COI Connect Blog



COI Connect can't put it any better than Barbara Kingsolver has written in World Ark (March/ April 2009 p. 12- 17):

In the rural countryside of Orissa, northeastern India, coconut palms punctuate a flat terrain of rice fields and low-slung vollages of mud and thatch. Women in bright-colored saris cut cane between marigold hedges and lagoons filled with lotus flowers. The scene is fantastically picturesque, but scenery feeds the soul, not the stomach. Stop and ask any of these villagers what they hope for their children, and they’ll likely say the same thing: to move away to the city someday. Orissa is India’s poorest state. Cyclones from the Bay of Bengal pummel its coastline; monsoons flood the Ganges delta. Mining and industry displace vulnerable agrarian and refugee populations. Many here live so far outside the cash economy, development agencies measure poverty by daily caloric intake rather than income. Electricity and clean water are scarce. Caste and gender discrimination are everywhere. Sushant Verma, the project coordinator, has worked with many international development agencies but prefers Heifer for one clear reason” the agency’s focus on community self-education. “The emphasis on non-material support here is key. A small amount of money and a little appropriate technology yield a big emotional attachment to the success of the program.” He’s not kidding about the small amount of money” a budget of $60,000 from Heifer last year paid the Cooperative Outreach of India for Verma’s salary, office expenses, a veterinary program, and the poultry and goats that reached 3000 families throughout the state of Orissa. The animals generate income, but the real priority is social change: improving women’s status in their families; addressing mental poverty; loosening the bonds of caste.

TWO LOADS OF FIREWOOD The small Christian hospital was on the verge of closing. The only doctor, well beyond retirement age, had been a lifeline for women in the society with few resources allotted to care of mothers and their newborns. Two loads of firewood and an international team of volunteers recruited by a partner of Cooperative Outreach International were enough to keep the hospital open until the arrival of permanent staff. A container of donated medicines and supplies were shipped via a network based in North Carolina. Selling these supplies for the equivalent of a few cents each generated income as the new staff began their work. For more than 15 years, the hospital has continued to serve women and children in this community.

SURINDAR'S STORY Surindar left his village in a remote part of the country and migrated to the city. Securing a train ticket for the 24 hour journey back to the capital city of his state during a major festival did not always guarantee a seat on the train since many passengers ended up riding on top of the overcrowded trains. After reaching the city it was another day’s journey by bus to the rural village he called home. No electricity and limited water supply made life difficult for his family. Most of Surindar’s salary ($100 – 150 per month) from driving a taxi was sent home to support his family. He shared a two room apartment with his brother’s family of 5. Since he was already 32 years old, he was concerned that his family’s chances of finding a match for him were limited. If he were married, how could he support a wife and children in the city while providing for his family in the village? Surindar’s story is repeated throughout India and highlights the challenges faced by villagers who migrate to the cities seeking a better life. Cooperative Outreach International partners with organizations who are providing clean water through bore wells, education centers for adults and children, along with micro-enterprise opportunities.

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