First Week in Brasil

One week down, where do I start? Despite having only been on this trip for a quarter of its total planned time, I am already hugely overwhelmed by how much I have already been exposed to. This does not mean to say that I am in any way finished though, and in fact this first week has only made me eager for more. I feel like this is mostly because I haven’t really travelled internationally to this extent before. There were many things that happened during our first week here, but I would like to focus on two things I felt were the most interesting. 

Firstly, I have taken a huge interest in learning Portuguese while I am over here. One major thing I have learnt straight away here in Sao Paulo is that there are barely any English speakers. This makes it difficult to do the things that we would take for granted back home such as order food, ask where the bathroom is and even introduce yourself. Although difficult, one of the best parts of this trip so far has been being forced to learn their language. Furthermore, there is a certain feeling that comes with connecting with people in another language, something you aren’t able to do back home so much. 

Another highlight for me this week came in our trip to Ubatuba for three days. Going from Sao Paulo to here was a very contrasted move. Sao Paulo very much feels like a busy city in which you are constantly surrounded by amazing architecture and skyline, whereas Ubatuba feels like a town planted smack bang in the middle of a jungle and next to over 50 different beaches. Highlights from Ubatuba included going to the beach and meeting many Brazillians who were up for a good time in the heat. But perhaps our most interesting part of our time in Ubatuba was our visits to the Boa Vista Guarani indigenous community and also to a Quillombos community who had a very impressive sugar cane processing plant. 

It was amazing connecting with the Boa Vista community, getting a taste of their culture as well as how they live. We were able to go for a walk through the rainforest to their community buried within. We were guided by a man named Alex who showed us around his community and told us of their various practices. They welcomed us through waiata, much like we would do back home in Aotearoa. 

I am very much looking forward to the rest of our time here, especially the community visits we have planned for next week!

Rhieve Grey

Akshaya Patra: What India Can Teach the World

Before completing a four-week study tour in India, I had barely considered India’s role as a global leader. India’s influence was not taught at school and hardly touched upon in my degree of Development Studies and Cultural Anthropology. My knowledge of Asia taught at school as the Vietnam War and Edmund Hillary being first to scale Mount Everest in Nepal.

With 1 in every 4 people in the world being Indian, why is India given little weight in the education, media and business sectors?

India has the fastest growing economy in the world and it is predicted to become the biggest economy by 2050. Not only that, it is one of the few countries in the world to have more than 50% of its population below the age of 25. An aging population is a challenge which many countries in the global north will face in the coming years. For example Japan’s average age is 48, compared to India’s who sits at 29 years.  A young population means opportunity. Whereas aging populations come with challenges such as decreasing numbers in the workforce. India will have the advantage of their population entering the workforce.

Nick, one of the leaders of Indogenius, was effective at drilling this fact into our heads: for every problem there is a solution in India. From rickshaw drivers to CEO’s of start-ups – so many Indian’s seem to possess a spirit which drives them to do better for them and their families. This creates an environment perfect for start-ups. Passionate people with an idea and the drive can bring their to life which may not be realistic in places such as New Zealand. We interacted with many people who had successfully turned their vision into multi-million-dollar companies, from Delhi to Pondicherry.

This is not only limited to the world of business in areas such as tech which India is gaining a worldwide reputation for. NGOs such as Jaipur Foot and Akshaya Patra are touching the lives of millions of people in an extremely practical and productive way.

Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 2000 which feeds 18 million children in schools daily. It is the largest school lunch programme in the world, which believes that “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.” We had the privilege of touring the kitchen. Their kitchen holds the title of biggest kitchen in the world which produces 1.4 million meals a day. One cooker could fit 2500 kilograms of dhal.

Making Dahl for 1.4 million people

Not only are meals an initiative for students but parents themselves as it takes the financial pressure off them to provide a meal. An article published by Education New Zealand (2019) says that between 150,000 and 250,000 New Zealand children are in poverty, depending on the measures used. Jacinda Ardern has announced that Year 1 to 8 students in thirty schools will be provided with a free school lunch, it is projected that 120 schools and 21,000 students will be provided with lunches by 2021. I think that the New Zealand government would benefit from looking at a system like Akshaya Patra has perfected. A child is fed a nutritious meal five times a week for a school year for only twenty dollars.

A simple but effective initiative that Akshaya Patra Foundation has introduced is including a sweet within the one of five days meals are served. They keep this day random as they have seen attendance increase to 100 per cent for the day including a sweet only. By switching this day weekly, attendance has increased throughout the week by five percent. When operating at such a scale this is an amazing accomplishment in attendance.

Akshaya Patra is only one example of what can be achieved in India. Good people are changing peoples lives domestically and international. With 1.4 billion brains India is a gold mine of potential that the rest of the world can learn from.

Annalise O’Sullivan-Moffat

JCB – the underbelly of an emerging India

India’s recent development is often attributed to the tech revolution or government driven initiatives such as the construction of 60 million toilets. What often goes unnoticed is the machines (literally) paving the road to India’s success in a local and global sphere. JCB was founded in England by Joseph Bamford. JCB India Limited was founded in 1979. We visited the Ballabgarh factory near New Delhi, which is the Headquarters for JCB India.

Infrastructure is vital in every society around the world. Buildings, roads and food are central to peoples everyday lives around the world and can be the difference between life and death. Governments can introduce policy to develop infrastructure and farming, but it is the people and machines which deliver their vision.

Within development I feel the focus is often on the contrast between rich and poor. This narrow focus overlooks the people in the middle. People which are often driving development, working within construction with machines such as the ones that JCB develops and distributes. The motto of JCB is simple but effective: “always looking for a better way”.

Our tour of the JCB factory provided an insight into these people’s roles in the factory and society. Along with these machines, they are transforming the landscape of India. From that moment on, during every bus ride we never failed to spot a JCB tractor, digger or backhoe.

Within the factory itself, there were hundreds of workers on a vast and precise construction line which transformed parts into yellow, shiny machines which were to be shipped off around the world.

The businesses we were exposed to were producing high quality products with an emphasis on worker safety and wellbeing. One of my highlights of the JCB tour was seeing the ‘employee of the month’s’ photo proudly displayed in the middle of the factory.

Visiting the JCB factory and many other businesses producing products made in India such as Hidesign and Fabindia developed my understanding of what ‘made in India’ means to a consumer. It’s beyond the sweatshops commonly associated with Asia. Made in India is a label which Indians take pride in and consumers should be proud of.

Annalise O’Sullivan-Moffat