May 29th, 2018 – United States

This Study Abroad/Field School has shown students the influence that social work can create, as well as has changed the perspectives of the students to be more reflective and more culturally conscious.

Dr. Joshi and Dr. Carrion did an excellent job orchestrating all the events and meetings, and the students are very grateful for their efforts. All the professors, professionals, shop owners, craft owners, organizational leaders and many more were inspirational and influential. The fact that the students visited not just the capital city (Delhi) but also the more rural areas (Arunachal Pradesh), made the difference in terms of their understanding the variety of circumstances that individuals in India face.

Sadly, the study abroad has come to an end. The students left on their prospective flights back to the United States.

Included in this post will be photos of the students and a few words they had to share about the trip.


 

Dr. Carrion and Dr. Joshi

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Enjoying God’s beauty outside the IGU museum of the Idu Mishmis in Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. Educating future International Social Workers.

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Working together in leading students in the 2018 wonderful Education Abroad program.

Anne Lastra

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Standing in front of the Taj Mahal on our final day of this trip.

Thinking about leaving makes me sad, but this whole experience was rewarding, and it will definitely be unforgettable! I am prepared to tell other people about my amazing experiences throughout this trip so they too can have the courage to travel and learn about a culture different from their own. This trip has inspired me to continue to travel and helped me become more passionate about learning about different cultures, but also passionate to learn more about myself.

Berlande Blaise

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At the river admiring the mountains. So majestic!

This trip was such an amazing experience for me and I learned so much. I really enjoyed each and every organization we visited. Above all I really enjoyed the people, they were so kind, humble and welcoming. Their participation made this a truly unique experience. I also really loved our outing at the river and being able to enjoy the majestic view of the Himalayas.

Rita C.

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The whole experience at the monastery was peaceful and made me feel connected to nature and all my travel companions. “I have arrived; I am home.”

Anabella Santana

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I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with amazing student and faculty from USF and RGU. I’m also extremely happy to have checked off the Taj Mahal from my bucket list.

Amy Bluett

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Taj Mahal!

I was overwhelmed by its beauty and story. I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity, and for all the experiences we’ve shared!

Betty Flerijite

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I’m lost for words! I’m grateful that I had this opportunity to visit India through this study abroad program. I have learned so much which made me a better version of myself. In this trip, I met some wonderful individuals, RGU students and faculty, Vijay Swami, Dr. Pulu, Uncle Mosa and many more for that I am forever thankful. Visiting the Taj Mahal Top it off! Absolutely stunning.

Rahima Cantave & Kiersten Johnson

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The Taj Mahal was a great ending to this wonderful experience

This trip was a wonderful learning experience that taught me to look at situations from various perspectives. I’ve learned that I need to consider other viewpoints when examining a situation. I loved that this trip allowed me hands-on experience with various communities and allowed me to learn more about International Social Work. This trip took me out of my comfort zone and taught me to be open to more opportunities in life. I will never forget the amazing people and lessons I’ve learned.

This trip was unlike anything else I have experienced. The places we went, the people we met, and the humility that we gained couldn’t be replaced and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity.

Emily Robinson

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I am so grateful for the entire study abroad experience! I’ve enjoyed seeing so many different parts of India and meeting new people! I loved being in Arunachal Pradesh, visiting the Golden Pagoda, and the Taj Mahal!

Laura Breeze

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Here I am at the river, it’s been lovely

I really loved this trip, it exceeded my expectations. Being in a place so different from home could be challenging at times, but I wouldn’t want to travel that far and end up in a place that isn’t different. I loved being around the beautiful mountains, organized chaos of the traffic, and some exceptionally kind people.

Jeanne Ackerman

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In Herbal Garden path at RIWATCH in Arunachal Pradesh! What an amazing experience this trip was!

Alexia Black

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The river right below the Himalayas was refreshing & my favorite part of the trip. This trip has taught me so much about myself, and the humanity that still exists in this world 🇮🇳💕

Aubrey Francavilla

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Enjoying the landscape and biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh!

