Some people aspire to become successful and rich while, some wish to take the road less travelled, such is the story of Anand Sankar, a guy from Bangalore who changed the lives of the inhabitants of a remote village called Kalap.
In 2007, Anand Sankar a 30-year-old photo journalist came as a ray of hope in the undisturbed village of Kalap about 210 km from Doon Valley. This scarcely populated village nestled in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, houses only 500 people. When Anand Sankar re-visited the village again in 2013, he found that nothing has changed. The village was as heavenly and isolated from the outside world, as it was six years ago.
Anand still recalls the incident that happened with him on his Kalap visit, how he offered a paracetamol tablet to an old lady shivering with fever that changed his perspective towards life. When her fever came down, she almost fell at his feet out of courtesy. Sankar says, “I was taken aback. I had only given a tablet that cost a rupee. But I learned that a doctor had never been there.” It was one of the remotest villages of Uttarakhand untouched by the luxuries of life. Leave about basic facilities, the village didn’t even trade for cash. There were no cash transactions among the villagers. People only survived on barter system as they had no other means of livelihood and income.
He formed a team of dedicated members and chose each member peculiarly. Sankar says, “I seek volunteers who actually fit a need in the village, and not just come there to indulge in an exotic whim.”
Deeply shaken by the atrocities faced by the poor villagers of Kalap, Anand Sankar sent out a request on social media and Dr. Yuvraaj Singh, an oncologist responded to it. He joined Anand and conducted a health camp. Initially, they ran out of medicines and during a health camp they were shocked to see the number of people who were suffering from tuberculosis. Sankar then realized, there were several issues like these, that had to be tackled soon. So he joined hands with few known faces of Kalap village and decided to make Kalap better.
Sankar now proudly says, “The villagers weave their own cloth (woollen). We will also teach them, how to use organic dyes for making furniture throws and bags that could bring in some funds.”
The main idea was to bring tourists to the village in order to generate a sustainable source of livelihood for the villagers. Sankar who had a background in adventure field trained the villagers in pitching tents and beings guides etc. The village homes were offered as home-stays.
He made a film on Kalap’s classroom which threw a light on the poor condition of the classrooms. The children used to sit outside and study, inferior-quality mid-day meals were served to the kids and the teacher was mostly absent.
His befitting reply to those who call him an outsider working for Kalap is heart-warming
When people raise questions like, why are you working for Kalap? You do not belong here? Sankar who hails from Coimbatore and grew up in Bengaluru says, “I honestly do not know the answer. All I can say is I did not find Kalap; Kalap found me.”
For the betterment of the villagers, Anand Sankar seeded the Kalap Trust in September 2014. The Trust is registered in Dehradun, Uttarakhand as a public charitable trust and works on the modules of:
Village Tourism: The trust is working on flourishing village tourism in Kalap for offering a sustainable source of livelihood to the villagers.
Renewable Energy: Renewable energy sources have been brought up by Kalap with the help of M/s E-Hands Energy Private Limited to provide electricity to the entire village. This is for profit initiative; the community pays for consuming every unit of electricity. On June 30, 2015, Phase I of the grid was live that illuminated 20 homes with solar energy.
Public Heath: There is a dearth of medical assistance in the village. Therefore, the trust aims at providing medical amenities to the villagers. Recently, the Kalap Trust has started its own antenatal clinic.
Tuberculosis: It is one of the fatal diseases that have been traced among many villagers. The trust has cured many TB patients by providing free medical assistance which is a milestone in itself.
Nutritional disorder: This is also a major issue among the villagers. Most of the children and women of Kalap suffer from vitamin deficiency and anaemia is a common disease. The trust aims at providing a full-time doctors in the village.
Livelihood: A sustainable source of income will be provided to the villagers through Kalap Weaves, which will focus on handloom products since wool is abundant in the village and skilled weavers are easily available. Apart from this, Kalap Foods will also be introduced soon to flourish the agriculture sector in the village.
Conservation: Generating other renewable sources of energy that can be used instead of wood is also on the priority list of the trust.
Cultural Preservation: The trust is also working on preserving the unique Pahari dialects, folk dance forms, and traditions that have its own unique identity. They are also taking measures to preserve Garhwali dialect that is listed in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.
The Kalap Trust’s sponsor a child scheme in which any person can sponsor a child and pay for his/her studies is adding colours in the lives of the children of Kalap.
When the money is donated for sponsoring a child, a local fruit tree is grown and the plant is nurtured by the child in his/her own farmland.
The Kalap Trust is also planning to open a school in the village in which well-educated teachers will offer quality education to the children of Kalap.
The school will run in parallel with the government school, classes will be taken every day after regular school hours, full-time on holidays and during vacations. In addition to this, the trust will offer employment and training opportunity to the locals, in which a youngster from the village will be appointed as a full-time assistant to the teacher. If the youth has the potential to teach the kids, then the trust will fund his/her development as a qualified teaching professional in future.