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Trip to India: day one

Today is the first day of my nine-day stay in India. I’ve been observing some of the great work Concern Worldwide is doing in Orissa.

The main purpose of my visit is threefold: to see our work in action in Orissa; to participate in an international meeting in Delhi on agriculture and health organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute; and to attend a meeting of the Consortium Board for Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research in Hyderabad. 

Familiar face

The visit started in a very positive way. At the luggage carousel in Delhi airport at 2am, I spot what looks like a familiar face and eventually summon up the courage to say hello. It’s Mark Tully, the legendary former BBC correspondent in India. I have been a fan of his for many years. He turns out to be very charming and easy-going and we arrange to talk later in the week.

Major changes

There have been massive changes since I first visited Orissa in 2004. The population of Bhubaneswar has more than doubled to over one million people. There are now 15 large shopping malls compared to one in 2004. The number of motorised rickshaws has gone from some 5,000 to 20,000 and there has been massive migration from rural areas to the city.

Our work

Dealing with the impact of that migration is part of Concern’s work and it is what I am now going to see. Since 2002, Concern has been partnering with the Ruchika Social Service Organisation to support their work with vulnerable young people who come to the city. A number of these young people risk being caught up in the sex trade. Concern is supporting Ruchika to provide education and livelihoods opportunities for these young people.

Preventing HIV

Our programme also works to prevent young taxi drivers from contracting HIV. They are a vulnerable group in that many of them are migrants living without their families and their lifestyle leaves them prone to risky sexual behaviour. 

The programme works with the association representing the drivers to educate them about the risks of casual sex and to encourage testing for HIV. When the drivers congregate at their centres they play cards and board games, a creative initiative designed to educate them about HIV prevention. It’s a good example of the simple and practical initiatives we employ to help achieve life-saving results!