Our first two days in India were filled primarily with tourist activities: visiting Old Delhi, the Agra Fort, the Taj Mahal and other historic locations. Today we made our way to TARAgram India, a Development Alternatives group. TARAgram is located in Orchha, approximately four hours from Agra by train. Before breakfast this morning, the fog was so thick that I could hardly see across the street while standing in the lobby of our hotel in Agra. Trains in India pass through many rural areas and moving at highs speeds in foggy weather poses a danger to local villagers who frequently walk along the tracks. The dense fog caused our train to be delayed by several hours.
Though we arrived at the TARAgram facility much later than planned, we were well received and given various snacks. With mugs of chai in hand, we met with our hosts and received an introduction to the TARAgram program. TARA is an acronym which stands for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement. Gram means village. TARAgram belongs to Development Alternatives, a group that leads sustainable rural development programs.
After giving us and introduction to TARAgram, our host requested that introduce ourselves and share our expectations for the program. We each drew a picture that represented us in some way and shared a fun fact about ourselves. At this point, most of us have had time to get to know each other but it was still interesting to learn a little something new about each person in the group.
After we wrote down what we expected to learn for the program, our host sorted our expectations into categories: energy (what are the energy demands of rural developing areas and how can they be met?), success/failure (what has made development projects successful or unsuccessful in the past?), evaluation (how does one assess needs and improvements in a community?), sustainability (how does one make sure that solutions can be utilized effectively by communities?), government (what role does the government play in helping or hindering development projects?), and rural development (what special considerations are required for development in rural communities as opposed to urban environments?). At the end of our stay here at the TARAgram facility, we will be reviewing what we have learned and how it relates to our initial expectations. Tomorrow, we'll tour the TARAgram facility and start learning how sustainability is currently being implemented here.
-- John Phillips