I win the silly hat competition





It all started in the middle of rural India

It was a three-hour drive north of Mumbai by bus to our hotel. Then another hour drive the next day. Transferred into a four-wheel drive vehicle and another half hour up a very steep dirt track before we arrived at a square building in the middle of nowhere.

As it happens, this trip to a tribal village school would be the shining highlight of my trip to India. But at the time, it felt like a long way to go for a tradesman’s errand. I was told we were off to install a computer and help paint the school building. Little did I know the experience that awaited.

A school room with a view

The school room was a very simple 5 to 6 metre square concrete building. Beside the room a beautifully-decorated marquee had been erected and the tribal children were all there waiting to greet us.

The tribal elders came and after a brief introduction all of our B1G1 group got the turban headwear and a coconut gift. We were being treated like royalty and it is with great honour that I wear this headdress.

We were shown the computer and how the children were starting to get to grips with using it. The B1G1 group started working on painting Disney cartoons on the outside of the school room. Not long after we were called away as  the ceremonies to officially open the school building were getting started.

The story behind the story started to unfold

These marginalised tribal communities have been slowly pushed out of the more productive lower lands and over the years have retreated to these barren mountain tops where no one else can survive.

Undernourishment is a daily challenge, and the pressure is always on just to survive. As such, the children’s education is a luxury. Therefore the cycle of extreme poverty continues.

The very simple act of us Westerners showing up, and the bright Disney paintings on the building both stimulated the interest of the children. They wanted to see what these outsiders with the silly clothing were up to. But it also gave pride to the tribal elder – we were there giving our time to see their community thrive and trying to lend a hand.

Part way thru the ceremonies the women had been singing a song to the group (in their own langaugee) with lots of cheeky laughter and banter going back and forth when the song was finished. Dr Satay (one of the main co-ordinators for this project) explained what the women were singing. When these women go down to the main town further down the mountains they can’t read the destination on the buses. They’re not able to find there way around. They are completely disconnected from the main support in the area. These women were asking the tribal community to be better involved in this school to help with their education and enable them to better integrate with the main towns below.

After lunch we were shown through the rest of the village. Just over a small ridge were located a handful of small homes made of dirt where the community lived.

I’m a long-time farmer. I came with great ideas of showing these peoples how to grow organically. But I could not match their ability to survive in such a barren desert-like terrain. With just a cow and a goat and a simple crop of grain these people are doing amazingly well to live a life with dignity. It was a great privilege to meet with them and do such a small thing that I hope will help the next generation to take a step forward.

The next day, we visited another very similar tribal school that the previous  B1G1 group had visited and installed the computer the year before. To see the difference, with the children proudly standing up the front reciting the ABC, was truly inspiring.

Strategic philanthropy

Dr Staya describes it as ‘strategic philanthrop.’

Just a small amount of resources correctly placed into communities that are ready and eager to move forward, can make such a large amount of progress. The B1G1 team have found those first dominoes start a chain reaction and make a world of difference.

Seeing the incredible work that organisations that work with the community to help them achieve their aims, rather than telling them what needs to be done was truly inspiring. Asking what these people wanted help with and delivering just that was refreshing.

And as such CoralTree is very proud to be joining Buy1Give1 (B1G1) as a Business Partner.

For you, this means that by buying our products you contribute to high-impact, community-led projects happening around the world.

For us, we get to have the best possible impact on the world we live in by producing the best products we can. And that makes us feel amazing.

So we are rearing to go. We will be bringing you updates on the projects that we sponsor, so you can keep an eye on the good we are all making happen. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook to keep up to date.

Thanks for supporting CoralTree and helping us make a difference.

–Kim Baker.

12 March, 2016