In India With Pathfinder

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Sayre in India

When I learned about the 2014 Friends of Pathfinder trip to India, I immediately knew I wanted to go. I always dreamed of visiting this vast and beautiful country and I am a longtime supporter of Pathfinder International’s work. It couldn’t have been a better combination. 

We had the very special opportunity to see four of Pathfinder’s projects in India, including MUKTA, PRACHAR, Shaping Demands & Practices and JAGRITI. For me, it was the unexpected adventure during our visit to JAGRITI that captured so much about India and the importance of what Pathfinder does.

We drove for hours to an extremely remote village to meet the youth from JAGRITI, who work together to bring an end to child marriage. We drove by endless rice fields in four white Land Rovers—slowed down by the combination of heavy rain and unpaved roads, studded with big water-filled potholes. As we inched our way into the village, people lined the side of the road, waiting for our arrival. In a dramatic twist, our first vehicle began to slip off the narrow, mud-soaked road and into the rice paddy field. I peered anxiously out the window, waiting to see how my fellow travelers would fare. I breathed a sigh of relief as the villagers, in their welcoming hospitality, came to our rescue and pushed the first vehicle back to safety.

Once we settled in, the drama continued for us, but this time in the form of a play! As a small band performed, the youth from JAGRITI illustrated the story of a girl who is forced to marry young and give in to the pressures to have a child when she herself is still just a child. Her body, not yet ready to bear children, gives out on her, and the youth then dance and sing their grief as they act out her funeral. The somber tone drove home the need for these young women and men to hold off until they are ready for marriage and children, and the audience, filled with villagers of all ages, listened intently.

We applauded and sang their praises; the young actors were beaming with pride. I had only just met them, but I could not hide the pride I also felt for them. It takes a lot of bravery and confidence to challenge harmful traditions such as child marriage. To witness such bright, young faces taking control of their lives while engaging their entire community to create change, is truly inspiring.

I thought about the difficulties we experienced to visit the youth of JAGRITI. It was a remoteness I had never experienced before. Even our tour guide, who was from India, commented she had never been to such secluded areas in her home country.

It made me realize two important things: This remoteness is just one of the many challenges faced by the youth I had just met. They are working so hard against so much to pave an unchartered path in their communities. Their efforts are making a difference but there is still much farther to go. It also made me understand what an incredible reach Pathfinder has – serving some of the most underserved parts of the world.

My respect for the individuals I met throughout this trip and for Pathfinder has only deepened along with my love and concern for India.

Sayre Sheldon is a longtime Pathfinder supporter who recently traveled to India to see Pathfinder's work. If you are interested in participating in a Friends of Pathfinder trip to the field, please contact Stacey Perlman at sperlman@pathfinder.org.

Explore more photos from the recent Friends of Pathfinder trip here.

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