Unwrapped gifts make a splash in India

If you've bought friends or family an Unwrapped gift of safe water, a toilet or a tap stand, then your gift may well have found a home in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.

Sewing a living: Ram Peri is a widow with five children. She received a 4000 Rupee loan from her self help group to purchase a sewing machine. She works on the floor of her house most of the day, making clothes for local villagers and now has secured the local school contract to sew school uniforms.

For five years, Oxfam supporters helped fund the successful work of RUCHI, a rural development agency working to improve community health and the environment in 30 villages in Himachal Pradesh in northwest India.

In this time, the lives of over 5000 people have been changed for the better, and RUCHI as an organisation has grown and strengthened. RUCHI now looks well set to continue great work long into the future without the need for Oxfam’s continuing support.

Since it started in 2003, the project improved the health of whole communities, in particular children, by improving access to safe drinking water and clean sanitation. Villagers also have access to water from irrigation tanks, allowing them to use more of their land to grow crops.

A mantra for this work has always been “helping people who help themselves”. Working on this community-driven approach, a self-help women’s group was set up in each of the villages. The women were encouraged to work together to identify the problems and development needs in their village, and to find solutions through community work or by enlisting the support of their local government.

Before this, many of the women felt isolated and some rarely left their home. The support of the group and the opportunity to contribute to the family income has dramatically increased their confidence.

THE GIFT OF WATER: By providing soak pits and seeds many villagers are now able to set up kitchen gardens
The gift of water: By providing soak pits and seeds many villagers are now able to set up kitchen gardens.

“Before the self-help group, I didn’t know anything and so my husband did not listen to me,” Nirmala Devi told Kiwi Mandy Fitchett, an independent consultant visiting the project. “Now I am included when there needs to be a decision .”

“The communities now have clean water, improved sanitation, better health, kitchen gardens and increased incomes,” says Fitchett. “But the project has had deeper impacts. Many women told me how they feel more confident and have better relationships with their husbands.”

“Now that Oxfam’s support is drawing to a close, I am confident these communities will continue to progress.”

Unwrapped gifts are also supporting our water and sanitation work in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Tanzania.


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