A sunny, winter morning in Dec 2021... a tiny, remote village which I visited with the Faith Foundation team. Umsawriang Village is inhabited primarily by Khasis, an indigenous community, in Ri Bhoi District, rural Meghalaya (India).
We met the assistant headman of the village. He shared that most people in the village practise a traditional lifestyle, relying for the most part on subsistence agriculture and forest resources. What do you do well in agriculture, we enquired. Ginger cultivation- he responded with a smile. Farmers are interested in cultivating ginger as soil and climate favour the growth and development of ginger crop.
But what is a source of pride in the village is how clean we are, he observed with a twinkle in his eye. He admits that it is the women in the village who initially took a lead in cleanliness of the village. The village roads and streets, the school playground, every nook and corner are clean and well - tended. Once a month youth, women and the men come together to sweep the streets and clean the village. Twice a year in April and October there is a thorough cleaning to keep the village spick and span. The community members have also undertaken planting of trees.
This is not all, the villagers and the local government, Dorbar Shnong, are concerned about safety of people in the village. They do not allow parking of external vehicles in the village after 10 pm. Men and women undertake night patrolling to ensure everyone has a peaceful night's sleep in the community.
What is your hope?
He said that his hope is in the youth in the village. He was very appreciative of the young people. Youth support the community in many ways, he observed. If someone has passed away they come forward to support the family, they hold periodic activities with smaller children and also organise sport events.
What was my takeaway?
I read somewhere, "Alone we can do so little; Together, we can do so much."
If we apply this to our work in the development sector, the role of community cannot be dismissed. Those who are affected by the issue have to lead the response, and outsiders can support them but not lead them. Umsawriang village is a testimony that when people in a community come together to solve an issue, the results are not only positive but also long-lasting. I have no doubt that if nudged gently and very active youth, this village can create even more wonders!