I am an accidental ambassador at FRANK Water.
Ironically I found them during the DART 10K swim in 2014 and haven't looked back since. The ten year anniversary in 2015 gave me a unique opportunity to see our work first hand in India. It's stirred something deep inside me.
I've been to Agra many times with my family since the early 70's. I've driven past the Nagars (slums) we visited without a second look. When I was there this time I was surprised to see that they exist clearly, provided your eyes are open. The visit to each of them was fascinating, frustrating and compelling in plentiful measures. The overall strategy took me some time to clarify for my own head. It's not the live aid version where we give everything to the needy, make it better, cut and run, revisit with a big crew and realise nothing has changed, then start the same cycle again.
FRANK Water and their partner, Cure, are deeply rooted in a long term strategy that serves the lowest caste and most marginalised people of Agra. I witnessed the evidence of ongoing changes, improvements in people's lives and a real sense of ownership. This is in an environment of abject poverty, raw sewage and the surrounding still time frame of India. And yet I met strong eloquent women who were profoundly proud of their achievements and youth groups that spent their free time improving the community. FRANK, CURE and Farhad Bhai (a FRANK Water consultant, based in India) were there to listen, understand, direct or nudge but the main improvement seemed delivered by the residents. They pulled me by the arm to demonstrate their water filtering system and spotless roof.
I met youth groups traditionally out of sorts between child and adult hood. But these young people had a shared sense of community and did things for the benefit of all not themselves (two talks from youth groups boys and girls)
I felt that with the direction and technical advice from FRANK Water and CURE, these worthy peoples could achieve something for themselves that society has failed to deliver. The residents said that goals of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) had helped them to reduce infection and increase their health (their words not mine).
I did challenge misperceptions in the CURE staff about the varied success of each project. I saw motivated, engaged and talented residents in each area who were willing to learn from each other and their neighbours. I did not agree that the differences in progress between the different areas could not be laid at a religious door. To their credit CURE are seeking out a team that has representation from key religious stakeholders.
I found Farhad Bhai a true champion of this kind of charity work. Annabelle, Sarika and Jon from FRANK Water have become good friends. Neil, Sarah, Tim and Jackie from Tarka Springs had some fascinating perspective on implementation. Sienna, Jim, Sam and Jon from Thali Cafe were great. I have shared something deep and personal with each of this group. In my view I have a much better understanding and basis to speak about the work we do and encourage people from everywhere to contribute.