In Unit #95 (Photo: Martje van der Heide)
“This is unit number 95”, Preeti told me. “It is the standard model.” Geeta Devi the owner shook her head. “Look up”, she said, “This is our house.” I looked up and saw what she meant: there was a beautiful lotus flower design in the ceiling. “My husband made it” Geeta said proudly. “This is our house”.
The tireless Preeti works with village communities to help them build back better (Photo: Martje van der Heide)
Preeti Bisht is the community worker for SUDHA who is mobilizing the victims of the Uttarakhand floods in this small village on the Mandakini River, well on the way to Kedarnath. She took me all the way to unit number 107 and in passing showed me the school. I soon discovered that none of the house units were standard. Some people added a room, others an extra window in the kitchen to show the amazing view up river. And the houses that were already finished were painted in every color imaginable as houses in Uttarakhand are meant to be.
Minara Begum is a very special lady in Amtoli Upazila of Barguna district, well known for her courage and hard work. Her determination to lift herself out of extreme poverty to a stable financial position has drawn the attention of many people in the locality. Her strength and resilience is evident in how she survived the devastating cyclone ‘Sidr’, which hit the coast of Bangladesh in 2007, and rebuilt her life afterwards.
Minara’s life had never been easy. Her first husband divorced her for not being able to bear children and her second husband was too ill to earn much. So she had to take up most of the burden of the family. With money she had received from her first husband, Minara bought a cow and slowly she was able to increase her livestock up to nine, which she sold in order to buy land. But misfortune struck her when cyclone Sidr destroyed her standing crops and smashed the roof of her house, which fell on her husband. Since then her husband has been suffering from back pain, unable to work as a day laborer in the field and has become totally dependent on Minara’s income.
Cyclone Sidr left Minara in a hopeless state - she had lost everything she had worked so hard for. She had no clothes; she could afford only one meal a day. Fortunately, she was selected as a beneficiary of the Livestock subcomponent of the Emergency Cyclone Recovery and Restoration Project (ECRRP) in 2010 and given training in the Livestock Farmers’ Field School (L-FFS). She received a livestock package of ten ducks, poultry feed and an improved poultry shed. At the time of delivery of the package, she had no livestock and the yearly income of her family was only Tk. 12,000 ($150) mostly from her wages as a day laborer. She had only 40 decimals of land, including her homestead.