One of the main reasons I chose USF to pursue my Master’s in Social Work was because of the opportunity to study abroad in India. This trip lived up to all my hopes of what it would be and more. I loved getting to see the natural beauty of Roing in Arunachal Pradesh and working with the students and faculty from RGU. This trip opened my heart to the beauty of connecting with people from all over the globe. I’m inspired to travel more in the future and to pursue a future career in international social work.

Sarah Ashby

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My favorite part of the trip was when we ate dinner with our hands in the traditional house because it made me feel really connected to the local people and our friends from RGU.

Angela Garza

IMG_5581.JPGTea field at the Green Tea Company tea plantation

What a wonderful trip!  So many great experiences to recount and remember with unforgettable memories of friends met along the way – too many to mention, but all cherished.  A favorite is the early mornings at RIWATCH spent sitting outside on the porch reading the Hindustan Times and sharing a cup of Chai tea with “Uncle Mosa.”

Ariana Ayala-Soto

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This is from the step well from our first week here. This trip has been an unforgettable experience being surrounded by so many peers that have been so inspirational and so open! I miss how green Arunachal Pradesh is and all the people we had become so close within our time there. I look forward to traveling more in my future and hopefully even returning to India! This trip for me has been a dream come true!

 

Thank you for following us on our trip to India !

 

– Ariana Ayala-Soto

 



Reflection from Research Scholars at Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies (AITS), Rajiv Gandhi University

Overall the entire trip was a very fruitful journey. It made us realize how outsiders and those not from our community look upon one’s culture and traditions. It made us take a closer look at our own culture, our strengths and aspects we tend to neglect. The interactions between the RGU and the USF students answered many questions pertaining to research methods and made us realize that although each one of us belongs to different cultures and backgrounds the aspirations and the dreams that we shared were made up of similar experiences.

 

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May 28th, 2018 – Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Today was a fascinating and sentimental day for all of us as we were able to visit the Taj Mahal, one of the new seven wonders of the world. The day started very early as everyone woke up around 4:00 a.m. considering we wanted to see the beauty of the Taj Mahal before sunrise. The sun was rising as we entered the Taj Mahal, so we were able to witness the shimmering of the stones which reflected off of the architecture. Before wondering through the Taj Mahal, the surrounding buildings, and the garden, the group was able to learn about the Taj Mahal’s intriguing and significant history. The Taj Mahal was built in the memory of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Emperor Shah Jahan (commissioner of the Taj Mahal). According to our tour guide (Puneet), Mumtaz Mahal was Shah’s favorite wife as she gave birth to 14 of his children. Mumtaz actually passed away when she was giving birth to her 14th child, and her death led to the construction of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is able to illustrate a love story between Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. It was also difficult to accept that the Taj Mahal actually took twenty years to construct as it was built with white marble and semi-precious stones. The main stone that I saw when walking around the Taj Mahal was the red sandstone, which was incredibly breathtaking. This history of the Taj Mahal allowed us to further embrace the beauty of this structure. More importantly, it allowed us to understand the importance of conserving the area so that the architecture can be seen by many more in the far future.

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arriving at the Taj Mahal

After saying our farewells to the Taj Mahal, we all started to realize and accept that the trip was sadly coming to an end. We all began to reflect on the past two weeks and the fantastic opportunities we had as we completely immersed ourselves in a culture different from our own. Although we were looking forward to sleeping in our beds at home, we acknowledged many of the things we would miss about India, such as the fantastic people we were fortunate to meet.

After the Taj Mahal, we went back to the hotel to grab some breakfast. A group of us were delighted as the breakfast buffet had an omelet bar! On the topic of breakfast, that was one of the experiences that I had to adjust myself to. The breakfast in India is different from the breakfast many of us eat at home. The breakfast in India is more savory and has more spices. The cereal is even eaten with hot milk, instead of cold milk. Don’t get me wrong it was delicious, but I did not expect something as simple as breakfast would culturally shock me.

