Early in the morning on the first day, the group of volunteers traveled to the outskirts of Mumbai to the Deonar dumping ground, the largest garbage landfill in India. The unimaginable quantity of filth currently standing at a staggering height of a 14-storey building, which actually provides a livelihood to the community that lives around it, is a jarring sight.
Since 2012, Deutsche Bank has partnered with Karunya Trust, a non-profit that works within this neglected community to provide education to children, as well as vocational guidance and counseling for youths and adults. Karunya Trust runs a learning centre called Gyaansaathi in the heart of this community, providing a safe haven and education to 200 vulnerable young children.
The Gyaansaathi centre, cramped in between shophouses, was in desperate need of refurbishment. Over two full days, the volunteers painted all the walls of the centre, splashing up bright and colourful educational murals, including a detailed world map, alphabets, numbers, and even a diagram of the solar system on the ceiling! At the end of the second day, the children, teachers and volunteers came together to celebrate the hard work with a delightful session of song and dance. The teachers also presented the volunteers with beautiful hand-made souvenirs.
On the third day, not slowing down, the volunteers headed out to Wada, a rural village about three hours’ drive from Mumbai, to assist in Project Chirag, initiated by Chirag Rural Development Foundation. Using innovative solar lighting solutions, the project lights up rural villages that are off the power grid and have no electricity. After a short bullock cart ride (a first for all the volunteers) and a quick orientation, the volunteers split up into groups of three. Under the unforgiving sun, the groups trekked through fields, streams and narrow uneven footpaths to reach the houses of the villagers to help to install these solar lamps. The volunteers were able to witness first-hand how the villagers live, and with the assistance of the local guide, interacted with them and found out a bit more about their daily lives and customs.
The volunteers retreated to camp out at an organic farm, where they experienced a night out with mother nature. In the morning, after an organic breakfast, the volunteers tried their hand atorganic farming with students from a school supported by Learning Space Foundation, another non-profit supported by Deutsche Bank since 2008.
The volunteers returned home touched by what they had experienced at firsthand and the countless smiles they saw. Many expressed their wish to return and continue their support for the community. As one volunteer put it, “The needs of the community cannot be met in just one trip. They need continuous support. But we have done our part and we can tell the stories and get more help for them.”