India is the world’s largest democracy (1.2 billion people), birthplace of four of the largest religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism) and home to 29 different languages, each spoken by over a million native speakers.
Andhra Pradesh (AP) is on the Eastern side of India and is nicknamed “The Rice Bowl of India” for the 18 million tons it produces each year. Telugu is the primary official language in AP and written inscriptions dating back to the fifth century have been found near the town of Guntur. Recordings indicate that Gautama Buddha also preached in the area.
Community Development and Cultural Exchange in Andhra Pradesh
GCN’s partner in Andhra Pradesh is a non-profit organization called PUSHPA (People Using Self Help to Push Ahead), whose mission is to boost self confidence of underprivileged indigenous peoples and promote collective responsibility for the community. In the PUSHPA model, community members participate in determining their own goals and how they might partner with PUSHPA to achieve these goals. One of the villages that PUSHPA works with consists of a tribal group with ancestral ties to the Roma people. This has historically been a nomadic community up until the last few decades when permanent settlements have started to develop. Prior to this time, the tribal group was living “off the map” with little recognition or support from the authorities. These tribal villagers are effectively outside the caste system in India and are known for their prowess as snake and rat catchers (trap pictured on right). GCN Trip Participants will have the unique opportunity to live, eat and work in collaboration with this marginalized community. Villagers have suggested a latrine/sanitation project for the next GCN visit, as they currently lack access to plumbing and basic toilet facilities.
GCN Trip Participants will fly into the city of Chennai and have one day to regroup and rest. The next day, the team will travel by train to Guntur where they will meet our host partners from PUSHPA. Later, team members will continue on to visit the vibrant village community outside of Guntur where they will stay and collaborate on the community project, share the delicious local cuisine and engage in cultural activities. At the end of the time in village, the team will be transported by bus to Guntur and then by train to Chennai. Many GCN participants like to extend their stay before or after the GCN trip in order to leisurely explore some of India’s other captivating sites.
Accommodations and Meals
For the single night stays in Chennai and Guntur, team members will reside in modest hotels. While in the host community, team members will stay in dormitory style housing just a few minutes from the village. Most meals will be taken as a group, prepared by a local cook. Typical foods in this area are rice, aromatic curries (usually vegetable) and a variety of fresh fruit (pictured right). Don’t miss the chance to eat in the traditional way, with your meal served on a large banana leaf!
Time to Explore
The GCN experience is time in the host community, which allows for plenty of opportunities to get to know the local community in your own way. Often team members like to explore the surrounding area for an occasional day trip.
Health and Safety Issues
Participants are required to be in sound health. Potential participants with significant physical limitations are encouraged to check with their physician and discuss the situation with GCN staff beforehand. Some inoculations may be required. Check with your local travel clinic or the Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/travel/ for accurate information. GCN offers emergency medical/evacuation insurance to all participants of international trips. Should it be required, excellent medical care is available in Chennai. The United States State Department web site http://www.state.gov/travel/ is a resource for updates on travel advisories in India and other countries.
Rice, curry, fresh fruit, dosa, tea