The following is a journal entry written during the second week ASB Ryerson’s 2016 India Project:
May 16, 2016 – Marayoor, Kerala
It’s been just under two weeks since arriving in India with my team. So far, the experience has been unlike anything I could have imagined. I wanted to summarize what that experience has been like up to this point.
After arriving in India, the team stayed in a hostel while we waited to get moved to the project site. During this time, we enjoyed all the things any tourist would have. From indulging in the local food to boating through the backwaters, it was a memorable few days. Once our other accommodations were settled we travelled to the project site by bus.
We are currently being hosted by a convent in Marayoor, Kerala. We are about 3400 feet above mean sea level and yet, we are surrounded by mountains in all directions. The world is a beautiful place and pictures cannot always do its beauty justice. As someone who has lived in the GTA their whole life, I continue to be overwhelmed.
Our project consists of building seven latrines in a small local community that is in dire need of sanitation facilities. We have been working alongside the local masons using their tools and methods. I have never worked so hard in my life. My body aches and my resolve has been tested more than ever. We work about seven hours a day in the blazing sun breaking and carrying rocks, digging seven foot holes with pickaxe and shovel, and bricklaying with cement we mix by hand. The masons we work with are incredibly skilled laborers. It takes a lifetime to master what they do and the skills are passed down the generations.
I have always been one to push myself, and I have been pushing myself harder than ever here. I feel more fit than any workout routine could have made me in two weeks and I can say that I am a stronger person for doing this. Even more so mentally than physically. Furthermore, I have learned how to work better in a team, communicate across language barriers, and understand how to be a more critical problem solver.
A few days ago, I went to work on the other project site alongside two of my other team members, one of them an engineering student here at Ryerson. Here, we were working on a solar light installation project for a community in a massive tea plantation atop a mountain. They are subject to long and frequent power outages and having a small power reserve to keep bulbs lit in emergency situations can be lifesaving. My group installed seven solar kits in the span of three days, two for hospitals and the rest for schools and daycares. The goal is to install twenty-seven by the end of the month. I had the opportunity to wire, install, and test these kits. When they lit up, so did the locals. These people, this community, they have light now. Long after we leave they will still have light.
I had the chance to visit one of the hospitals and speak to the community doctor, welfare officer, and general manager of the whole plantation. I learned that this one doctor was the only doctor on the planation. He runs six hospitals by himself. His daily rounds are done over miles of dirt roads on a motorcycle as he visits each hospital to treat his patients. This was so inspiration for someone who hopes to enter the medical field, such as myself. The welfare officer asked me for advice on how to improve their hospitals. This was an incredible honor and I will be doing my best to keep in touch with him before departing.
The next two weeks here will involve finishing the construction of the latrines. As difficult as the work is, there is much to look forward to. When the construction is complete the community will have something vital for their health that, if done right, will last them many years to come.