I was talking with a friend a few days ago about how fortunate we all are in the western world compared to other people in the third world.
Agreed, those people we call poor, may well be very much richer than us in moral, behaviour or happiness terms, but we are talking about modern comforts and money we enjoy here.
I know myself that were my fridge, or washing machine, tv or computer to fail, I would be seriously worried! Out of these four items, I would rank my computer the most valuable in my personal case, without which I would feel as lost as a duck in the desert!
But believe me when I say I have been to places and sat down and talked to people who do not know where their next meal is coming from or how they are going to get it. For these people, they are absolutely ecstatic if they can fill their stomachs for the day, and sleep contendedly, until the next day.
I visited one such family in rural India last time I was there, getting to their home just as they had woken up, and seeing how they live day by day. This particular family live in a round 20 foot shack made of branches with old cloth tarpaulins and plastic sheets on the top to keep out the wind and rain. In the middle of the shack are hung big lengths of cotton dyed sheets, acting as dividers between the living and sleeping areas. A total of 6 people live in this space, two parents and 4 children.
The second section is divided up once more into a smaller section, one for a rudimentary bathroom (the bathroom area is for washing your face and bathing for the ladies, nothing much else as all other toilet ablutions are done in the bush) and the other for a kitchen. There is no flowing water in the area at all, not even a standpipe, and the nearest well is located at the start of the village, quite a walk away. I saw small children aged no more than 4 or 5 years old, carrying small tubs of water to their homes with their parents; this alone brought tears to my eyes; no child should ever have to do this.
But in this small and primitive existence, I found cleanliness and order, peace and tranquility and above all, happiness. Ok, fine, although the people were smiling all the time I was there, when I mentioned their finances, or lack of, their children’s futures, in other words normal day-to-day parental things, then I could see that their happiness was only transitory. There is never enough food to go around, and many times the father and mother stay hungry and let the children eat. Disease is rife, as nobody can afford medicines.
And food? What do they eat when there is something to eat? Red chillies, garlic and salt, all ground up into a thick paste, together with half a chapati (like a tortilla, only thicker). That is their food for a day, washed down with water.
But there is hope on the horizon. A few days later, I was told about a local self-help scheme that some of the villagers had set-up, with a little help from voluntary donations from well-to-do locals, and it is this scheme that I want to mention here.
The villagers have set up a small business, which even though does not turnover millions of rupees, it still makes enough money that enables the participants to pay for all their costs and overheads, and leave a little left over to pay for their food and essentials. NOw things are improving, but only for those who can afford to join up to the scheme; others who cannot, continue to suffer as before.
Working in the scheme, participants can make a few hundred rupees a month. Not much you are probably saying but let’s not forget that it these are the same people who were living like that first family I mention above, but their decision to join up with the scheme has enabled them to better themselves a 1000-fold.
I was so moved by the sheer poverty these people are living in, that I racked my mind trying to think how I could help as well. In the end, I purchased a whole load of their items, a purchase that made them extremely happy, for never before had they received such a big purchase! It only dawned on me later what I was going to do with so many of the products! By the way, 90% of the price will go back into the scheme and I will not be making any profit out of this at all — the well-being of those families is uppermost in my mind.
So if any of my readers are interested at all in making a difference to those poor families’ lives, please purchase one or more of these beautiful notebook journals, all hand-made of course, with recycled paper and leather from ethical sources.
The covers are all unique, being hand-embossed, and the writing paper is good quality and sound enough to take fountain pen ink or ball-point or pencil. Approx. 90 double sided pages. Each journal comes with a useful elastic close and a nice silk ribbon placemarker. There is also a space in the spine of the journals for a pen or pencil. Very nice and handy 80mm by 100mm size, ideal for your pocket or handbag. Ideal for use as a notebook for your photography or a journal for your up and coming photo shoots. I have sold many to students attending my street photo classes!
Price UK/Europe is just £3.50 plus £1.50 shipping
USA/Canada/rest of world price is US$5.25 plus US$2.50 shipping
You can pay via Google Checkout, PPPay, Paypal or direct bank transfer. Email me or leave me a message via a comment.
I also have another style available, slightly smaller and with pages made out of waste cloth, fibres, etc. Beautifully leather bound. See it here
PS I asked that first family if I could photograph their daily chores, saying that they may be posted on the internet later on, but after thinking about it, they politely declined, saying that they didn’t want the world to see the poverty they lived in, and I fully respected their decision.