Mark and Sue Real, Opportunity supporters from Colombus, Ohio, traveled on an Insight Trip to India to meet Opportunity's field staff and clients. The trip was eye-opening and inspiring—and they graciously shared a few of their experiences with us. We will be sharing their stories over the course of the week. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here, and learn more about traveling on an Insight Trip with us at opportunity.org/insight.
Our next visit was to two small villages outside the pink city of Jaipur, known for the historic Amber Fort. We passed dozens of groups of Hindu celebrants marching to temples as they sang, danced, and played musical instruments as part of a holy week.
We drove down a series of single-lane dirt roads, passing people working in the fields and women carrying burlap sacks of vegetables on their heads.
Periodically we saw small markets, often with cows roaming nearby. We also saw camels hauling cartloads of wheat since it was harvest time.
We arrived at the small village. Most of the homes were adobe structures. Livestock—pigs, cows, goats—roamed freely within the village compound. Colorful laundry hung from clotheslines.
Our visit attracted the attention of everyone in the village who quickly crowded around us with curiosity. Some looked intently at our iPhone cameras. Sue showed them their photos on her phone which they enjoyed. Others peered intently as Mark took notes in his notebook. Most of the children were barefoot.
Eight village women wearing festive colors sat on rugs on the ground and told us how they had used their loans to start and expand a goat-breeding enterprise. Formerly, they had worked as goat herders for a local land-owner. The loan enabled them to start their own business. They explained that goats breed quickly and their milk is becoming more popular. With a loan of 20,000 rupees ($333), they bought four goats. Within a year, they had nine goats. The families share goat-herding duties.
We learned that school attendance had improved. Children now walked only a mile to attend the local elementary school, the beneficiaries of a national law requiring that an elementary school be built every two kilometers (1.2 miles) in rural areas. However, we were told there was no local library. The loan clients reported that the local government school was poor quality and there were 40 to 50 students for each teacher.
Satyavir Chakrapani, the Managing Director of Shikar MicroFinance, and the local loan officer and staff ably translated. We asked the children about what they wanted to be as adults. Many giggled shyly, but one said police officer, another said prime minister, and others chimed in: army officer, teacher, and doctor.
Our next village—Sariska—was home to a five-woman trust group weaving two large 14 by 10 rugs. They used the proceeds of their first 20,000 rupee loan ($333) to rent a large loom and to purchase materials. They sold this rug at a profit and repaid their loan. Then, they borrowed 40,000 rupees ($667) to rent two looms and buy materials to weave two large rugs over an 18-month period. The women demonstrated the intricate work involved in weaving these large rugs.
We asked them their ages at marriage: 13, 14, and 15. Most had three or four brothers and sisters, but had smaller families themselves, generally about three children. We inquired about their aspirations for their children. All wanted a better life for their children to enjoy school and not to have to be involved with rug-weaving.