"Let them be your inspiration," said Sinogra village chief Bharatbahi, referring to a team of young women in India's Gujarat Anjar District who have become leaders in their community through an American Red Cross-funded program set up to help survivors of the Gujarat earthquake.
The American Red Cross provided the sewing machines set up in the Resilience Centers to allow these women to make clothing for their families.
The school girls are trainers with the Indian Red Cross. They have risen from more traditional roles to become new experts in community mobilization, and serve as health educators, livelihoods specialists and role models for others. By taking on the responsibility and challenge of becoming part of the Red Cross team, these female volunteers have achieved great respect from family, friends and their community.
More than eight years ago, a devastating earthquake killed more than 20,000 people and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands more. Since then, the American Red Cross has undertaken a multi-million dollar program, helping the Indian Red Cross provide earthquake relief and recovery activities. Now the American Red Cross is handing over all responsibilities to the local Red Cross, knowing that approximately 78,000 residents in 15 villages of Gujarat's Anjar district are better prepared to cope with disasters, and maintain improved health and safety standards for their communities.
Greeted by elaborately dressed children at the gate of the village, visiting American Red Cross representatives were led on a tour of the Red Cross supported "resilience center". Here, local women can support their families through access to simple sewing machines. In the same center, students learn computer skills necessary for many jobs. Younger students mold clay onto wood, enhanced with mirror patterns and vibrant colored designs – an art that they've learned from Red Cross volunteers – as part of the resiliency component of the project. The artwork will be sold for income generation to support the needs of individual community members and to fund future activities offered through the local Red Cross.
Villagers from Navangar benefit from health information sessions and blood-group testing.
"There is such a noted change in the village," said Navindra who was busy sewing clothes she was taught to make for her daughter, a luxury she didn't have before the machines were donated by the project. "The spirit is so much stronger in the community now, and this is such an important skill to help me and my family."
Navindra is not alone. Many like her participate in these American Red Cross-sponsored projects with sewing machines, computers and other community-driven events such as village clean-up campaigns, health camps, hygiene education sessions, school disaster preparedness lessons and mock drills. These trainings are all provided by more than 700 Red Cross volunteers –members of the villages themselves who have been trained by Red Cross and will remain in the area to continue this work and pass on skills to the next generation.
As Mr. Bharatbahi said, the Red Cross volunteers are an inspiration to others, and have become mentors to a number of young men and women who share a hope and vision to make their village a better, safer and healthier place.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.