Sainji, and its surrounding villages, lie in the foothills of the Himalayas in North West India. The area displays many of the complex challenges and opportunities which characterise sustainable development and are compounded by the impact of a rapidly changing climate. The area provides a real-life example of how international development strategies, notably the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), play out at a local level.
Sustainable Sainji, a unique partnership between community leaders in Sainji and the Education for Sustainability team at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, was established in 2015 to give volunteer students first-hand experience of this.
The aim of the project is to help local communities with some of their most pressing challenges, which mirror those that the SDGs were designed to eradicate, including: discrimination, poverty; hunger; poor quality education and lack of access to clean water. In exchange, volunteer students gain a transformational educational experience in which they develop a deep understanding of the role they can play in the creation of a more sustainable world. Students work on specific projects, co-created by villagers and which utilise and develop student’s degree level knowledge, skills and capabilities.
Villagers in Sainji identified 3 main areas where support was required:
• Health, nutrition and first aid: SDG2, SDG3 and SDG6 were particularly relevant here. Villagers struggle with health issues resulting from a lack of basic hygiene as access to clean water and a lack of access to medical services. Students from nursing and paramedic courses join us each year in Sainji to encourage villagers to wash their hands with soap and to provide basic first aid training.
• Puberty education: SDG3; SDG4; and SDG5 were particularly relevant in this instance. Our students help the young people in the village understand the physical and emotional changes happening to them at puberty helping reduce misconceptions, empower females and reduce the potential for culturally inappropriate behaviour.
• Teaching the teachers: SDG4 enables many of the other SDGs to be achieved. Students from our Primary Education course join us in Sainji to develop teachers’ skills.