From education to sustainability: Since 2005 DACHSER and terre des hommes are engaging in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The humanitarian work is successful, reports Bernhard Simon, Spokesman of the DACHSER Management Board.
Since 2005, DACHSER—working jointly with the children’s aid organization terre des hommes—has been committed to helping children and young people in Uttar Pradesh. Helping people help themselves is working, as the spokesman of the DACHSER Management Board Bernhard Simon saw for himself when he visited the project site in India.
Mr. Simon, what is the collaboration between DACHSER and terre des hommes in India all about?
From education to sustainability: this is the motto of the aid project that we have been involved in since 2005, together with terre des hommes and local partners in Uttar Pradesh. The main focus of the project is children—especially girls—and young women. For them, education and vocational training are the key to a better future and development with better prospects in their rural communities. It’s all about a future that is self-determined, in which the dignity of the individual and healthy living and working conditions have top priority.
What does emancipation like this have to do with sustainability?
Education creates the foundation for developing self-confidence, articulating basic needs, and determining the trajectory of one’s own life. Only when human beings value themselves, can they value their environment and stand up for its preservation. Thus education and sustainability go hand in hand and that is why projects with ecological objectives, such as reforestation or the building of biogas and worm composting facilities make sense in such areas. Children find it a very natural process and are especially proud of the trees they planted themselves.
What contribution can outside help make?
We view our commitment as helping people to help themselves. That is why the local organizations with whom we have been collaborating in Uttar Pradesh since 2005 are all from the region themselves; some of them even emerged from projects. This is a very important factor in our work as it prevents a feeling of cultural distance from even occurring in the first place.
India is one of the emerging markets. To what extent do people there even need assistance?
The development in India is multi-layered. On one hand, we see their rapid-fire development with Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, where landmark technical achievements are a common occurrence—as evidenced by, for example, the recent, highly touted and successful launch of the Mars mission. On the other hand, there are great social disparities and the gap is widening; in this respect, India has fallen behind comparable countries and its neighbors. Poverty, underdevelopment, and alarming deficiencies in basic health care are pervasive. This is exactly where our project in Uttar Pradesh comes in.
Apart from the purely humanitarian aspect, what do the problems in India have to do with the West?
In the West, we have grown accustomed to a level of prosperity that exists, to some extent, because the prevailing working conditions in India are far below our own minimum standards. This creates a special responsibility for us. After all, there is only one world, where we all live and where we are linked to one another in a multitude of ways.
How can education affect social imbalances?
Education and reducing the school dropout rate are crucial mileposts toward a better future. The idea behind it is an old one, but one that has proven to be true in developed and underdeveloped nations alike: because I am learning, I go through the world with open eyes, and that means I don’t have to repeat the mistakes that were made in the past. This is precisely the learning experience that the schoolchildren in our projects carry into their families, and, as a result, the parents’ view of the world is transformed as well. It’s a great opportunity for a sustainable development of the community. Before, the people who live where our project is being implemented believed that their living conditions were fated as a result of their karma. Today, they have the feeling that their lives are in their own hands and that they can do a better job of forging them for themselves and their families.
Taking their lives into their own hands sounds easy, but it probably isn’t …
The key is the close cooperation between the project partners. When there is a constructive social dialogue, individuals learn about their rights for the first time and can claim the opportunities that these rights enable. But first, you have to be capable of articulating these rights—and this is where education and training are absolutely vital.
What impressed you most during your visit to India?
That it’s never too late to take your destiny into your own hands. One of my most deeply compelling experiences was meeting a young man who became a teacher as a result of the education the project enabled; today, he is preparing children to study in state-run schools. This is how real opportunities for education are created, and I am amazed at what an incredible harvest our program participants can reap.
What’s next for the aid project?
We have now been involved in the Uttar Pradesh project for eight years. The aim of our joint development work is to make it redundant at some point because the projects are moving ahead and developing under their own power. For us, it’s not about supporting the region and the people on a permanent basis, it’s about facilitating their path toward complete independence instead. This is what differentiates charity from corporate social responsibility, and this is how the DACHSER family sees its responsibility as a corporate citizen in a globalized world.
Read more about the DACHSER aid project in Uttar Pradesh in the 4/2013 issue of the DACHSER magazine that will be published in early December.
Aid in Figures
Spendings: 900,000 Euro
Time frame: 2005 to 2015
- Helping people help themselves
- Education and vocational training
- Giving people in rural areas a future
- More than 11,000 children have attended classes in order to prepare for school.64 per cent of them have been placed in regular private or public schools. Droput rates have been reduced by 40 per cent and there has been an 80 per cent improvement in the number of girls entering school. Primary schools have been equipped with special water tanks.
- 2,900 children, mostly girls, have attended courses at vocational training centres.
- More than 4,000 girls have been informed about their rights
- More than 800 children have participated in workshops about environmental topics; More than 2,000 trees have been planted. 67 composters and biogas systems have been installed at familiy homes; 48 families have received solar powered lamps.
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