This holiday season I had the good fortune of volunteering with Manav Sadhna, a non-profit serving the needs of a massive slum (>150K people) right outside the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India.
The people that work there everyday are basically the most inspiring people i've ever met. love and compassion flow on another level, and they provide family for the kids that have none. My time there was cursory at best, but even in that I was able to help open up a school for blind children from the Tekro (which is the name of the slum). There was a celebration with about 700 kids capped by some volunteers leading everyone to sing 'jingle bells' :)
The next day everyone left to spend some time at a center for people with leprosy. Amazing, inspiring, Mother Teresa-type work.
I also had the opportunity to wash dishes and brainstorm with Seva Cafe, another Manav Sadhna spinoff. What was most inspiring was how well done the operation was. The team was perfect in their execution, and it's a tribute to Sandeep, who runs the show there :) Hopefully looking forward to helping introduce some healthier fare there soon!
On new years eve, I was able to take part in the yearly 'compassion walk', where we made hundreds of sandwiches and then walked to 6 major places of worship (church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc) handing out the food to whoever looked hungry. We ended the night at Ram Roti, which is the local soup kitchen, and handed out some prepared food there as well as ate some dinner :)
Aside from all this was the learning experience of what Manav Sadhna does. There was the community center built from the ground up using the most innovative of methods, there was the dozens of experimental toilet designs used to bring sanitation to millions of people who had none, there was the sustainability-minded construction of ESI, a building that would give anything built by Bill McDonough a run for its money, and there was Gramshree, the store that sold beautiful artwork created by women from the Tekro freeing them from rag-picking. And at the center of it all is Jayesh bhai Patel and Viren bhai Joshi, who words cannot describe.
Here is Jayesh bhai congratulating every child for finishing their meal. Grassroots change indeed.
more pictures here: