A fundraising event is being held in Perth to help the disadvantaged in southern India, writes CATE WILLIAMS
The link between an upcoming Bollywood Extravaganza in Perth and the Rural Agency for Social and Technological Advancement (RASTA) in India is not immediately apparent.
RASTA, a not-for-profit organisation, was established in 1987 in Wayanad, a poor district of Kerala where 17 per cent of the community are tribal people. The driving force behind the organisation is Omana T.K., a passionate and dynamic advocate for women’s empowerment.
Since its inception, RASTA has been committed to empowering tribes, dalits, economically and socially disadvantaged women and marginalised farmers, as well as preserving the unique natural environment of southern India.
Over eighty projects have been completed on matters relating to education, housing, sanitation, tribal development, farming, environmental protection and waste management.
Omana is now encouraging local women to train in solar technology, and so far solar lights have been installed in 145 village homes.
Regrettably, due to the global financial crisis and aid agencies withdrawing from Kerala, funding to RASTA has dried up and this innovative and prolific organisation is struggling financially.
Far from giving up, Omana is looking at creative ways to develop financial sustainability so that RASTA can continue to help the disadvantaged local community.
Wayanad is situated in the Western Ghats of Kerala – a beautiful, unpolluted region of India with many natural attractions.
Tourists who visit the area usually stay in resorts or hotels in the nearby town of Kalpetta, but Omana wants to increase their options and open a homestay and eco-tourism business at RASTA.
Eco-tours could be organised to tribal hamlets, farms, women’s organisations, local schools and temples, allowing visitors to participate in local life and learn from the culture while supporting a grassroots organisation.
Increasing the number of guests who stay at RASTA will also provide employment for the local community, as more staff will be needed to look after the visitors.
Currently, the available accommodation at RASTA consists of five individual rooms (several with ensuites) and two dormitories.
These need to be decorated and furnished to a standard suitable for paying guests. There is also a large, round, half-finished structure, which is central to Omana’s vision.
Once completed, this building will provide an additional seven bedrooms plus a relaxation area for yoga, meditation and Ayurveda treatments.
Volunteers are required for the construction and renovation phase of the venture, creating an opportunity for people to help a worthy cause while experiencing this beautiful part of rural Kerala and the hospitality of RASTA.
There’s nothing like volunteering overseas for expanding your comfort zone and fast tracking personal growth!
My partner, Ian, and I volunteered at RASTA last year and can highly recommend it.
We stayed in one of the basic rooms on site. All meals were provided and consisted of simple, but delicious, south Indian vegetarian fare, made with locally grown organic produce.
Our tasks included writing promotional material to attract more volunteers and funding, painting rooms and clearing a vegetable patch for planting.
In our spare time, we walked around the area, marvelling at the peaceful lanes, the simplicity of village life and the friendliness of the locals.
Omana took us to visit some of the local tribal people whose sturdy homes had been built as part of RASTA-funded projects.
Although their dwellings were very simple, they were a vast improvement on the huts they had been living in before.
We were humbled by the generosity of the households we visited; they all brought us drinks and snacks despite having so little for themselves. One family even cooked a yam for us on a fire in the middle of the room.
The villagers also gave us a tour of their thriving vegetable plots, which had been established using seed and farming expertise provided by RASTA.
Besides volunteers, money is also required for the completion of the homestay project.
When we saw first-hand how much RASTA has helped the local community, we offered to organise a fundraiser in Australia.
We decided on the Bollywood-theme because we are both keen Bollywood dancers and the dance style has its roots in India.
The ‘Bollywood Extravaganza for RASTA’ will be held at the Hilton Park Bowling Club in Beaconsfield, Perth on 28 November.
Participants are encouraged to wear Indian-style clothing and there will be Bollywood dancing performances, live music, a raffle and possibly an auction.
All profits from the event will be donated to RASTA.
Tickets are $25 and if you purchase 8 tickets you can reserve a table for your group. To buy tickets or to donate a prize or money to RASTA, please call Ian on 0414 870 570 or email Cate at email@example.com
More information about RASTA can be found at http://rastaindia.org/
To enquire about volunteering opportunities, contact Omana: firstname.lastname@example.org