Inauguration Day

Today, the Anganwadi center was inaugurated with a huge ceremony in Nasampalli. Although we couldn’t be there to celebrate, we were told that over 600 people were present and that there were so many cars that Nasampalli’s tiny road even had a traffic jam. From the pictures, it certainly seemed like a big gathering. The building was even decorated with lights to celebrate the opening.
During the ceremony, ownership of the Anganwadi center was officially handed over to the village leaders. From now on, the village will have full ownership of the center and will work to make it best benefit the community members. Once again, we are very thankful for Nasampalli and CASA’s partnership in making this into a reality. This was an incredible project that will hopefully bring great benefits to Nasampalli for years to come!

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Nandri Nasampalle (Thank You!)

Today Kody, the final member of our team should be arriving home from India. Alex arrived Sunday night, and Ken will be returning soon as well. After being back for a few days, all of us definitely miss India and the friends we made during our brief time there for the project.

Project Completion, Ceremony, and Departure

After last Sunday, the team only had 3 days left to work on the project. Work had slowed down quite a lot since the girl’s departure on Thursday, as the slab of the roof was completed and the rest of the work was fairly menial and did not require as many laborers. The last few days were spent going to the site and making sure everything was in order and communicating clearly about the work needed to be done later. We finished up curing the roof, completing the piping, and building/filling the soak-away pit. We also got to spend on of our last nights eating out at a nice hotel restaurant where we had a great meal. Tuesday evening was a final one as we went to the village to say goodbyes and have a farewell ceremony. It was sad to say bye, but we were also very happy that the villagers were happy and thankful for our help as were we to them for being so kind and welcoming to us for the past month.

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Below are some photos of the final building before we left and a few days after! It’s crazy to think how we started from just a foundation about 3 and a half weeks ago and now the entire building is up and the toilet structure complete with septic system and soak away pit. After we left, our contractor Peter sent us some photos of the building getting painted and the final touches on the septic tank!

 

Final Thoughts Back Home 

Now that we are back in the US, we are working on finishing up our SLAB Final Report. It’s been a great experience for all of us learning to manage a project, work together as a team, negotiate and communicate with people of a different culture and language, and just see how a building goes up from the ground up. Even though it’s great to be back home, we all are having our withdrawals from India. The rest of the Anganwadi is being completed by the contractor, and we will be posting one final update when it is done and the village has their building inauguration. Be on the lookout!

Started From the Bottom Now We Here

Our Exciting Social Lives

After the departure of our excellent chef Charles we took it upon ourselves to avoid eating at CASA at any cost. Just kidding, we just so happened to be invited to dine out. On Sunday Anita, the Anganwadi caretaker, cooked us vada and biryani and we shared Charles’s last meal of chicken with her. Later in the day Karuna’s brother invited us to eat with him and his family. We had biryani again and popcorn chicken though no one complained about having biryani twice in one day because Karuna’s family really knows how to cook! Monday evening, Ken took the team out to dinner in Chittoor at the Bans Hotel restaurant. There we shared a multitude of Indian dishes and probably the best naan we’ve had on this trip.

Roof Slab and Other Project Details

We woke up early Sunday morning to begin the concrete pour for the roof, but as it often happens work didn’t really start until 9:30. The workers shifted a loosely estimated 1,000 buckets of concrete up rickety scaffolding to construct the roof slab. With the roof slab finished we had much smaller jobs to deal with on Monday. The workers created ponds on the top of the roof slab for curing the concrete while we focused on the toilet piping and brick-laying. For the few days we have remaining we’ll be finishing the toilet and starting to plaster the outside walls.

Girls Say Goodbye, Roofing Says Hello

Early Goodbye

On Thursday, we bade farewell to Mariana, Crystal, and Lauryn, who are returning early to the US to begin their internships. The community held a nice farewell ceremony for the three girls in the morning. Back at the CASA Resource Center, we had a special Indian lunch that involved sitting on the floor and eating from a banana leaf. It was very sad to see part of our team leave, but it was also a wonderful farewell.

Toilet and Anganwadi Roof

With the toilet structure done, we began work on the septic tank and soak-away pit. The septic tank was placed on Thursday. On Friday, plumbers came in to install the piping and the porcelain toilet itself. We also began work on the soak-away pit, which once completed, will conclude the toilet portion of the project.The Anganwadi foundation, walls, and columns have now been completed. We are now on the roof phase of the building. On Thursday and Friday, the wooden frames and scaffolding for the roof were placed. On Saturday, rebar was tied and placed on the roof. Tomorrow, we will be waking up early morning to help pour the concrete for the roof!

Thank You

It has been very exciting to see our project come into being. We have to give many thanks to our fantastic contractor, Mr. Peter. We also must thank the many community members and local tradesmen for contributing their time and skill to this project. Our team members have contributed much labor as well, but due to the size of our project, we have been limited to mostly unskilled labor such as passing bricks, sifting sand, and digging. However, the team has been doing an excellent job overseeing the project schedule, insuring the quality of work, and making engineering decisions on the fly. Lastly, we must thank our fantastic NGO partner, CASA, for providing us with excellent food and making sure all our accommodation needs are met. This project would not be possible without the efforts of all these parties working together!

Birthdays, Chefs, and More Progress

Cakes & Cooking For our Hosts

Chefs Nathan, Abby and Kody decided to flip things around and make the meal for our sponsors, who have gone above and beyond to help accommodate us in this very different environment. Using only the limited spices available in rural Chitoor, we made soy-glazed beef tips, corn on the cob, and paneer to share with our CASA contacts, Karuna and Poul. It was nice having semi-western food to help us as we reach the final stretch of our project.

