Gina writes:

A few Saturdays ago (January 23), I joined about 20 other SOVA staff in a nearby village of Koraput for a full-day health education event. I had only found out about this opportunity the night before, when my boss (the director of SOVA) called to ask if I could videotape the event. I suppose videography skills might fall under "other duties as assigned" for a communications advisor, right?

Just before noon, I was driven to the event location. SOVA was escorting two guests from the Ministry of Public Health, so I joined them in wandering around the space and asked some questions about what was going to happen. SOVA staff and the two guests had worked all day the day before to plan the program. I was told that people from 7 or 8 nearby villages would be gathering to hear about cervical cancer and nutrition.

After a half hour or so, about 80 women and children and 20 men gathered for the event.

They listened attentively to a skit over the loudspeaker about cervical cancer. After some formal introductions and a candle-lighting ceremony, the women split into three groups and the men went to another area and SOVA trainers led discussions about the two topics (cervical cancer and food preparation/ nutrition).

In addition to not understanding a word of what was being said, I was also carting around a video camera and a regular camera, so I felt extra-isolated. Having the cameras allowed me to record the events with more freedom, but I felt like I was intruding on their privacy, too. I eventually got bored with wandering and observing, so I started playing with some of the children.

After the small-group discussions, the participants were invited to view a model of a vegetable stall and hear about varying their diet and preparing their food in the healthiest way. They also had the opportunity to play a game of sorts where they were quizzed on hygiene for various parts of the body.

When attention was waning for these activities, the whole group gathered again under the main tent to watch a skit. I assume it was about cervical cancer or food preparation (or maybe hygiene), but I haven't remembered to ask someone to fill in the details of the day for me!

When the skit finished, I was SO hungry! It was past 3 p.m. and we hadn't had lunch yet. I felt guilty for complaining (albeit, to myself) when I realized that the biggest reason these people were here was for the free meal. Some of the women had walked 10 km and given up an entire day of work at home just for some rice and vegetables for themselves and their children. In that case, I understood why women with arms and legs like sticks somehow managed to eat a pile a rice that was twice the size of their head! I was given more food than I could comfortably manage, but in this situation, I certainly wasn't going to waste any. Somehow I managed...and was then pulled into a line of women dancing in the traditional Orissa style. I'm much taller than any Indian woman I've seen here and more, shall we say, curvy, so I felt like an ogre in the line, but had fun anyway. (I don't have a picture with me in it, so just use your imagination!)

The event soon drew to a close, which I was happy about, because I was absolutely exhausted! I think a combination of being stared at more than usual, trying to understand what was happening, holding a video camera for most of the day, and being out in the sun for hours combined to make for a very full, but very tiring day!