They were waiting for us, all gathered about the brightly painted house just across from the church. Curious eyes strained to get a look at us as we came to a stop. We stepped out of the car and into an embrace we will not soon forget.
Joy and gratitude emanated from the faces of the people as they draped enormous flower garlands about our necks. A tiny old woman reached up to my face and took it in her hands. Her eyes stared into mine, saying so much more than words could ever hope to.
The exuberance of the children flowed forth in an inextinguishable current. Wonder and excitement beamed from their faces.
Ravi translated into the native language of Telugu as we took turns introducing ourselves, amidst laughter, tears, and applause.
As the introductions concluded, we were each bombarded with curiosity in the form of small children. A cart pulled by two water buffalo was riding by; the children pulled us on board to go for a ride.
After our short ride with the water buffalo, we were invited for chai. This was our first daily morning cup of tea. Afterwards, we would begin our work in helping rebuild Chevuru.
This village called Chevuru would become our home and steal our hearts over the following ten days.
Chevuru is a small place in the countryside of the Indian state, Andrah Paradesh. It lies fewer than 20 kilometers from the coast of the Indian Ocean. Palm trees and fields surround the village.
The history of Chevuru is very long, though I am afraid I do not recall specifics. A very long time ago, only Dalit people lived there. They were their own community. During that time, most people had to travel by foot. Thus traveling far distances took a long time and, naturally, stopping frequently for water and rest was a necessity.
Because Chevuru was only home to Dalits, upper caste people refused to accept their “untouchable” hospitality when passing through on a journey. So some upper caste families came to live in Chevuru in order that other upper caste members could stop and receive refreshment when passing through.
These wealthier upper caste people were able to purchase much of the land surrounding Chevuru. More and more of them moved into Chevuru, on either side of the Dalit area creating a sort of “sandwich” of a village.
The Dalit people there face the type of discrimination that is dictated by the caste in which they are born. This means that they must work extremely hard in order to achieve opportunities that others might take for granted. They are only hired to do the jobs no one else wants to do-some of which are seasonal.
Unfortunately, the Dalit people also face uncertainty in regards to their homes. Sturdy materials such as wood and cement are expensive and far out of reach for the meager earnings of a Dalit family. Most homes are built using mud, straw, and palm fronds.
As one might imagine, these are not very sturdy homes. Especially so when it comes to the annual rainy season, monsoons, and typhoons. Rebuilding homes is almost an annual necessity for these people. They must use precious time-time they should be working to build a better future for them and their families.
The volunteer work that Go Longitude and ARV coordinate does so much more for these people than simply provide them with sound homes. Watch this video (it's of a CNN team working in Chevuru) for a tiny peek at the work that has already been completed and that continues.
This is another good video showing the work Go Longitude and ARV are doing:
More to come...