CORD Site Visit
Last month, we had the opportunity to go to Sidhbari in Himachal Pradesh where CORD in India was born in 1985. It was really eye-opening to get to learn about this work from the founders and the people who have benefited themselves.
Before we talk about what we learned, here is a brief overview of a few of the programs CORD in India conducts.
This is the center of all of the activities of CORD in India: the Mahila Mandal, or women's groups. In these groups, women within their village meet once a month to discuss and solve issues that they are facing in many aspects of their life and to have a community of women where they feel connected to others and are self-empowered. These have greatly impacted rural India because the Mahila Mandals really help to shed light on the needs of the whole population in their area, which then leads to change through active participation of the entire community.
Pictured here is the secretary of one of the Self Help Groups we visited, a program that is formed within the Mahila Mandal. These Self Help Groups are microcredit groups that provide the women with monetary resources to change the future of their families and communities, and they have a 100% return rate on their investments! These are one of the many ways that the Mahila Mandals take action.
This photo shows CORD's disability program in action. This child has cerebral palsy, but due to daily physical therapy and speech therapy, his fine and gross motor skills have really been developed. With the consistent participation and effort from his family, he was actually able to walk with a special walker. In this picture, he was able to sit semi-crossed-legged and hold his own cup of juice.
Finally, here is a photo of a Center Day. Center Days are periodic meeting days where members from all programs across CORD in India’s realm come together, share their activities, new ideas, and progress, and meet to see how programs are working. This is a great example of “integration,” one of the four pillars of CORD, at work, because these meetings are the coming-together of the whole community to problem solve and address concerns as one big family.
Now, here are a few of each of our reflections on the trip to Sidhbari.
This was an incredible trip for us. We learned about the importance of gratitude and community. It’s inspiring to see how these villages have been transformed through the work of these women themselves. It truly goes to show how if people have the need, drive, and voice, they can really achieve anything.
The expanse of what CORD does is amazing. Anything that the people have problems with has a solution so that they themselves are solving these issues. It’s really neat to see how programs were built. Many of CORD’s programs were born through finding finding the need through another one of their programs.
We’ve been hearing about CORD for years and about all the work they’re doing. We’ve even been once before, when we were little. But going now as teenagers was really neat. Hearing stories about the impacts of CORD has always been really cool and inspiring for us, but it’s a totally different experience getting to witness the live, direct work that CORD is doing. Success stories can’t do justice to the full-blown, massive picture of all that CORD in India is accomplishing and has been doing for years.
We got to go out into the field and talk to the people that CORD has impacted directly. One day, we had lunch at someone’s house, and we got to meet their daughter who is only a little bit older than us. And even with our broken, grammatically-incorrect Hindi, and her language actually being a village dialect of Hindi, we had a really nice time talking to her and finding similarities in our own individual lives. It felt like talking to an old friend. We learned about how words are really not the most important part of communicating with someone. And we bonded over simple things, just because we were in the same place at the same time. It made me think a lot about how there are so many people we interact with each day, many whom we might not meet again. But giving someone love and receiving that same love for a moment can be all that it takes to have a connection with a person.
Things like this fulfilled our experience. We shared meals, songs, and laughs with people around the region. We got small glimpses into their lives. Some of the women that we met have done absolutely wonderful work. And they were all just good humans and nice to talk to. These direct connections showed us the value of community and of the “togetherness” that is vital to humanity. It gave us a lot of gratitude for the ability to come and meet these amazing people.
This whole trip was very eye-opening! It was really amazing to see how much this region is benefitting from these programs. We got to meet really cool people on our tours, such as the president of the local government who got her whole area solar fencing, having to wait 10 years to get into power to be listened to. We also got to meet a woman who staged a sit-in protest on a road to ensure that her village got the water pump that was promised to them. These women are super inspiring, and they showed us that true power comes from within.
Another thing that was really great there is that life is so community-oriented. A part of the reason why Mahila Mandals and Self Help Groups keep going is that there is a shared accountability. Additionally, when there are times of crisis, there is a whole built in support group to help people. Everyone there is so generous. When everyone thinks beyond themselves and their families, a loving environment is created. We felt overwhelmed with love when we went there.
Something that really stood out to me was how, at CORD, whatever skill you had was put to good use. Everybody has something to bring to the table, and that’s what has made CORD into a huge, holistic, multi-demensional program. Whenever somebody was facing an issue, a solution would be found with the help of a whole group.
Overall, our stay at CORD taught me that everyone and everything is interconnected, therefore it is our duty to act towards the greater, global good.
-- Written by Satvika and Tejasvi