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On the bus heading back to Delhi to catch out flights

Once we left for the hotel, before going back to back to New Delhi, we stopped at a nice souvenir shop. Many of us were able to buy some final gifts, but many of us were able to also get henna! The hennas were absolutely beautiful! It was another way for us to immerse ourselves in the Indian culture. After researching Indian hennas, I actually learned that they are commonly painted on the wife for wedding ceremonies. The darker the henna is on the bride, the more intensely the husband will love her.

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examples of some of the henna that was done on the students

As we continued the ride to the airport, Dr. Carrion and Dr. Joshi presented all of us with a plate reward with a statement. Each statement described something unique about each individual. Some examples are of the statements are added below.
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The students and their plate awards!

Aubrey: For your contagious kindness and commitment to International Social Work!

Rahima: For letting go even without the rice beer!

Betty: For your courage and insurance and beating the bugs!

Anabella: For your energetic vocals and endless curiosity.

Before reaching the airport, we decided to grab a quick lunch at a plaza which included different small, fast food restaurants. A small group and I decided to go the McDonald, which was very interesting. Considering cow cannot be eaten within the Hindu religion, hamburgers were not being sold. On the other hand, there was many vegetarian options and chicken sandwiches. It was definitely interesting to see McDonald culturally adapt to the location. It further allowed me to understand the importance of culture and being open-minded about the different beliefs and traditions.

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McDonald Menu in India

Once we got to the airport, we all went our separate ways as each of us had different flights. We were all sad to see each other leave, but we were thankful for all the experiences we had together. This trip will be unforgettable!

– Anne Lastra

May 27th, 2018 – Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Today is our last full day in India. We are sad to leave our new friends, but also are looking forward to seeing our families and loved ones soon. We departed New Delhi early this morning for Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is located.

The drive took several hours, and once outside Delhi, we traveled through agricultural areas as far as the eye could see. Round structures were built from long grass (see picture). There were also rectangular structures that appeared to be made from dung. Brick of terracotta color, the same color of the soil, was also a prevalently used material in this area.

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Our first stop in Agra was a carpet-making co-op. We watched craftsmen making carpet from cashmere or pashmina wool. Some of the rugs take up to two years to weave! One of the signs of a quality rug is the quality of the woven design on the backside of the carpet. As you can see in the picture, the back side is almost as beautiful as the front side. The tool pictured is used to lock the knots of yarn after each row.

Pictures from the carpet making process

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The USF students with the carpet store owner

We were shown dozens of finished rugs of various sizes, and each one seems more beautiful than the last. Several rugs can be seen in the pictures, and we all enjoyed walking on and laying on the very luxurious rugs. We were glad to meet the artisans who keep this traditional practice alive.

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floral carpet design (all of these carpets are hand woven)

Our next stop was a marble co-op, where the descendants of the artisans who created the beautiful inlay in marble in the Taj Mahal continue this craft. You can see in the pictures how detailed the work is to create these exquisite pieces of art. The inlay is formed with a semi-precious material, like lapis lazuli, turquoise, and mother of pearl. The red material is known as fire stone in India, and it glows under a light. You can see a picture of a table top with the backlight in the picture.

Marble tabel shop!

all of us learning about the craft behind marble work

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Handmade table a student purchased that glows under the light.

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A table top that a student purchased with the “Firestone.”

The evening ended with more shopping. I believe we are shopped out, which is a good situation on the eve before our departure home.

– Rita C.

May 26th, 2018 – New Delhi, India

For most of us our last day in Assam at Dibrugarh University started out with breakfast but for others including myself, slept in mainly due to the rainy weather. It was nice to have some alone time and be able to just relax. When it came time to head to the airport to our next destination, it was a bittersweet feeling. The group took a connecting flight to New Delhi. As soon as we landed you could feel a difference in the air, it was hot and humid. The pollution is also evident here after being in Arunachal Pradesh with fewer people, cars, and trash. We’re looking forward to going to Agra tomorrow to see the Taj Mahal, and to go home in a few days!

