"At the end of the trip, Durga [one of the community members] said they were accustomed to visitors coming for a day, taking photographs and then leaving. But we kept coming back. We visited their homes, we embraced their children as if they were our own: to Durga it meant that we were family, to one of the men it was as if his own brothers and sisters had gone abroad for a while and then returned." —GCN trip participant
In Andhra Pradesh, GCN partners with a non-profit organization called PUSHPA (People Using Self Help to Push Ahead) whose mission is to boost self confidence of underprivileged people 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 them. The people in these communities have historically been nomadic communities 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, as they are outside the caste system in India. Known for their prowess as snake and rat catchers, these tribal groups offer GCN participants the unique opportunity to live, eat, and work in collaboration with this marginalized community. Community-led projects may include improving health and sanitation with latrines, tutoring at the evening PUSHPA school, working with children in the government schools and other projects.
Trip participants will fly into Hyderabad 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 and plan out the week. The team members will get settled into their accommodations at a communal building and share delicious local cuisine with the community members. At the end of the GCN experience, the team will be transported by bus to Guntur to return to Hyderabad or many trip participants choose to extend their stay in India to visit other interesting sites. The GCN experience is time in the host community, which allows for plenty of opportunities to get to know the local community and occasionally teams like to explore for a day trip to the Bay of Bengal, the city Rajupalan or neighboring villages.
A Day in Community
The day begins with the sun rising over Guntur and the community emerges from their homes. The team will eat breakfast together which may include umpa — vermicelli, ground nuts, chilies and ginger, eggs, or puri — a puffy tortilla and hot tea or coffee. Then the team will get started on the community project, working side-by-side with members of the community and PUSHPA. At midday, the team will eat a lunch of chipatis, curds, rice with a Thums Up (Indian version of Coca-Cola) or hot tea. The team will return to the project work in the afternoon, either working on construction or tutoring in the school, and may also get involved in a soccer or cricket game with the community children. The team will return to their accommodations for a dinner of eggs, with a curry dish followed by a garelu — a spicy donut. The team may play cards or visit before heading to their beds for rest.
Program fees cover on-site accommodations (lodging and meals), in-country transportation, orientation materials, a donation to the project, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and a team leader to manage logistics and facilitate your cultural immersion experience. Airfare to/from Hyderabad, India and costs relating to activities outside of the village are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.