First community toilet facility for small Indian rural village
When an elephant leads your car across a one kilometre bridge connecting land on either side of the Ganges, you know it’s going to be a special day.
New Zealand Tertiary College arrived in Ballia, a small rural village in Uttar Pradesh, India to great excitement and fanfare last week. A dirt road leading down to the village from the main road was lined with sparkling tinsel and NZTC’s colours of purple and teal emerged at every turn.
On Monday 6 March the first community toilet facilities in Ballia were officially opened by NZTC Chief Executive Selena Fox. Five female and four male toilets were constructed to support the healthcare of the village, aligning with the government’s Swachh Bharat (Clean India in Hindi) campaign, which aims to improve the country's sanitation standards.
A sea of magnificently coloured saris could be seen as the women of the village led the NZTC team to the official opening proceedings. Hundreds of local men, women and children gathered for the event with the air palpable.
Community leaders opened the proceedings, encouraging the local people to treasure the facility and “keep it as it is today.” One community representative shared how, “Hearts across the world have helped us to have this facility.”
Selena Fox furthered this sentiment as she explained, “We come from many miles away, from a different culture, different languages and different life experiences, but today we are just people together, sharing our hearts and sharing our love.”
“Our heart for your community began through our NZTC friends Bikash and Maheshwari. We just asked simple questions – How can we help you? What would you like us to do to support your community if we can?
“Today we are here to celebrate this new facility to support the healthcare education of the whole community. Today we are truly one people together. You, the community, gifted the land here; we just helped to build the building with an outstanding local construction team and now this community facility is for all of us together,” said Fox.
Local healthcare workers shared their support by wearing matching saris and, in alignment with the spirit of the proceedings, bars of soap were gifted to the people in attendance.
The college began their community initiatives in Ballia by supporting the building of a bridge to unite two sides of the village who were isolated from one another during monsoon season due to a raging waterway, and in 2015, Jagriti Academy opened, enabling the education of hundreds of first generation learners.
Stage two of Jagriti Academy is currently under development, and when opened it will serve 500 children. It will also support the wider community as a meeting place for community groups and a facility for initiatives such as sewing classes to empower the women of the village.