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Before parting ways, had to take one more picture with Kime Rilla

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Dr. Carrion working her magic

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Beautiful view up in the air

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“Team Red Car” taking one last selfie with their driver at the airport before saying goodbye

– Betty Flerijite

May 25th, 2018 – Dibrugarh, Assam, India

I am sure I can speak on behalf of my peers when I say that this morning has been full of emotions. Leaving RIWATCH, as well as our new found Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU) family, is more difficult than we all anticipated it to be. The past week or so has been both eventful and educational. Collaboration with the RGU students and faculty was more than research. It was an opportunity for both Universities to join and learn more about culture, diversity, and sociocultural context of Indigenous peoples health together. The RIWATCH organization made this journey easier while learning about indigenous peoples Heath, more specifically the Idu Mishmi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. Our departure from each other is the beginning of lifetime friendships. The USF family and RGU family made a promise to own another to keep in contact whether near or far.

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last group photo at RIWATCH

Overall, today was a relaxed day compared to prior days of our journey. Departure from RIWATCH was bittersweet- leaving behind forever memories of the staff and volunteers of the organization, and many interactions with the people of the Idu Mishimi tribe. Though the departure from RIWATCH was bittersweet, it was time to travel once more to our next destination, Assam. The drive from Arunachal Pradesh back to Assam was beautiful. There were various types of homes along the roads which gave us a glimpse of the diversity and social status of the residents of India. Plants and animals along the way also added to the overall beauty of India.

Alexia nature photoThe greenery of Arunachal Pradesh

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We crossed the largest bridge in India

Although we had been to Assam once before during this journey, we all expressed great interest in more shopping and going to Dominos to get a taste is America once more before departure Tuesday night. Most of our group was in favor to shop at a famous Indian shop called Fabindia. The shop has a taste of traditional India in each item sold, as well as a hint of western trends. The two types of fashion brought together makes for a great shopping experience for Indian residents and visitors like ourselves.

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Enjoying Dominoes and Fabindia for the second time while in Dibrugarh

– Alexia Black

May 24th, 2018 – Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, India

What a beautiful and fitting last day to our stay in Arunachal Pradesh (AP).   After a long day yesterday, the morning began with heavy rain bringing out the giant earthworms and leeches. We were thankful for the cooler post-rain temperatures and the generator, as power was lost in the night.   A few students were early risers and enjoyed a porch chat with “Uncle Mosa” and a cup of tea before heading out for a tour of the district hospital.  While there, we got our hands dirty and planted trees on site and then participated in a question and answer session with Dr. Pulu, the Medical Superintendent, and the other hospital directors.

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RGU and USF faculty and students planted trees!

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Our attempt to do a creative photo after tree planting 

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Q&A Session with the hospital directors

After a quick breakfast of egg, banana, and spicy patty, we moved on to a visit with the Member of Indian Parliament.  Discussion ensued regarding concerns of infrastructure and increasing tourism and the potential effects of increased tourism and the ensuing management of the area’s previously unaffected resources.

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RGU and USF students and faculty with Mr. Mukut Mithi (currently a Member of the Indian Parliament) 

After traveling back to RIWATCH for a quick lunch and a rest, we proceeded to the IGU Museum where we learned further about the Idu Mishmi tribe.  After a question and answer session with the museum director and another member of the community (who also happened to be the members of the Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society), we were given our Certificates of Completion for the Study Abroad program/Field School.

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One of the leaders of the Mipi Pene (Igu Museum) discussing the background behind the statue

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USF and RGU faculty and students in front of the Igu Museum with some of the Himalayan mountains in the background

Our final evening in AP was spent at Mishmi Hills eco-resort where we enjoyed a special time with our new friends from AP and Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU).  Listening to the music of all genres and dancing both traditional as well as non-traditional dances, we laughed together under the stars.  We toasted with rice beer to our friendship and to continued collaboration.  We shared a delicious meal together as the evening rain fell before making our final good-byes.

 

I think I speak for all when I say that this trip as a whole and especially our time here in AP has changed our lives and our views of the world.  This region and the friends we have made here will hold a special place in our hearts forever.  While our differences at times may appear to be the most evident, the similarities far outweigh those differences and have created a strong bond regardless of any geographic distance between us.

