This collection story is not so much about the place
where the soil was collected but about the many people helped with the collection of soil for CommonGround 191.
The place is Goa, the smallest of India's 28 states. Located on the central west coast of India on the Arabian Sea, Goa is renowned for its beaches and tourism is the primary industry, which plays a part in our story. Goa is also a former Portuguese colony in India, which annexed Goa in 1961. With the influence of Portuguese culture for 450 years, Goa presents a somewhat different picture to the foreign visitor than other parts of the country. The Catholic influence, for example, and the Western names are also evident in our story.
The story begins with Rudolf Schwartz, from Oldenburg, Germany, who was one of those tourists to visit Goa in 1991. On his first visit, Rudolf was struck by the number of young people who worked at odd jobs and were not attending school. When he was told that a lack of money was the usual reason, Rudolf arranged to support 4 students before leaving.
On his return to Germany, he founded the non-profit charity Ausbildungshilfe Indien e.V. (Indian Educational Aid) and enlisted initial support from his circle of friends. The goal of the organization is to help needy youth in Goa get the education and vocational training that will enable them to support themselves. With the help of volunteers and contributions earmarked for administrative costs, 100% of donations goes directly to Goa. Since those first 4 students the foundation has supported over 2400 students. More than 900 students a year receive scholarships.
Every year, the heads of high schools from across Goa are asked to recommend the names of deserving students for the scholarships. The minimum requirement is that the student score 50% on the Secondary School Certificate exam taken after the 10th school year, and should be from a poor family. Student profiles are sent to the sponsors who select a student to support until the completion of their studies. Students know who their sponsors are and write four letters a year so that sponsors know their money has reached the students.
In 1995, Rudolf founded the Indian Students Educational Aid Foundation in Goa to build and operate vocational training schools. The Shri Bhumika Technical Institute was started in Palyem, a remote village in Pernem. The success of this school encouraged Rudolf to start another such institute, the Keerti Vidhyalaya Technical Institute in Siolim. These two schools train 350 students in thirteen professions from computer engineering to home nursing, including mechanical trades such as plumbing and electrical, and hotel management. A third school is being built in Marna which will have an Indo-German technology centre and an institute of hotel management.
Now the year is 2013 and on his annual visit Rudolf in typical fashion organized a massive effort to collect soil from India for the benefit of CommonGround 191 with the help of many who have benefitted from or are engaged in these charitable activities. Here are some of the details. (Click on the photos for a larger view.)
Bhumika Technical Institute
Rudolf (center right) and friends collect soil at the school
School director Lodleikar and ISEAF President Mathew
A reporter for the Indian Times
Vladimir and friend from Russia
Keerti Vidhyalaya Technical Institute
The school originally had two classrooms and rented space in dilapidated houses nearby. ISEAF constructed 10 additional classrooms and the school is now in one building. The school and the Technical Institute share the facilities.
The director of the Keerti Vidyalaya School and a group of first graders gather soil. Keerti Vidyalaya is an English-language middle school.
More school children gather soil for Common Ground
The student mechanics gather soil. These are "dropouts" who don't have a school diploma and without training could only work as day laborers. With ISEAF training, they will be able to find a good paying job.
Ann Fernandes and Rudolf gather soil as the ISEAF President Matthew and
several nursing students look on. Mary Ann is 63 years old and passed the
Home Nursing exam scoring 82%. The ISEAF Nursing Bureau places 270 nurses
like Mary Ann into homes where care is needed.
The new school at Marna
Stone cut from lava beds and sand from the river. When taking these materials was banned, the ISEAF had to find and buy expensive materials facing deadlines due to government grants.
Rudolf collects the soil.
Workers take their lunch break. They come from one of the poorest Indian states, Bengali, to work in Goa, one of the richest.
Manisha and brother and sister collect soil at their home. Manisha was awarded an ISEAF scholarship in 2007. Having already lost her father, it looked as if she would have to leave school when her mother died after a traffic accident. But the ISEAF was able to find sponsors for family support, and the children have been able to stay in their home and continue school.
Peter Bosse organizes the financial support for the three children. A friend of the deceased father also keeps an eye on them. Here they gather soil at Manesha's home.
Back at the Siolim school, Petra gathers soil with another student she sponsors.
Depali and her three
siblings were orphaned several years ago. Through Ausbildungshilfe Indien
they receive support and educational sponsorship from Hermann und Rita
Potthoff. Here they collect soil in Panjim (Panaji), the capital of Goa.
Reena suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis and was literally carried in by her father when she came for a scholarship in 2002. Always a top student she now has a college degree and is thankful for her education sponsor and supporters for her medical expenses in Germany. She collects soil here with her parents, Rudolf and Jacob.
Nikant learned welding at the Siolim school, but left after 4 years. He sold his motor scooter to buy a used welder and now has a workshop with two employees. Here he collects soil with one of them at his shop.
Valentina's Little Heaven
Sister Valentina collects soil with 4 year old Maria. Valentina is a former nun who left her order to establish a home in Colva which accepts both orphaned and abandoned children.
Maria, one of 86 children at the home, has lived here since
birth but can't be adopted because her parents are living.
The ISEAF has assisted the orphanage in building a cistern supplied with water, a lavatory with 6 toilets, showers, and basins. The foundation also provided funds for insulating the day room against 120 degree temperatures and for a van to take the children to school.
The nursing home "Our Home"
Dr. Carla Souza collects soil next to the nursing home for the elderly that she has built and runs with her own funds from her physician's practice. A few families are able to contribute, and the ISEAF has provided loans.
58 elderly and handicapped patients live at the home, many picked up helpless by the police and delivered to the home.
Behind the beaches of Goa
Foreign tourists come to Goa's beaches to relax, and Indians from the poorest regions come here to work in the cafes. Typically, they work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, without pay handing out umbrellas and chairs or waiting with food and drink. They turn over any tips they get and often have to pay bribes if they work illegally. In return, they are allowed to sell to the customers things like Tshirts and jewelry or give massages.
Soil-collector Sangita is 34 years old. Married at 15 she has three children, including a son 19 and a daughter 17 who receive scholarships from Ausbildungshilfe Indien. From one of the poorest Indian states, Karnataka, she works at a beach shack without pay but supports herself and her children with the part of the earnings from giving massages that she can keep.
Sandy and the second daughter of Sham and Dana collect soil behind a beach shack. Sandy comes from near Bombay to work on the beaches 6 months of the year. Sham and Dana came to Goa with 4 children to find work.