What are they reading?

Well hello hello if it isn’t the August 15 Dishaa!  That’s August 2015 … and it also came out just in time for August 15 events.  We carried them with us to chapters we visited over the past few days and saw that people read them.

Reading Dishaa Morgantown

What did you like reading in the Dishaa? we asked.   A student in Morgantown readily responded, “This newsletter was printed with vegetable oil based inks on 100% recycled paper using wind power.” The “Jai Kisan” article prompted several elderly people to come forward and comment: “these are the techniques our parents used when we were growing up.” Continue reading


10th September 2012

“So, how do you like US?” Mithun asked the group of 40 students who attended the AID-JHU new students orientation. We could not tell how much the promise of free food and free tickets to the highly anticipated appearance of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia had drawn the to the orientation program, or how much they had really been motivated by the opportunity to join an organization working for sustainable development and social justice. Most likely it was a bit of both, since AID was surely not the only group wooing the new students on campus, nor was Panditji the only option for cultural activity on the weekend, such as it was, at a place like Johns Hopkins.

Perhaps he had expected a happy chorus of cheers for the land of opportunity.

“This is Baltimore,” came an unenthusiastic voice from the front.

“What was that?” asked Mithun.

“Baltimore is not US,” she stated flatly.

Whoa, now sister. What’s that you are saying about Baltimore? I’ll have you know Baltimore is the City That Reads!

But I understood what she meant. After making the 18 hour journey from India to America, all the while imagining based on media images what that America would be, she apparently did not enjoy the sense of arrival when she was welcomed at the port of Baltimore, much less when she reached the campus in the midst of the city of Baltimore.

I had just talked about almost the same thing. For me, the journey from US to India also took place in several stages. After landing in Bombay life was not that different from Baltimore. Further journeys were required to get from the first world of India to its third and fourth worlds, and within them, to those dealing with the injustices borne by those worlds. From the vantage point of the people living where the field was least level and most tilted, in reality and in metaphor, one could gain insight on the nature, culture, politics and economics of India.

Nishikant, had introduced them to the JHU chapter and shown them a short video overview of AID programs. Then Ravi and I had talked about how AID worked – using examples of the haybox, the Narmada struggle, and drawing connections between issues of energy, livelihood, corruption and justice, and illustrating how the issue of nutrition was connected to poverty, health, sustainable agriculture, corruption, women’s rights, truth-in-advertising. A thoughtful question and answer session followed.

After all that, Mithun brought up the point that working with AID helps not only someone somewhere but also helps ourselves to think more critically, speak more articulately, gain a sense of responsibility and take up leadership roles. He cited his own example, as he is among the youngest to rise to a leadership position in his professional society. Nishikant elaborated on this, pointing out how doing routine AID work for outreach and fundraising made him think about how he might have responded to others who had similarly reached out to him. It was nice to end on this positive note of building our own character while building a just and compassionate society.

Solidarity, Tour, Volunteers

Texas / LA Regional Conference

Following up on key action items from the Columbus conference and ongoing discussions over the past few years, we had a series of regional meetings on AID philosophy and strategy for improving the quality of our work towards sustainable and just development.  In the South, AID Houston hosted such a meeting on Sept 16-17, 2006. 
In a brainstorming thread earlier, Srinadh wrote: 
 … broadly speaking it would be nice to re-emphasize (and revisit) our core AID principles:
  • For example why Sangharsh, Nirman and Seva?
  • What are our partners on the ground saying and feeling about the effects of rapid globalization?
  • Why do we oppose centralized planning without local context and input?
  • Why is peace important (example Gujarat) to development?
and the like.
In June he wrote: 

Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters are planning to have a retreat over the Sept 15 weekend in Houston, TX. (Haven’t heard from College Station folks but hoping they make it too!).Ravi and Aravinda have indicated that they will be there and join! Other interested people are welcome to join too.The Houston chapter has agreed to host the event and details are being worked on regarding logistics, agenda, schedule etc.

This is an early heads up to enable out of towners to begin planning.

More details here!


Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters

Nirveek wrote:

the recent philly workshop and the AID conference has given us several ideas as to how we can explore contemporary issues relevant to AID, constructively discuss any issue with an open mind, train each other in effective communication, i would think that in this retreat we can spend some time looking beyond just reports-kind-of-sessions – for example we can look at how we can creatively communicate with each other, new volunteers, and the community in general … since we have much more time to prepare than before the columbus conference, we can come up with a decent, well thought-out such interactive sessions. we can also take up the eFAQuate session that Aravinda started at Columbus and enrich it further.The Philly workshop brought us in touch with a group called “training for change” … and i think there are a lot of things in “effective communication” through role-playing that we can learn from them.  

After 30 posts and weekly conference calls organized by Priya, Sandhya and others in Team Texas, the dates & agenda were set, rooms booked, university support secured and one fine weekend in September, 50+ volunteers from Austin, Dallas, Houston, College Station and Baton Rouge converged in Houston for the retreat. Smaller than an AID conference, no parallel sessions, nothing to vote on, volunteers opened their minds and hearts to explore difficult questions concerning corruption, gender equality, diversity within AID, and the role of sangharsh.   Betsy from Training for Change engaged us in activities that gave us models for thinking about change, such as figuring out how to make radical change while including everyone … symbolized via an exercise where a group of us stood on a sheet and had to turn the sheet upside down without having a single person move to the floor – everyone must remain on the sheet, and the sheet must be overturned.  

Betsy of Training for Change conducted some exercises to help us think about models of social change.  At the official release of the 2007 AID Calendar Nurturing Nature, she received the first copy. 

We also had the release of the 2007 AID Calendar, whose theme was Nurturing Nature.   Betsy received the  first copy.
Yes the house is that close to the factories

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.  Yes, the house is that close to the factories.

The second superfund site we visited

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. This is the second superfund site we visited.

The field trip on Sunday was eye-opening and disturbing …. we went on a “toxic tour” of the city, visiting the neighborhoods in close proximity to factories emitting toxic waste.  
We read and talk about the common experience of injustice among communities across the globe.  Sometimes when we talk to people about the struggle in Bhopal or the villages along the industrial corridor of Gujarat, people can’t believe that such things are happening, and continue to this day.  Now we were standing right in the midst of it, feeling the same sense of incredulity that things could actually be this bad
Would this leave us in despair of ever making change?  Or would it empower us to recognize the struggle everywhere, in our own backyards and even within ourselves, and to BE THE CHANGE?
Exuding Passion

Volunteers on day 3 of the Texas / Louisiana Retreat, following the Toxic Tour of Texas, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

More photographs taken by Keshav Narayanan during the Texas / Lousiana chapters conference: TX LA Retreat