A candid description of my trip from NYC to rural India and finally to U. of Michigan, Ross School of Business. Go Blue!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

First week at PEDO

I have just finished my first week at PEDO, People's Education and Development Organization, and am back in Udaipur for the weekend. I totally needed to come back and the bus ride was actually quite pleasant. It was a rough but rewarding week out in the country! First, there are def. more hours of no electricity than hours where there is electricity. The power goes off around 10:30 in the morning and doesn't return until 6 pm sometimes. Then it also goes off periodically throughout the night- which is a bit scary since I live in my own area above the house. Dungarpur is much hotter than Udaipur, so I am sweating like crazy 24/7. I eat mostly rice, bread and curd to avoid anymore allergic reactions and also my family is Vegetarian. I was dreaming of chicken all week so coming back to Udaipur where there is electricity, working air coolers and chicken has been wonderful! I can't describe what I would do for a nice steak right now. To my friends in NYC, please someone make a reservation at BLT or Dylan Prime for Friday, August 18th!!!!

As for work, it's beginning to get very interesting. PEDO is an amazing organization. It was started by my boss back in 1980. He picked out some land, asked a local village leader for permission to build on it, and then he and my host mom began building the campus brick by brick with their own hands! To win the trust and respect of the people in the villages, they began running unofficial schools for the children. From there they branched into medical treatment services, land flattening and irrigation, microfinance for the women, and various other initiatives. Dungarpur means Land of Hills, and the name says it all. Each family builds a house on a seperate hill, so the area is vast and communication between the villagers is difficult. PEDO has very much brought the people together. There are even employees of the United Nations Development Program who work out of the PEDO offices because the organization is so well respected and trusted in the area.

At the beginning of the week I spent most of my time reading about the organization and their microcredit program. My boss wanted me to have a solid understanding of how it is structured. Basically there are around 7 or 8 Field Centers all across Dungarpur that roll up into the headquarters where I work. From there there are hundreds of groups with thousands of women members who roll up into each Field Center. It's extremeley efficient and impressive. Most of the groups are entirely self-sustaining and managed by the members themselves. Baby (my host sister) told me that a famous Indian director came to PEDO to make a documentary about the program a couple of years ago. It's called "Climb Every Moutain" and she is still trying to find the English copy so that I can see it.

The other night I watched a video of a huge rally that PEDO organized back in March. 7,000 women from the villages met in Dungarpur City to attend the event. It was also sponosred by Bank Borodo and there was an official ceremony where Bank representatives gave out loan checks to some of the women to signify how the poor are finally getting the same access to credit as the rest of the world.

On Wednesday I sat in on some training for the heads of the Field Centers. They had gathered at PEDO to learn some new software that will help them track the lending process via computer rather then notebook. It was quite exciting because after the training they each got their very first computers!

In terms of my project work, I have 2 assignments right now. The first is to interview 14 women from 7 different field centers and write Case Studies covering how the microlending has improved their livelihood. I will then gather all the studies together into one large book that can be used in future grant proposals and promotional materials. So on Friday I went on my first trip out to "the field" to interview 2 women. Baby and her very cool sister-in-law, Shweta, came with me. It was quite an experience and it was interesting to see how far these women have come yet they are still below the poverty line, which is 5000 rupees a year or $112. The second woman I interviewed actually used her loans to build a small grocery store. Before joining a PEDO group, her husband had to migrate for 5 months out of the year to a neighboring state where he was used as a cheap labor source in the factories. Now the profits from their farm and grocery store are enough to sustain them and she plans to expand over the next few years! On the way back I asked Baby if the women's children have a chance at a different life or if they'll be pulled out of school as teenagers in order to work just like their parents and the generations before them did. Baby said absolutely the children, at least the boys, will have access to full education given their own willingness to learn and hard work. Very cool!

I am running out of time at the internet cafe but there is so much more to tell. I will post again tomorrow but in the meantime please leave comments, and someone please work on that steak dinner in August!


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