Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Journey to BCT

After learning about the Deshpande Foundation and its work in Hubli-Dharwad during orientation, I was even more eager to get started on our project and to begin contributing to the socially-conscious ecosystem that the Deshpande Foundation has been building in the Sandbox region. After a morning group meeting, Jyoti, Tisa, and I, along with the Mobilizing Health team (Breanna, Ken, and Rolf), set off to meet with BCT at their office in Dharwad. With only an address and no clear directions about how to get there, we jumped on a crowded public bus towards the Dharwad bus stand. The 45 minute ride was filled with the typical chaos of Indian streets: pushy riders fighting for available seats, the bus conductor yelling out each stop, and constant honking by the bus driver and every other passing vehicle.

The rain came early today and by the time we reached the bus stand, it was pouring. Jumping over muddy puddles while avoiding auto ricksaws and motorbikes, we finally made it to the city bus stand to catch our connecting bus. We were told to meet the BCT staff at MG Bank. Once we arrived at the bank, we realized it was the headquarters for the Karnataka branch of Grameen Bank!

We waited for a while to meet our host, but no one came. Eager to get to the meeting, we decided tot take the initiative and find the office ourselves. We asked around for directions and every local seemed to have contradicting directions for us. BCT told us that their office was near Ishvyar Temple, but when we found the temple, it was completely surrounded by a residential neighborhood. We flagged down a local resident and he kindly offered to drive Rolf around to find the office and then come back for the rest of us. While we waited for Rolf, Jyoti and Breanna took shelter from the rain in the temple, and Ken, Tisa, and I wandered aimlessly up and down the street.

Luckily, a BCT truck spotted us and gave us a ride to the office. Finally! Although the BCT office is only about an hour car ride from BVB, it took us 4 hours to get there. Everything in India seems to take just a bit longer that expected... Nonetheless, the meeting with BCT was extremely productive. Venkatesh, the Regional Manager from KHPT who works closely with BCT, carefully explained the current status of the FrontlineSMS program that was initiated by last summer's Global Impact team and highlighted some of the challenges. We also got to meet the Peer Educators and Outreach Workers currently using the FrontlineSMS technology. We were given such a warm welcome! Ken and Rolf were even photographed and asked for autographs like celebrities. Despite all the rain and confusion that delayed our meeting, we left BCT with
big smiles.

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