As the Spring 2021 semester kicks in, the Thunderbird Rotary Club brings to you its first event, an introduction to the smart village Anandwan. This settlement is a living embodiment of the social development goals! Join us as we take a peek into this village and how it operates, talk about how we can take action to be sustainable today, and get away from the stress of the world by vicariously traveling to the far-off land!
More about Anandwan
This gem of a human settlement is tucked into the wilderness of India and was established in 1949 as an inclusive community that catered to those marginalized by society. It was founded by renowned human rights activist Murlidhar Devidas Amte (popularly known as Baba Amte) as part of his non-profit Maharogi Sewa Samiti, Warora (MSS). This village provides a home for those afflicted with leprosy; hearing, vision, orthopedic, and speech impairments; and socially and economically disadvantaged rural and tribal populations.
The settlement that started as a safe space for leprosy patients has today become a self-sufficient, self-sustaining beacon of hope. Anandwan today has two hospitals, a college, an orphanage, a school for the blind, a school for the deaf, and a technical wing. It is home to nearly 3000 people in residence, with volunteers lending a helping hand. Many national celebrities have residences in the village and are often seen helping around the place.
Anandwan supplied food and masks to neighboring villages during the pandemic, and it secured its borders, allowing the residents to continue their lives mask-free. From a mess (communal eating area) that is served by hearing-impaired groups to the buildings built by people with missing limbs, this village is a space for people to live a full, happy life. In fact, Anandwan literally translates to “Forest of Bliss.”
Our fellow Tbird, Juily Sawant (Class of 2022), lived in this smart settlement, working as an architect. Her interest in sustainability was reinforced, as she wore multiple hats in this village. On Tuesday, 9 February, at 6 p.m. MST, Juily will share her experiences with us with some calls to action that will answer the eternal question: how can we lead a more sustainable life today?
As a lead in to the talk, here are few thoughts that Juily candidly shares with us. Savor them as you wait for the interesting conversation. We all hope to see you there.
Seventy years ago, a wealthy lawyer decided to abandon his possessions and move with his wife and two kids to a remote barren land that the government had allotted him to start a leprosy treatment center. Nobody thought he would survive, let alone be successful. But little did anyone know that this couple will soon transform the lives of more than 1.1 million leprosy patients and provide a new, positive perspective towards this marginalized sector of society to the world.
After a decade-long wait to be part of this incredible community, I finally arrived in Anandwan in January 2020.
Have you ever imagined a perfect world? Something akin to the magical world of Harry Potter or Narnia, a wall or closet that magically leads you to a different world? I had a picture in my mind, too, and believe it or not, I lived in my perfect world last year. The best part is that it was way beyond my wildest imagination.
I joined Anadwan as an architect to help them with construction projects and ended up working in agriculture, education, and afforestation, to name a few sectors. Every activity in Anadwan starts and ends with a sustainable approach. This is a fight to cure not just leprosy, but society. Anandwan is a utopian community free from any social barrier, something that Martin Luther King envisioned. This is the place where a person infected with leprosy had the humane option of living a full life instead of committing suicide or becoming a homeless person.
“A man can live without fingers, but he cannot live without self-respect” – Baba Amte
Every resident at Anadwan works, from school kids to 70-year-olds. Do you think that’s too much? It is natural to think that way, but everyone’s job is unique and keeps this self-sustained community going. It is like helping your family run errands, and we are able to achieve great things as a family. We started working on the second phase of the afforestation project: planting half a million trees. This project was completed in December 2020.
Join me as I recount my experience, and let’s explore the world of sustainable settlements together.
Date: 9th Feb 2021. 6:00 pm MST