Host Organization: Garhwal Organization for Uplifting the Needy (GOUN)
The Garhwal Organization for the Upliftment of the Needy, or GOUN (meaning “village” in Hindi) is an NGO
based in the small village of Sainji, India. GOUN was established by a Canadian Anthropology PhD student, Lori McFadyen, alongside her husband, Kunwar Chauhan, a respected pradhan (village leader) native to Sainji. Sainji is a very poor area, and with little money comes little resources; children do not have the opportunity to receive an adequate education, let alone build a life that diverges from the profoundly constrained socio-economic conditions of previous generations.
Lori, Kunwar, and some of the first students at GEMS (photo: gems-school.org)
Lori and Kunwar aspired to create a better educational system that could provide younger Sainji citizens with the opportunity to achieve an increased quality of life. GOUN established a school in 2009 named The Garhwal English Medium School, or GEMS – a word that, to Lori and Kunwar, suitably described their students: “…our children are like unpolished gems, who with a little work will shine brilliantly.” GEMS is not just a school with a comprehensive academic curriculum, but a multifaceted learning center that engages the children’s minds with important life lessons, from ways to nourish good health to the value of being generous towards others regardless of one’s own hardships. GEMS has also become a second home for their students. Oftentimes, the school gives baths, and even vitamin tablets, to their students, for their families are unable to provide these necessities. We encourage you to read more about the admirable work of GOUN here:www.gems-school.org
Realizing that the effects of climate change have made it that much more difficult for a community to depend solely on agriculture as a source of secure livelihood, Lori and Kunwar have been working to establish small local industries in the village of Sainji to create alternative sustainable models for income. They have started a goats milk soap-making initiative, as well as a candle-making initiative, from which profits go towardssupporting not only the school, but also the community. These products will be marketed towards local hotels and stores, and will be sold internationally online.
Some of the employees in these industries are parents of children who attend GEMS, and the older kids at school also have the opportunity to learn how to make candles. The process of learning these skills and then using them to create a source of income can instill a sense of self-confidence, which is invaluable for an impoverished community. End Poverty Now is very proud to be funding these two small industries GEMS has set up!
GEM’s Goats Milk Soap Making Project (Photos: gems-school.org).
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