Lily (25) and Emma (26) have been friends for over ten years. They grew up in the same town of Hay-on-Wye and were introduced by mutual friends. We caught with them both before they head to India to take part in FRANK’s first Walk for Safe Water!
Lily: "I thought Emma was really cool, wanted to be her friend, so I invited her to a party and we’ve been friends ever since. We both ended up going to Leeds University - though Emma was in the year above me and was able to show me the ropes whilst I was there. We’ve travelled together before, but only to go partying in Croatia, Spain & France which involved zero walks so this is a new one for us!"
Lily: I’ve been to India a few times before. Because Mum runs an Indian travel company, I’ve gone with her on trips out there – and feel so lucky to have done so. This time, Emma and I are spending three or four months out there (before and after the walk). We’ll be working at Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat (the guesthouse where walkers will stay during their trip), helping Sunny host his guests. It’s an amazing place…like going home. Even guests who’ve never been there before say that. It’s so comfortable and comforting, the staff are just unbelievably kind and attentive - it feels like the heart of India.
Emma: I love walking. I’ve had plenty of practice given I live in mid-Wales so there are hills and mountains everywhere. I love seeing cities but am drawn to rural areas and am far more excited about seeing villages, meeting people and being immersed in rural life.
Lily: The people from the villages nearby live simply but they make it work. You see traditional styles of farming, houses painted bright blue (to keep the flies away) and crops hanging from the rafters. Sunny knows everyone – head out on a bike ride with him and you might suddenly find yourself making spinach pancakes with a 60 year old lady and her granddaughter.
Most days consist of early morning bike rides, watching the sunrise and then after the heat of the day has died down, there are amazing walks through forests or villages, planned by Sunny.
Emma: I’m so excited about going back to India – I’ve been once before, back in 2012 and spent ten days at BJR where I did some work in local schools, giving basic English lessons and planting trees among other things.
Emma: Being at BJR was the only time that I did really get to meet people – Sunny is a lynchpin, he knows everyone. We did lots of walking round, meeting people and spent time in an old potters village.
Lily: As well as helping Sunny, we’re planning to work alongside the little sewing school that Sabi (Sunny’s wife) has set up. It’s been going for around 18 months and mainly teaches local women how to make their own washable and reusable sanitary pads. In India, there’s still some stigma around periods and menstrual hygiene and women often use rags or papers. It’s such a simple idea but is changing women’s lives.
Because all the women from the village are involved, it means there are often dozens of children playing outside whilst their mothers are sewing. Emma and I are planning to organise some activities for the children – singing songs, playing games and doing a few simple lessons.
Lily: This will be the longest time I’ve spent in India. I’m not too worried about the walking – I did the Welsh three peaks challenge recently – it rained constantly other than one 10 minute break in the clouds at the top of Cadr Idris. Our India walk will be a bit different to that!
Emma: Lily and I are hoping to fundraise our sponsorship by hosting a dinner for friends. We’ll try and get free food and drinks and charge guests to attend. It’s a great cause so I think people will be glad to support. Now we just need to decide on a theme!
To anyone who isn’t sure about visiting India or taking part in this walk, I’d say that people have such warm hearts, they genuinely want to know more about you and welcome you into their homes. They’re full of both pride & love. It’s such a loving place & the real heart of India.
Emma: India is a fascinating place. When I talk to people about it, some are excited and others not at all. But I think it’s really important to try and have as many different experiences as you can, whenever you can.
Together with our partners at Holidays in Rural India, FRANK Water built a tailormade four-night tour of India's Chhattisgarh that includes some of the best sights and sounds that the country has to offer plus the chance to spend time in some of the villages FRANK Water works with. Join the walk here