wow.. so i just wrote a super long post and its gone. BOO thanks India.. Anyway after 14 long days of searching for a micro finance organization to partner with us. We finally sealed the deal today. I have been wanting to write this post for a few days now but wanted to wait until everything was firm and the train tickets were purchased. I have been reclutant to tell many of you what I have been up to during the day because of how frustrated I was that nothing seemed to be working. But after knocking doors and lots of prayer we did it. We sealed the deal with SKS micro finance today and we leave early early sunday morning. For the next 14 days I am going to be living in Koraput in the state of Orissa living among the tribal villages working with the ultra poor. But before I explain exactly what I am going to be doing. I want to give you some background on the program. SKS is broken down into three different business and I will be working for the NGO side of the business for a program called the Ulta Poor Program. With the population of India over 1 billion, 35% of whom fall below the poverty line, India has one of the largest populations of poor in the world. Microfinance has not been bale to reach the ultra poor, the bottom 5% of the poor whose lives are characterized by chronic hunger, persistent poor health, and illiterarcy. India has about 10MM such ultra poor families. This program aims at the base of the pryamid on those who live on less than one dollar a day. The program seeks to graduate members to mainstream development programs after 18 months. Upon graduation many member will choose to join microfinance orgnization to sustain existing business or diversify income by sustaining new business. So to sum it up Micro fiannce organizations cant reach the ultra poor so this program started up about a year and since then has had a succesful pilot program here in Hyderabad which they were able to target 426 families of which 412 were able to graduate. This program is a 4 step program that starts with 1) livellihoods 2) health development 3) Social development 4) Financial literarcy. The goal of the program is for the families to select a way for them to be sustainable in society and once they have decided what will allow them to be sustainable the program then donates to them an ox, goat, or cow, lease on land, or a sewing machine so that they will be able to pursue that which will make them be sustainable. With that the program aims to teach the families how to live in society by teaching them basic health and financial skills.
Now to what I will be doing in the program. So as I have said earlier they did a pilot program here in Hyderabad and were really successful,. They have now expanded to the state north of me in Orissa and are now working with over 1,000 families. They are now trying to evaluate and reserach the impact they are having on the families involved and on the socieites as a whole. Thats where I come in. I have taken a behavioral reserach class and I will be studying the impact of this program so far on the 1,000 families and how successful it is running and what it can do better. So for the next 14 days. I will live among the people in the villages near and around Koraput. Koraput is the poorets area of India and also has the largest Malaria breakouts. Don't worry I have been on malaria pills for over a month now. If you have been following the news lately the state of Orissa is the state with the recent terriost attacks. Have no fear I am registered with the US embassy here in India and have made several friends who work for the foregin service. We have been told to never speak of religion while we are living in Koraput. Eating shall be an adventure in itself Indian food three time a days sounds just amazing. Try to stomach curry at 6am... gross. So I am about to head out to food world to stock up on peanut butter, cookies, and granola bars.
I am pretty excited about this opportunity. Although I am sure its going to be really tough at times. It is probably the most adventurous thing I have ever done to date. Based on my adaptability to India over the past two weeks I'm sure the first week will be rather rough. But I know I will be fine and have an amazing experience and really be able to help people and understand where they come from. Seeing extreme poverty over the past two weeks has been tough but to go live in it.. will be another. Talk about a humbling experience. I hope that I will be able to bring back valuable data to SKS.
I also want to thank all my friends and family who have been an amazing support to me thus far while I have been here. The endless text messages, emails and gchats have made the hard days a lot easier. So greatful for techonlogy it makes living acorss the world for a summer seem not so far away.