Crystal’s birthday was last Friday, so the team surprised her with a cake from Chitoor. It was made in an authentic Indian bakery (no eggs in the batter). Of course, we had to sing her a terrible rendition of the birthday song while she awkwardly stared at her feet. There’s no better way to celebrate. Happy B-day Crystal.

Project Update

Over the weekend many interior advancements were made on the Anganwadi. The window and door frames were put in, and the windows were completed on Wednesday. The contractors are fantastic, very thorough in leveling the window frames. In the words of our technical adviser “they’re better than you will ever find in the U.S.”. The scaffolding will go up later in the week, and the roof slab pouring starts at the end of the week!

The toilet exploded into being over night. After many re-arrangements to find what best accommodated our community, we began laying the foundation late last week. To our surprise, the masons laid the entire brick walling in a day, and put down a great-looking, even coating of plaster in one more day. A second contractor came in and installed the metal roofing. Now one third of the toilet project is nearly complete! The septic tank and soak-away pits will begin very soon. On Tuesday a back-hoe was brought in to clear the earth for the tank and pit, as you can see in the photo below. It was challenging working on the back side of the Angwanwadi with such a giant piece of equipment, but we have to be respectful of local property lines.

Building Up and Getting Cultured

It’s been a while since our last post and we’re sorry for the delay. Since last week the building has progressed a lot and we’ve also got to learn and accommodate to the Indian culture more. Here’s what has happened since Monday to Thursday night!

ANGANWADI CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

On Tuesday, the walls started to get higher and Peter (our awesome contractor) was gracious enough to make a quick adjustment to the scope of the project when we decided to add sun shades to every window of the building. After meeting with the government Anganwadi lady and a few of us getting to see the design of a current Anganwadi center, we decided to add the shades. By the end of the day the framework/scaffolding for the window shades were up. Wednesday morning we went to the worksite and helped work on moving bricks and mortar for the toilet and the walls above the window. The sun shades had already been poured and were curing, and the toilet foundation and brick structure was fully laid. The past few days the weather has been much cooler than last week so work has been a bit easier on our bodies. However, a few of us had some stomach issues but thankfully everyone recovered fairly quickly or are in the process of recovering. We are a little behind schedule, but hopefully we can catch up on the weekend and begin pouring the top of the columns and complete scaffolding of the roof which started on Thursday morning. Thursday evening a few of us headed out for a weekend break, and the other half of us left Friday morning. We should be getting picture updates from Peter today and will upload those as soon as we get them or when we get back to the site. We’re all very excited to see how much progress has happened in the course of 2 days.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

As you can see in our featured image, Kody and Abby are holding twin sisters! In our short time here so far (it’s only been about 2 weeks), we’ve made lots of new friends (old and young). The team has befriended and grown to know many of the community members who have been consistently working alongside us each day. The two babies in the picture are one of the lady’s grandkids. We’ve also gotten to know the children well and get to play with them every now and then when we take breaks from labor. The fan favorite is Ramsharan. He’s a energetic little guy and we’ve all taken a liking to him and his comedic self. We are going to start introducing more people we’ve met in our blogs from now on so make sure to keep checking!

OTHER NEWS

Starting Tuesday, we finally got a personal driver to take us from CASA to the site in case of extreme heat or bad weather. There was some miscommunication with the NGO, so we are very glad that the driving situation was resolved. Also, on Wednesday night after work, we got to have a community meeting with all the leaders and people invested in the project and discuss what the Anganwadi includes and its purpose and benefits for the community. The meeting went very well, and the whole village was very grateful and thankful for it.

That’s all for now! Sorry for the late update, we will be posting another one soon!

 

The 12th day in Nasampalli

WEEKEND AND OTHER FUN

Even though everyday seems like a routine get up and work, eat lunch, rest, go back to work, eat dinner, and go to sleep, our team has had a lot of fun and interesting events happen in our first full week in Nasampalli. We’ve had impromptu volleyball and frisbee games right next to the work site, crashed a religious Hindu festival and got covered in Holi powder (see our featured team photo), visited a giant well that kids jumped into, ride a motorcycle for the first time, and almost get in a car wreck on the way to Chittoor LOL. Thankfully there have been no major injuries and everyone is doing pretty well.

After a week of long work, we took a much needed weekend trip to Tirupati where we got to explore a waterfall near a temple on Friday and then check into a motel with AC for the night. On Saturday we drove to a golden temple and went up the mountains to see the religious alter. After that we entered the Srivenkateswara Zoological Park and saw some exotic animals like the white tiger. When we came back to CASA, we got to enjoy a delicious barbecue (beef, pork, and prawns) and India’s national fruit, the mango, at Karuna’s wonderful home.

SUNDAY FUNDAY

We woke up in the morning and split up into three groups that each went to a different church. Kody and I went to the Nasampalli village church with Diana. Mariana, Alex, and Abby went with Karuna to a different church and they even got to talk/give a little thank you speech. Lauryn, Ken, and Crystal went to the Church of South India and got to meet different people from another village/neighborhood over there. After church was a much needed rest and break where the team got to play cards and badminton outside before dinner and heading the bed.

MONDAY SURPRISE

When we woke up and arrived to the site after missing two days of work on the weekend, we were shocked to see how much progress had happened while we were gone. The walls had increased about 3-4 in height and the entire area that was covered in shrub and trees was cleared for the toilet structure. Recently the weather has been a lot cooler thanks to the rain on Sunday so it’s been easier working outside and much more bearable. Right now, the foundation of the toilet is completing, and the half walls are almost up. The Anganwadi is about to start the final columns and begin scaffolding for the roof by the end of this week! Can’t wait to see how things move along this week!