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Review: Gujarat

City/Town/Region/Island

Gujarat, India

The Salt Children of Akaash Ganga

  • By SilverTraveller Trevor-C.Krueger

    2 reviews

  • 2011
  • Colleague(s)

52 people found this review helpful

There are so many charities in the World, so many good causes and so many in genuine need it is often impossible to choose which is the most deserving or worthy of our attention.

Personally, I like to recognise a situation from my own experience and I like to know that any help I am able to give is actually going to reach the cause I believe I am supporting. We have all heard the stories of disappearing donations and the evidence that Africa is still struggling after so much aid, is probably all the proof we need?

Recently I had the good fortune to visit India for the first time and this was further enhanced by my journey being to Gujarat, a fine State with its eye firmly focused on the future. Yet even in this progressive part of India, the sheer volume of people ensures poverty still exists – in every corner.

In Zainabad, I visited the Little Raan of Kutch, home to the Salt Children whose families scrape a living, quite literally, from the natural Salt Pans that rise up from the water table below the desert. The families who work this natural resource are virtual prisoners of the Salt Merchants and Landlords who expect them to work up to 18 hours a day in intense heat, living in twig built shacks and surviving on one small meal a day. Look across the desert at the twinkling mirage in the distance, the blue skies, the sun shining on the salt pans and you may be forgiven for thinking – this is a pleasant place to be. But don’t be fooled. This is a dangerous and desolate region where many perish working on the salt pans, unnoticed by the world who does not even know they are there.

The only hope the children have of ever escaping a lifetime farming salt, is the project founded by Prince Dhanraj Malik of Zainabad. He has established Akaash Ganga “River of Stars”, a sanctuary home for children of the salt workers. Those, who are lucky enough to gain a place are fed, housed and educated to a point where it is hoped they will be able to eventually fend for themselves and re-enter society with skills that will sustain them. In Zainabad they believe that if a woman is educated, her family is educated – for she will be able to teach, protect and guide them.

But there are too many children in need of rescue and not enough money to house or feed them. Dhanraj Malik has a big heart, but he is not rich and it costs as much as he can ever raise to maintain the home and all who depend on him. Every day they have to turn away families at the gate who come to beg a place and a future for their children.

Life is tough at Akaash Ganga – but the foundations are there to achieve so much more and help so many more children. All it takes is money and love. They need plenty of both.

I decided I wanted to help. I couldn’t just turn away, come home and forget about these lovely children who smile and trust and show gratitude for the little they have, knowing they are indeed fortunate to have been given a home at Akaash Ganga. These are children with so much potential and a deep rooted desire to learn, work hard and benefit themselves and all others who follow in their footsteps.

The truth is that when you meet children like this, children who are not affected by a consumer society, who don’t know greed or over indulgence and who only crave survival and an opportunity to climb out of poverty, they educate us. They remind us how lucky we are to live in such relative luxury here in the West and of how much we take our own fortuitous situation for granted.

What these children need is interaction with the World, evidence that there are people out there who care and will help them to help themselves. Remember, all they know is their own life. They cannot compare their situation to our own or other children in the World – for they know nothing of it. They don’t watch the TV news or read newspapers, all they know is their own existence.

So what I am trying to do is offer a unique opportunity to help these very deserving kids by inviting people to get involved in their care. After all, a visit to incredible India must be on everyone’s list of things to do and what better way to fulfill that ambition than by using charity as an excuse to get acquainted?

Akaash Ganga needs teachers and builders, painters and artists, musicians and motivators to contribute a few short days interacting with the children and colouring and embellishing their lives to a point that gives them hope and confidence in themselves and the future.

We are looking for people who can bring these skills, and others, to Akaash Ganga for just four short days. Working on the buildings, or with the children, with a view to doing anything that will generally improve life for all who depend on it. The essential work volunteers can provide will also contribute to expanding the premises and make room for others who await the chance to enter Akaash Ganga too. Until the gates open for them, they remain panning for salt in the heat and the poverty.

Ideally, I hope to encourage parents and young adults to come as a team so that the learning experience can truly be shared by both the giver and the receiver. There is no doubt that all who enter the home with one viewpoint, will most certainly leave with another.

If you would like to offer your time and skills to help this worthy cause we would love to hear from you. At the end of the four days you can enjoy a wonderful holiday touring Gujarat. But, I guarantee the children will travel with you twice, both in your heart and in your mind.

When you arrive at Akaash Ganga you may like to consider bringing a little something more than your luggage. Perhaps some clothes you no longer need and can donate, or toys or small luxuries the children may never otherwise experience. I personally will be taking a dozen knitted toys with me next time I go and, on top of that, I fully expect to go shopping. I will buy paint, building materials, food and whatever is necessary or needed within my budget.

I am not rich myself, so I have decided I must do something more than my personal finances will allow. I have decided along with my 16 year old son Ashley, to do a sponsored walk to raise a million Rupees. We will do that by walking from London to Manchester, around 200 miles. I consider it as a selfish endeavour – as I could really use the exercise!

If you want to get involved our tours will run from October to March, places are limited so you need to book as soon as you can.

As I’m 51 I guess I am a bit overdue for a mid life crisis – I really don’t know? But I do know something; the kids of Akaash Ganga are going to benefit from it.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • JennieSilver
    almost 8 years ago
    Very moved by your piece. Not this year but maybe next, we'd like to make a difference. Have you walked? Howwas it? iadmire what you're doing. JGC