The picture is a fruit following years of hard work. Asha Kiran has been working the fields of Murja since 1997. Reaching out through health interventions, education, agriculture, and training. However, every effort made was like ploughing in rocky soil. Program after program reaped failed expectations. However, earlier this year, the Mental health wing of the Community services unit decided to plough on. Visiting the village once every week the team went on to form youth groups at Murja. Initially, every Wednesday evening saw the team going door to door inviting youth, exchanging recipes with old ladies around the water pump, visiting the sick, playing loud music on speakers and at times joining the youth in volleyball games. Soon 2 youth groups were formed. 1 for boys and the other for girls.
We started off by giving them health education and listening to their expectations from the weekly meetings. In the following weeks we went on to discuss gender specific issues that plague the youth today. We openly discussed topics such as addictions, peer pressure, reproductive health and provided a safe environment for the groups to open on issues they needed assistance in. With the youth warming up to us, they began to let us into their world. Inviting us to important functions in the village, saving us sweets at festivals, serving us lip smacking mandiya pejo (ragi porridge kept overnight) on every visit and inviting us home to rest a few minutes before class. Winter saw them hurrying home after working in the fields to sit in for sessions and summer saw them hurrying back from kuli work in the neighbouring village, finishing cooking for the night and sitting in on sessions. The youth in good humour also brush off snide remarks and occasional cursing by older drunk villagers, determined to get to sessions on time.
Nature teaches us that no two fields are the same. Each field requires to be managed differently. Some fields readily produce yield while others require years of hard labour. Although Murja now shows signs of yield we are conscious of the years of ploughing done by our forerunners whose labour prepared the soil for us.
The youth at Murja now are on their way to becoming a force to reckon with. They have taken responsibility for their village. They encourage, remind, correct, and build each other. The health team senses an air of responsibility among the youth as they gather together every Wednesday night, determined to learn, ask questions, find answers, discuss social evils, and make a difference. The past few months have seen the youth, refuse to go on Yatras that require them to stay up all night, get drunk and engage in risky behaviour. The group has also attracted older folk and younger children who sit in on the discussions and participate enthusiastically.
All these years of involvement has made Murja a field close to our heart and we at Asha Kiran intend to keep ploughing on sure of the harvest that is at hand.