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Namascar until we meet again.

– Angela Garza



 

Reflections from Research Scholars at Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies (AITS), Rajiv Gandhi University

On the 24th of May 2018, a social service drive was conducted at the District Hospital, Roing. Each member of the Rajiv Gandhi University team and University of South Florida team planted tree saplings within the hospital campus.  It was surprising and delight, on visiting the various wards and chambers of the hospital, to witness how clean and well maintained the hospital was, comparing that this was not the same for most district hospitals within the state. Later on, an interaction programme was held between the hospital administrators which included the District Survey Officer (DSO), District Reproductive Child Health Officer (DRCHO), District Medical Officer (DMO), Medical Superintendent and the visiting RGU and USF team. Various health issues pertaining to the community was taken up and largely explored. Different governmental health programmes like Tobacco Control Programme, AIDS Control Programme, National Vector Borne Disease Programme etc. were brought to light. Further, the role of ASHA’s and Anganwadi workers was highlighted upon as to how they carried out the function of health givers in the Community Health Centres and Primary Health Centres.  Matters of immunization programmes, global eradication of malaria, issues of infant mortality rate, Tuberculosis Programmes were taken up and probed into. This session shed light on health sector of the district in particular and the country in general, and it brought out the stark differences between India and the United States in regards to the health sector.

The team was then taken for an informal meeting with the ex-governor of Pondicherry and the current Member of Parliament Mr. Mukut Mithi at his private residence. Upon asking, the highlighted issues with regards to the rampant growth of drug abuse in the community and how it had become a menace. The problem of illegal migration from the neighboring country of Bangladesh and how it had come to drastically change the demographic composition of the local population.

Later in the evening a visit was paid to the recently inaugurated Mipi Pene Centre, locally known as the Igu (Shaman) museum. There was a display of the Igu heritage and culture of the Idu Mishmi’s. The museum was an effort of the community at preserving the Shamanistic traditions of the Igu’s of the Idu community. An interactive session was held with the Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society, a community-based organization made up of the educated youths of the community. The society aims at documenting the traditions and culture of the society. We were informed about how in the absence of a structured institution it is a difficult task to preserve and carry the traditions of an oral-based society like the Idu Mishmi’s.  The committee also made efforts on preserving the Idu language by forming a Language Development Committee that focused on developing a grammar sketch of the language to be taught in schools at the primary level.  Again, issues of opium cultivation by the locals, drug addiction among the youths and efforts to preserve shamanistic traditions were discussed. After the discussion, a certificate distribution ceremony was held where all the participating members were given certificates, and the programme came to an end.

May 23rd, 2018 – Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Today we experienced the intense rains of Northeast India. We were scheduled to visit a tree plantation but were forced to reschedule due to weather. R.K. Paul Chawang, a professional social worker (MSW degree from Loyola College of Social Work, Chennai, India) and the founder of AMYAA, came to speak to us about the efforts of his organization.  AMYAA is an organization that works to empower the needy people of Roing. One initiative that AMYAA has started is self-help groups that are mainly comprised of 10-15 women who help each other with financial or social issues. Some tasks of the SHGS are money saving clubs and small loans. AMYAA also works on skills training for the youth. They use computer programs to train young dropouts on job employment skills, entrepreneurship, and other skills to succeed in life.

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The students and faculty of RGU and USF with the members of AMYAA in front of the RIWATCH library

We also met with faculty from Rajiv Gandhi University to discuss our various research topics. The faculty helped us to formalize our research topics and develop questions to ask various community members. The faculty also answered some questions regarding tribal customs and prevalent issues for tribal communities.

The local women’s empowerment group, Enjalu Menda, came to RIWATCH to discuss their efforts in preventing domestic violence and drug abuse in the Idu Mishmi community. The group advocates for women suffering from domestic violence and connects them to resources in the community. A common theme in domestic abuse seems to be alcohol abuse so the group works to educate children on the issue of drug and alcohol abuse. After the presentation on the work of Enjalu Menda, we broke into groups with the women in order to further discuss our research topics. The women answered our questions regarding various research topics.

