I recently returned from an unforgettable adventure in India. There was colour, chaos, crowds, and a whole lot of culture. The food put every one of my taste buds to work and the sights and sounds were unlike anything I’ve witnessed before, but the most unique tour occurred at TARAgram in the city of Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, India.
Started in 1996, TARAgram is an establishment that brings together social, environmental and technological knowledge to generate sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. I learned that TARA is actually an acronym for “Techonology and Action for Rural Advancement,” and “gram” means village in Hindi. In other words, it is a resource for education, technology, and employment for almost 30 neighboring villages. With part of the facility dedicated to producing recycled, hand-made paper and other tribal crafts, TARAgram provides on the job training, an opportunity to conserve some of the nation’s most precious heritage and, most importantly, empowerment to those who feel they are falling behind India’s rapid modernization. After speaking to some of the employees, it was incredibly heartening to hear how such a small enterprise can mean so much to a community.
I also learned that TARAgram is continuously growing and improving. Since most of the employees are women and are encouraged to be equal members of the work team, the children end up taking over the household chores or would be left at home unattended. As a result of this, the centre built a balwadi, or a daycare, on site so that the children can go to TARAgram with their mother and return home with her afterwards. With better access to education for the children and employment for the parents, this has made a tremendous difference in the standard of living for these rural families.
After taking a full tour of the facilities, TARAgram’s vision and mission was clear and evident. The paper-making process is detailed and handled with care; the women do just as much physical work as the men; children are well-attended to during their parents’ work day; and every employee found great value in their employment at TARAgram.
It’s amazing what you can discover in your travels – new food, new customs and, sometimes, a new way to be inspired.
Learn more about TARAgram and their projects in India here.