitting up and eating healthily, showed me the amazing work RMF is doing. RMF is actually making change not only in small ways, but in big ways. RMF literally is saving kids’ lives. And being able to work with RMF felt amazing.
Both at the NRC and at the Bhil Academy, RMF is helping to give kids a second chance and an opportunity: a chance to live and an opportunity of education and a bright future.
Since coming back from India we have been asked many questions about what we’re going to do now. We want to have a photo exhibit and documentary screening with the footage we shot in India sometime this Fall to spread the story and hopefully raise more money. We are selling handicrafts purchased from the women of Jhabua to raise money for RMF. Lastly, and most importantly, we hope whatever work we did can inspire fellow friends, classmates, etc. to do their own projects, to go out in the world and explore, to find a passion and live it!”
RMF thanks Phil, Vince, Diego, and Sahar for their dedication, energy, and inspiration. The Project R.E.V’s work brought a new sustainable element to the BHIL Academy, compost tumblers, solar cookers, and a kitchen garden, which will not only help supply the kids with organic fruits and vegetables and cheaper energy, but also will teach the kids about responsible living. And thanks to Project R.E.V.’s seeds, the health center is coming along rapidly and we’re looking forward to expanding the BHILS health work to the rest of the Bilidoj community.
Check out Project R.E.V.’s blog to read more about their experiences in Jhabua: http://projectbilidoj.wordpress.com/
For more information about our Malnutrition Program, click here.
To contribute to this initiative, please visit our website at realmedicinefoundation.org.
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