After lunch, we visited Namghar, an Assamese temple. We were welcomed with beautiful songs. We sat down and watched the men and women perform various praise songs. At the end of the meeting, the women invited all of us to dance.

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the men from the Assamese temple performing traditional music

We visited  Mitali N. Singh, the Deputy Commissioner of Lower Dibang Valley. She manages the various offices in the area that are in charge of education, health, agriculture, and other fields. In her current position, she is working on efforts to increase tourism to the area. There is a strong need for infrastructure in the Lower Dibang Valley area. Infrastructure such as the new bridge that was recently built has allowed tourism to increase from around sixty thousand to about two hundred thousand annually. The main focuses of the deputy commissioner’s office are to increase tourism, curb drug abuse, and increase agriculture in the community.

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RGU and USF faculty and students with the current deputy commissioner of Lower Dibang Valley

After visiting the Deputy Commissioner, we visited a traditional house in a village where members of a local women’s self-help group were waiting for us. We were allowed to ask members of the self-help group and the villagers questions concerning our various research topics. After our discussion, we had a traditional Idu Mishmi meal and ate with our hands. The meal was served on a native Arunachal leaf that is used specifically for special guests. This was a very special meal and made the group feel closer to our Indian counterparts.

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– Rahima Cantave


Reflections from Research Scholars at Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies (AITS), Rajiv Gandhi University

On the 23rd May 2018, the nongovernmental organization AMYAA made a presentation of its activities and mainly highlighted its “I Clean” project. The NGO brought into light the need for a cleaner and greener Roing and how it had through various cleanliness drives and awareness camps made an initiative at bringing about a change in the mindset and habit of the community at large for a cleaner, healthier environment. The main targeted areas of AMYAA were health, environmental protection, human rights of women and children, livelihood and education. It plans to bring about changes in these targeted areas with the help of the community members and the local self-help groups.

Later in the day, an interaction programme was held with the Enjalu Menda Women’s group. The group started in 2010 with a few members whose main aim was at bringing about changes in the situation of the women and children of the local community. It advocates for issues pertaining to domestic violence, adolescence education for children and fighting drug abuse. The women’s group carried out awareness campaigns and community programmes in schools and villages highlighting the issue of drug abuse. The group identified persons involved in drug peddling and took legal actions. They have dealt with cases pertaining to domestic violence and abuse. In such situations, the group would intervene only if help was sought for by the victim. Legal aid was provided to such victims and in case of separation or divorce, it was ensured that the women received her fair share of property and rights over her children.

A visit to the Namgarh was arranged for an experience of devotional songs and worship of the Assamese community in Roing. The experience was unique and it was astonishing to see the cultural assimilation of the Assamese style of devotion and the traditional Hindu style of devotion. After the Namgarh visit, the group went for a formal meet with the Deputy Commissioner of Lower Dibang Valley, Smt. Mitali. N. Singh. The Commissioner highlighted various issues that the office dealt with. Issues relating to law and order were mainly dealt with by the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Revenue collection, tourism, fund allocation for agriculture, monitoring of government subsidies, education projects like Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan, Madhimik Siksha Abhiyan were taken up by the district administrators.

In the evening another trip was made to Kebali village in order to experience traditional Idu Mishmi food and lifestyle at the home of Mr. Shiko Tapu and his wife Mrs. Hille Elaphra Tapu. The visit also provided for a very interesting interactive session with the Kebali Self Help Group (SHG). The SHG was formed in 2007 with five members initially. The membership has now grown to eleven married and unmarried women, who are all below the poverty line.  Mrs. Ameya Lingi, a member of the SHG spoke on behalf of the group and informed us about how the group was formed with the help of Mr. Vijay Swami, of RIWATCH. She informed us about the various activities that the group undertook and how it had helped in uplifting the economic status of the women of the village, and how funds for the education of the village children had improved.