“My son used to drop me to the ‘khet’ in the morning and picked me up at night when he returns from work. I had to be there all day long. The entire process has adversely affected my health. Thanks to Venkatesh ji and his team for constructing a toilet near our house, now I can happily stay at home!” Baburao Balwantrao Pawar, 82 years, Saigaon, Maharashtra
Many like Baburao Pawar now are beaming with joy as their everyday ‘morning ordeal’ has come to an end. Especially the women folk has tremendous relief as a result of the toilet construction. Their health has improved and there are no longer fights in the family with regard to the issue of ‘open defecation’. They have gained their freedom and respect back.
All this has been possible because of the relentless efforts of Venkatesh ji and his team. They have constructed over 6700 toilets in Pune, Latur and Amravati regions. Their holistic-participatory approach is instrumental in bringing in systemic and behavioral changes, where the villagers imbibe the knowledge about their body, mind, surroundings and actively take commitment to bring about transformation.
When there is determination and the willingness to serve, nothing seems impossible! Nita Gaikwad, Rohkal Sarpanch said, “Without the support of The Art of Living Volunteers, it would have taken decades for the villagers to construct the toilets”.
As per the Toilet construction scheme under the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan, the villager has to construct the toilet with his own money which is thereafter certified and evaluated by the engineer from the government for its quality as per the guidelines laid, successful marking leads to a grant of Rs.12000/- to the villager/beneficiary.
The understanding with the villagers is that once the toilets are approved by the government engineers, the villagers return the Rs 12,000 they get for each toilet to the team of yuvacharya.
The Art of Living faculty Venkatesh Manglaram, Somnath Abba, Akhilesh Mundra, Anirudh Mundra and yuvacharyas teamed through their own initiative, mortgaged their jewelry and invested this money in toilet construction for the villagers. Once the toilets are approved by the government engineers the grant aid of Rs.12000/- will be used to repay the mortgage.
Right from purchasing the material to overseeing the laborers to complete monitoring of the construction work, our team is absolutely vigilant at every step. Another villager, Mr. Sharad Shinde said that, “I used to face lot of difficulties in rainy season as my children and women in the house used to go out for defecation. This project has not only comforted them but also inspired me to take up new such projects irrespective of government aid and make the lives around more comfortable and convenient to live.”
Government and Art Of Living Foundation’s collective support are bringing miracles in villagers life to live Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji’s vision of “Stress free mind, disease free body and inhibition free intellect”.
Life transforming Navachetana Shivir’s and Balchetana shivir’s along with satsangs are being conducted in village, sensitizing them about health and sanitation conditions and good practices.
The hallmark of the project is that it has been able to bring in the much needed ‘attitudinal change’ which is further creating demand by the villagers along with empowering them to take initiative on their own rather than just meeting the target of toilet construction in numbers. The team is highly inspired by the joy they see in the villagers and the immense transformation it has brought in their lives and they are continuing tirelessly with their work until they make Maharashtra absolutely Open Defecation Free!
– Toral Parmar