By Annemarie Smith
All the planning for the team’s big CAD (Community Action Day) was coming together. With the central theme focusing on unity, we were feeling excited to see the results of everyone’s work and the impact this would have on the community. However, about 48 hours before our big debut, we were hit with quite a massive a hurdle, and were shortly testing the importance of the messages we would soon be spreading on unity.
Our temporary panic started when the ex-sarpanch of the community retracted his offer on supplying us with necessary equipment such as; a tent, a stage cover, mats and tables. Due to illnesses among key players in the group, there was a lack of ongoing communication between the volunteers and the sponsor, which is the reason he gave for making this decision.
We were faced with another blow when the current sarpanch, who had offered to sponsor us a large amount of money, enough to cover a music system, informed us that due to a lack of funds available in his office, was now unable to do so. He was not the only one who found himself short of cash, as other VIP’s also had to decline their offers of sponsoring our CAD. So, two days before the big event we found ourselves with no money or equipment and became slightly daunted with the task at hand.
However, the team was determined to not let this get in the way and got to work on compiling as many resources as possible for the big day. With the new support of Team Leader Logan: Anil, Jill and Pippa started resource mobilisation around the market and used their good relationships with the shop keepers to accumulate; sweets, snacks, stationary, props and other various materials needed. Logan got to work on researching useful members of the community so that he could use his unique charms to find reliable sources for vital equipment, and at a discounted rate of course. By the end of the afternoon the team were feeling confident in not only their abilities in resource mobilisation, but also the communities’ willingness and curiosity in the cause.
The next day, just short of 24 hours from the big event, the team of 16 ventured in and around the market place to start spreading the word and excitement for the CAD. Aware of how much work was still to be done, some of us split into a separate team to focus on gathering resources. Abinaya, Anil, Laura, Logan, Pippa and myself, together with a member from the Youth Resource Centre, Kush, began to build on the resources that were gathered the previous day. It became apparent that the Hindi speakers were also dealing with the task of finding a tent, music system and other various equipment that was vital to ensure smooth running of the event. So as to maximise productivity, us UK volunteers took it upon ourselves to branch off into our own team that would concentrate on resource mobilisation with the shop keepers in the marketplace, as competency in Hindi was not such a necessity.
By using over-the-top facial and body language, various forms of imagery, some strange sounding noises and attempts at Hindi, we gathered all the resources we needed. We were delighted, not only in the fact that we had achieved this, but that we had done without a common language and had overcome these communication barriers. With our boosted confidence we decided to push ourselves to try and raise some money and finished for lunch, very satisfied, with 150 rupees in our pocket.
Laura, Pippa and myself reported back to our team feeling very proud of our endeavour and TL Logan, as always, decided to push us further and challenged that we raise as much money as possible to fund the equipment he was currently sourcing. We took on this challenge with full seriousness and after re-energising ourselves with some sabji and roti (vegetable and bread) and said goodbye to Pippa (she had pressing CAD preparation to attend to), we recruited Anna, Jill and Tilly for our fundraising mission and got to work.
We decided to keep note of each person who donated, so had a table listing their name, shop name and the amount they funded, which turned out was a brilliant technique for raising the money. Once shop keepers saw that others were donating, they found in much easier to part with their money, as in keeping with the theme of the CAD, when people see a community uniting for a cause, it becomes more personal and effective.
We were shortly accompanied by Elfine and with the number of members now in our team at 6 we decided to split off into two teams, knowing that we would be able to raise more money this way. By this point, we already had 970 rupees in our fundraising pocket and word was starting to spread about how the locals and ICS volunteers were working together to create an event on building awareness and community inclusion. We were beginning to see the power of unity manifest and this inspired us to keep moving past any negative comments or hurdles in order to reach a goal, not just for ourselves, but also for the community.
We re-grouped at the end of the day and had an extra 1,560 rupees to add to the fundraising pot, adding up to an impressive total of 2,530 rupees. With pride we informed the rest of the team who enthusiastically congratulated us. The heat and exhaustion caught up with us as we collapsed on the bus, but we were still filled with energy and a high from our successful day.
As I rewarded myself that evening with some hard-to-get quiet time, I was informed by TL Logan that he had managed to locate members of the community who were willing to provide us with all the equipment we needed and for a reduced price. However, ideally we needed another 2,000 rupees to pay for it all and with the event starting at 1PM the next day we would only have a few hours in the morning to raise these funds. Logan had more faith in us completing this task than we had in ourselves, but as with any hurdle faced on our ICS journey, we tried to face it with positivity.
The next morning everyone was aware of their role and tasks that needed completing, with only a few hours left things seemed rather hectic and the urgency of getting everything done became apparent. Myself and Anna started fundraising from 9AM and decided that we would have to visit nearly all the shops to reach our target. Within an hour of fundraising, news had spread so quickly that locals took it upon themselves to help us in our cause and helped with translations and getting people excited. We found that people already knew us and what we were fundraising for before we explained to them. Not only did this massively benefit us in raising money, but also for promoting the CAD itself.
After making some new friends, drinking lots of chai of causing quite a stir, Anna and I counted up our takings and after a very successful day, rushed back to where the CAD was being held, arriving just before 1 O’clock. With big smiles on our faces we handed over the money to Logan, a total of 2,060 rupees, bringing the combined total to 4,590 rupees. With this money, along with Logan’s ability to charm and befriend anyone, therefore getting the; tent, speakers, transport, mats, stage cover and water tubs for a much cheaper price, we were able to afford everything and had sweets, snacks and stationary in abundance, helping the day run smoothly.
Not only was this a great example of what can be achieved when people put their minds to something, but also of the wonderful things a community can do when they pull together and believe in a cause. Sometimes when we are working in social work we can be so focused on what we want to change and who we want to help, that we forget to see or believe in the wonderful people around us and what they are capable of. Most importantly, we should remember what is possible when we all work together.