As the paperwork and planning for the new Food for People (FFP) facility in Africa is wrapping up, I have been flashing back on my personal experiences with the current FFP facilities operating in India and Nepal. I’d like to share my reflections with you on this blog. (I’ll add more posts as I can.)
I was told that the people who live in this pocket of northeastern India where the FFP facility was built have had a long history of struggles. They are descendants of the very first people to inhabit India, and, much like the indigenous peoples of Australia and the US, they ended up living in areas no one else wanted.
The region around Bantoli is rocky, and the climate is hot and dry, with harsh winds often whipping up dust during the summer months. Yet, the historically unfair treatment of these proud people does not seem to have dampened their spirits. Although I could not understand their language, I could see that they were quick to laugh and had a sparkle in their eyes.
When I stood up to speak, at the opening ceremony for the first Food for People facility, I saw the children looking at me with great delight, trying to stifle giggles. I learned later that they had never seen a light complexioned western woman, let alone a woman who stands six feet tall. I might as well have been from another planet!
I spoke a little about the work of TPRF, stopping every few sentences so the young Hindi translator could do her job. We shared one stand-up type microphone, and although there was a height difference between us that was more than a foot, I think we did Ok.
I then introduced Prem Rawat, the Founder of TPRF, whose vision to help people in a way that respects their culture and treats them with dignity led to this model food program. Mr. Rawat told us not to worry about teaching them a new trade or giving them things to sell. He encouraged us simply to provide delicious meals that they would enjoy eating, teach them about simple hygiene, and offer educational television programs. He was sure they would then find their way to a more promising future. He spoke eloquently and passionately about the responsibility we all have to help:
“It is incumbent upon us to shape the future in the best way that we can. The children are the ones that need to be taken care of so that there will be a tomorrow. It is incumbent upon all of us to shape their future into something that is friendly, that will recognize the need of human beings across the world—not countries, but human beings. That’s what Prem Rawat Foundation is interested in.”
After the talks, we were led to where the commemorative plaque was ready for unveiling. Mrs. Rawat joined her husband in the ceremony, and then everyone was invited into the dining hall to have the first meal. There was great excitement as children and adults began to climb the stone steps that led to the veranda and the hand washing stations.
To be continued.