UU Holdeen India Program: Justice in Rural India
Service-learning location: Usgaon and Mumbai in Maharastra, India
Trip dates: November 26-December 5, 2012
To reserve your spot, please register online. The registration deadline is September 15, 2012.
This first service-learning trip to India will explore Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program (UUHIP) partner Vidhayak Sansad’s ongoing struggle for justice for the poor in the region surrounding Mumbai. Vidhayak Sansad’s center, in a verdant valley 50 miles outside of Mumbai, is the home of the labor union Shramajeevi Sanghatana. The center’s grounds include a training center for union activists and a school for over 200 tribal girls.
Vidhayak Sansad has been a UUHIP partner for nearly 25 years. Its work principally involves organizing tribal and dalit communities in the region surrounding Mumbai to struggle nonviolently for their rights. The 10-day service-learning experience with Vidhayak Sansad will involve field-based activities that include shadowing local social activists and documenting the organization’s achievements in villages where it is active. Documentation support is a crucial contribution that visitors can make to Vidhayak Sansad. The organization must provide donors with such documented accounts in English, which can be difficult considering that few speak English within its team. By engaging in documentation, service-learning participants will gain an up-close look at how activists in India organize the rural poor to stand up for their rights.
- Day 1: Arrive and travel two hours from Mumbai airport to the campus of Vidhayak Sansad in the village of Usgaon. Settle in; receive introduction to life on the campus.
- Day 2: Attend daily flag-raising ceremony in the morning. Introduction to social-justice issues in India and the context in which activists function; afternoon visit to school for tribal girls on the campus.
- Day 3: Introduction to the work of Vidhayak Sansad, and allied union, Shramajeevi Sangathana; lecture and discussion with Vivek Pandit, founder of the organization, now a member of the state’s legislative assembly. Brief visit with migrant workers at nearby brick kilns.
- Day 4: Interact with leaders of the Shramajeevi Sangathana labor union; prepare and plan for village visits, including development of questionnaire for documentation activities.
- Day 5: Early in the morning break into groups of three to four and go to villages, observe life in the village, meet village leaders, and document all observations, accompanied by labor union activist and translator. Stay night in village.
- Day 6: Go with labor-union activist to meet individuals in their homes and conduct interviews for questionnaire. Stay night in village.
- Day 7: Travel with labor-union activist to surrounding villages and conduct further interviews; return late afternoon to Vidhayak Sansad campus.
- Day 8: Sharing observations and interview results with organization and other team members; taking part in evening cultural program.
- Day 9: Goodbyes and half-day sightseeing in Mumbai, including a visit to the home where Mahatma Gandhi stayed on his visits to the city.
- Day 10: Full-day sightseeing in Mumbai, including a visit to the museum dedicated to the city’s history and caves carved with ancient Hindu iconography on an island reachable by ferry.
Optional Add-On Excursion
After the completion of the program, participants may choose to proceed for two add-on excursions. The first, an overnight train ride from Mumbai, takes visitors to the ancient cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta, which have been exquisitely carved and painted. Visitors will also see the impenetrable fortress of Daulatabad. From there, they may return to Mumbai for the flight home or travel onward by flight to New Delhi, the capital of India, and Agra, site of the Taj Mahal.
- Day 10: Overnight train to Aurangabad.
- Day 11: Check in to hotel and visit Daulatabad Fort, a nearly 1,000-year-old fortress crowning a mountaintop that’s renowned for its ingenious and impenetrable layers of defenses. Next we’ll visit the Ellora Caves, an astounding complex of intricately carved Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain caves, dating as far back as the fifth century CE. Stay in Aurangabad.
- Day 12: Visit the Ajanta Caves, a stunning group of painted and carved Buddhist caves dating to the second century BCE. Fly to Delhi to continue sightseeing or to Mumbai to return home.
- Day 13: Delhi sightseeing, including exploring the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the imperial architecture of British New Delhi, and the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun.
- Day 14: Car to Agra; day exploring the Agra Fort, where the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal) was imprisoned by his son, and the abandoned Mughal city Fatehpur Sikri.
- Day 15: Early morning visit to the Taj Mahal; car back to Delhi.
- Day 16: Day in Delhi, including exploring the Qutub Minar complex, built by Delhi’s earliest Muslim rulers over 1,000 years ago, and shopping in Old Delhi’s bazaars. Evening flights home.
Includes all ground costs—transportation, transfers, food, and lodging—as well as pre- and post-trip resources, translators, and the guidance of experienced program leaders.
- All adults (except as described below): $1,250
- Fellowshipped ministers, religious education professionals, and lay leaders engaged in justice work: $940 (25-percent scholarship)
- Seminarians and young adults (18-35) with demonstrated interest in advancing justice: $625 (50-percent scholarship)
- Ajanta, Ellora, and Daultabad only: $400
- Complete add-on, including Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad, Delhi and Agra: $1,400
In all cases, participants are responsible for arranging their own round-trip air travel to Mumbai, India (approximately $1,400). Please do not purchase any flights or make other binding travel arrangements until the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) has confirmed that a minimum number of participants have committed to the trip.
Accommodations and Meals
Accommodations will be in the simple, shared dorm-style rooms at Vidhayak Sansad’s center and, during village excursions, in basic village homes. All meals will consist of local Indian dishes. During the add-on excursions, accommodations will be in comfortable two- to three-star hotels and either Indian or Western food.
U.S. citizens are required to have a passport and visa to enter India. Visas can be obtained at India Visa Center.
Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. Government Advisories
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September 15, 2012
To reserve your spot, please complete the online registration form. If you have questions about the trip or need assistance, please contact Sam Jones in the UU College of Social Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 301-4326.
About Viddhayak Sansad
Vidhayak Sansad (VS) was established in 1979 to support the development of marginalized communities in rural Maharashtra. The organization’s programs and campaigns emphasize the following:
- Universal education
- Organizing the rural poor for their rights
- Women’s empowerment
- Training in human-rights activism
- Economic development
VS works in close coordination with its allied trade union, Shramjeevi Sanghatana, to reach the most neglected and abused sections of society, including tribal people, dalits, impoverished women, and children. It emphasizes the development of self-reliance and empowerment among the rural poor alongside effective government intervention.
About the UU Holdeen India Program (UUHIP)
UUHIP works with organizations of India’s most vulnerable groups as they seek to advance empowerment and promote equity. The program is committed to enabling these groups to transform their social and economic conditions in directions of their own choosing. Rather than provide grants for sectoral, discrete, or time-based projects, UUHIP supports long-term organizational partnerships in a spirit of solidarity. UUHIP also facilitates extended volunteering opportunities for those who wish to apply their professional skills while serving in India. UUHIP was established in 1986 and is an office of the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) International staff group. Derek Mitchell is the Director of UUHIP.
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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Friday, May 3, 2013.