Seeing the "Slumdog Millionaire" Side of India
From the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort to the wildlife preserves and elephant rides, India has a whole host of attractions that draw in over six million tourists every year. Many visitors to India are struck by the poverty and inequality they see and feel bad about enjoying the sites when they are surrounded by those in need. Fortunately, the editors at TripSketch have compiled several attractions, shops and tours catering towards visitors who want to give something back. Those looking to see the side of India depicted in the film "Slumdog Millionaire" can take tours such with groups such as the Salaam Baalak Trust where young guides show the darker side of India. Tourists can also pay a visit to NGOs such as Harmony House and People Tree that give people the opportunity to sell handicrafts at fair wages. If you're just looking for a place to shop, consider stopping by Mother Earth which sells items created by village craftspeople. Regardless of how much time you have or where your interests lie, consider adding one of these spots to your India itinerary to do good and feel good at the same time.
New Delhi, India
This India NGO winner, is also a World Bank Global DM awardee. They reach out to the masses without asking the Indian classes for anything they can’t part with; all they want are old magazines, newspapers, clothes, curtains, etc. Combining this with Indian ingenuity, the team at Goonj, manages to weave recycling magic, to turn old stuff into usable, wearable items, which protect the poor from harsh cold, floods, etc. Goonj has linked a basic human right and need to the development process, and has been successful beyond expectations. A small example which echoes their caring vision: a small piece of clean cloth holds the key to the health of a village woman, it’s used for personal hygiene.
For visitors from overseas, they are happy to arrange a personal visit to their office and processing/sorting centre. You can see the central warehouse , which is where all the material from different parts of Delhi and India is stored, sorted, repaired, recycled as well as dispatched. Just call (or ask your hotel to call) up and speak to Priyanka or Harshi.
Here’s what you can take with you: old clothes, curtains, books, toys, anything that is recyclable, and reusable. And yes, cash donations are also welcome.
New Delhi, India
One of the stark realities of Indian mega cities is the slums, highlighted in Slumdog Millionaire, the Oscar award winning movie. The government unfortunately has chosen to ignore the growth of slums, and the resultant problems of hygiene and lack of sanitation. Thankfully, there are NGOs that have shown their mettle and taken on the task of improving the life of slum dwellers. One such NGO is next door to the International Airport in Delhi, in the swank NCR region called Gurgaon. You can call up and visit them as they are used to such requests and like to showcase their efforts. Harmony House operates out of a rented villa which it has converted into a full time community centre for women and children, offering education, food, medication, hygiene facilities and social services, everything that has been missing from the lives of the slum dwellers,but which they have a right to. They rely completely on donations, and you can even sponsor a child - for as little as US$ 3 a day . Chec the needs list on the website for items you can bring with you for your visit. Volunteers can actually spend a fruitful day at this place, participating in anything from yoga, dance and music to sewing, cooking, medical and wellbeing advice. However the language barrier in this case, prevents full interaction directly with the beneficiaries as they normally speak Hindi and very little English.
Founder Lucy Bruce won the 2010 Emirates Woman of the Year Award in the Humanitarian category.
New Delhi 110001
Established by alumni from the National Institute of Design, this is an artists' collective that offers jewelry, T shirts, crafts and books for purchase. A maverick enterprise intended to be free of 'heartless markets and artless clients', People Tree offers quirky and unusual pieces to take home and has character. And there's a social enterprise element, the shop sells accessories made by street children and womens' cooperatives, offering a helping hand and sales outlet to these disadvantaged groups.
Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk
New Delhi, India
Salaam Baalak Trust, a nonprofit organization that helps street kids, has developed an exciting city walk through the enchanting streets of the inner city and New Delhi railway station area. Nobody knows Delhi's streets better than the young people who are fully trained as guides. These spirited youngsters will take you on a tour while sharing with you the journey of their lives. The walk includes the living and built heritage of the area, down the back streets to find hidden cultural practices and offer a feel for life here in yesteryear. See how the trust provides opportunities for street children and the amazing things they can achieve when given an opportunity. The city walk aims to sensitize people to the lives of street children. It's a unique way of engaging people in the lives of children in distress. The walk also provides an opportunity for the young people to improve their communication and speaking skills. All proceeds go directly to the trust to enable more opportunities to be made for street children so the walk is 100% non-profit.
Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan
New Delhi 110001
Another stellar complex dedicated to the marketing of Indian handicrafts; some interesting NGOs showcasing their wares, along with some organic brand names in fashion and foodstuffs. There are a variety of events taking place through the year, so you will always find something to surprise you. The complex is on the first floor and after you have finished browsing, go down and browse the state handicrafts centres. Gift picking is made easy, and you don’t have to worry about prices or quality. Both are guaranteed at these outlets. There's lots on offer, from handicrafts to miniature paintings to masks and silk and traditional Indian clothing.
On the off chance that you wake up early morning, say 5am or 6 am, you can hop across to this destination as you will be treated to a unique sight of beautiful cut flowers. One of the largest flower markets of Asia, operates between 4am-9am opposite Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan. If you visit during the daytime, you won’t be able to tell at all that a few hours back, business worth millions was transacted here as you won’t find even a single flower or flower seller left here.
Mumbai Dharavi Slum Tour
Dharavi is known as the largest slum in Asia, and is where much of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was filmed. Yet some responsible tour operators believe that by involving local citizens in getting to know visitors and showing them their real way of life in an authentic cultural exchange, both sides are enhanced. Reality Tours takes visitors on a 2 1/2 hour tour of Dharavi, home to nearly a million people who are mostly hard-working entrepreneurs. On this tour, visit the people of Dharavi, their homes, their work places, and their spirit. This is not a "slum" tour. If you are expecting extreme poverty and despair based on movie depictions, you will be disappointed. In fact, this tour actively breaks stereotypical depictions of slums. Reality Tours also offers many other tours, including Bazaars, Cuisine, Art Walks and other interactive experiences.
A significant portion of the profits from the slum tours are returned to the slum dwellers to improve their lives.
Retail store focused on crafts from all over India. Textiles, foods and home products sourced from artisans around the country, keeping the traditions alive and offering a livelihood to village craftspeople. A flagship store was opened in Bengaluru, and the company now has stores in all the major cities.
For fashionable cottons, head to Fabindia. Started in 1973 by a former Ford Foundation employee John Bissell, the store was a Fair Trade movement for the time, intended to offer local textile artisans a fair price for beautiful, locally produced items. The business blossomed and today, this retail chain is found across India, offering fabrics and fabric based home products from 15,000 artisans across the country. Find everything from clothes, home furnishings, jewelry to wooden furniture and organic food items. While locals might find the fixed prices a little steep, they are reasonable for overseas visitors, and a relief for tourists who are exhausting with bargaining. All major credit cards are accepted.
Cholamandal Artists Village
This is a self supporting artists' colony located on ten acres of land in Chennai. There are two commercial galleries with a special focus on contemporary art, as well as an art bookshop, special performances and more, check the website for specific events and exhibits. One of the more interesting tourist attractions in the city.
The Banyan Centre
Since 1993 The Banyan has been taking care of the neglected in Chennai, suffering from mental illness. Their projects have changed the lives of over 5,000 people so far and also prevented homelessness by ensuring people are cared for, and in some cases, returned to their families. Their website puts things in perspective and respects all visitors who want to offer their time, skills, care, and financial assistance.
'Volunteers are not paid; not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.' - Sherry Anderson
Meet the two educated founders of Banyan: Vandana Gopikumar, and her close friend, Vaishnavi Jayakumar, who took it upon themselves to bring dignity to those who are discarded and rejected by society.
The section on their website clearly outlines that visitors are more than welcome, and one week advance notice is appreciated