A Fishing Community on India’s Southeastern Coast
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.
The state of Tamil Nadu is on the Southeastern coast of India and roughly the size of Greece. Tamil is the official language and the region contains eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the magnificent Shore Temple which was constructed out of granite in the eighth century AD.
Visitors can experience India’s incredibly diverse and magnificent culture in many ways. Hungry travelers will have the chance to sample the renowned South Indian cuisine, with rice serving as the base for a host of spicy and colorful curries. Adventurous travelers will have the opportunity to visit a crocodile farm as well as see the ancient stone carvings, caves and rock cut temples. Trip participants will also experience the harvest festival of Pongal, one of the most widely celebrated festivals throughout Tamil Nadu.
Women’s and Children’s Rights
GCN’s partner in Tamil Nadu is a non-profit organization called SEA (Society for Education and Action), whose mission is to promote the rights of women and children from the surrounding fishing villages. SEA works in 36 different communities through a range of grassroots projects including a recycled material women’s craft and economic empowerment group, the development of educational materials in Tamil for vulnerable youth, and the operation of after-school motivation centers to support students in developing talents related to their specific interests. SEA is based in the serene and peaceful fishing village of Mamallapuram.
GCN trip participants will fly into Tamil Nadu’s capital city, Chennai and have one day to regroup and rest. The next day the team will travel by bus to Mamallapuram where they will meet our host partners at SEA. There will be time to take in the sites, walk the calm streets of the town and shop for handicrafts and colorful local clothing. The following day, team members will continue on to visit and become a part of one of the vibrant surrounding villages through the remainder of the GCN trip. At the end of the trip, the team will be transported by bus back 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 captivating areas.
Accommodation and Meals
For the single night stays in Chennai and Mamallapuram, team members will reside in modest hotels. While in the nearby village, team members will stay in the basic home of a community member. Most meals will be taken as a group, prepared by a local cook. Typical foods in this area are dosa (pictured right), basmati rice, aromatic curries (usually vegetable) and a variety of fresh fruit. 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 time 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. There is much to explore in and around Mamallapuram. In the immediate area are numerous beaches, ancient temples, cave dwellings carved out of rock, amazing natural stone formations and a crocodile farm that houses some of the largest and rarest crocs in India.
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 sitehttp://www.state.gov/travel/ is a resource for updates on travel advisories in India and other countries.